BACK IN March of this year there was a big buildup in the press saying that MEPs could soon expect a major announcement from the European Commission. We were told that the Commission had decided to introduce a ‘step change’ into the EU lawmaking sausage machine to ensure that, in future, any legislation in Europe would ‘promote growth and jobs’. We would see an immediate difference in approach – one of the vice presidents would soon declare a bonfire of unwanted EU red tape, and we would all applaud.
It took until the very end of September for the promised announcement to emerge, but there was very little applause. The bonfire turned out to be rather a damp squib.
Essentially the Commission simply promised to withdraw some ideas for future EU laws that were still on the drawing board. They were basically saying that the red tape would not get much redder. It was certainly a step in the right direction, but a remarkably timid step. We need many more such steps. We need the Commission to bite deep into existing EU laws, especially employment legislation, and to set fire to these.
Not everyone in the Parliament shares this view. When the Commissioner sat down at the end of his speech, a German Socialist condemned any proposal that would remove or simplify legislation that touched on employment rights. She said that the working poor would suffer. Coming from Socialist-led Germany, I would have thought that she would have been one of the first to realise that seven years of Chancellor Schroeder had brought over five million unemployed. The problem was not the working poor: it was and is the non-working poor, currently priced out of jobs, because of the cost to companies of taking on extra employees.
Businesses create jobs, not politicians. But politicians can prevent jobs being created by placing too many burdens on business. What we need, what continental Europe needs urgently if the growing army of unemployed is to be helped to find work, is a bold and sustained attack on unnecessary legislation.
Top of the list for review should be the various employment directives concerning working time, which limit flexibility for employers and workers alike. We should be promoting flexibility and choice instead of stifling it. It is time to get real.
On the plus side, the door for reform is at last ajar – we now need to blast it wide open. And there was one piece of good news at the end of the Commissioner’s speech – the promise that in due course he could come back with a longer list of laws to be torched.
I suggest a good date for the return visit would be November 5.
Every good wish