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Monday, September 15, 2008

Telling it like it is

Gunther Verheugen had some interesting things to say in his press conference at the European Institute of Public Administration

He said the Parliament was part of the problem:

“Better regulation at EU level, in my view, is first of all of all a question of political awareness and political culture…you know that I was running into a lot of difficulties here but contrary to the conventional wisdom the strongest were not in the Commission. The strongest problems were in the European Parliament”

“There is a very strong view in the European Parliament that better regulation is something that is directed against the priorities or the prerogatives of the Parliament. It’s very difficult to convince all of the parliamentary groups, some of them fully understand but it’s very difficult to get the full support here because if you have a rule you want to change there is certainly always one person who is a hundred percent convinced that this is a rule that we exactly need.”

He also flagged up how much EU legislation is driven by lobbying:

“You also realise that very often, and this is something that really shocked me – this is the first time I say that in public and in my memoirs I will say a little bit more about it – what really shocked me was that during the process I have found in how many cases European legislation is triggered by interest groups. It’s simply the result of pressure from one interest group that is presented as something that is important for the public but it is not. In reality it is in the interest of one particular group or even one particular company”.

And he had a novel proposal:

“I think we should also do more to create transparency at the beginning of the process... I would like to know if there is new proposal on the table coming from my colleagues who has asked for that. Start your document with a paragraph saying who has asked for that piece of legislation.”

He also hit the nail firmly on the head, and identified what you might say is the whole problem with the EU:

“There is a way of thinking in the institutions that Europe, the more regulation, the more rules you have, the more Europe you have,” said Verheugen. “I call that the Jacques Delors heritage... keep the machine running... oil the machinery... give the legislators work to do... keep the process running... They’re seeing European integration as a process, and the process is, making rules.”

“It’s very difficult to explain to officials who have the understanding that what they are doing is indeed an important contribution for European integration... to explain them that sometimes, less is more.”

“It’s a mistake to believe that you have more Europe if we have more regulation,”

He said what the EU needed was a "cultural revolution."

Hear hear. But will it happen?

You can watch the interview on EUX TV

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