Deregulation - in depth

The European Union has a long history of big business-friendly deregulation. For many years the Commission has used Various different Presidents of the European Commission have used 'cutting red tape' as a cover for pursuing a big business-friendly agenda to weaken, reverse and block regulations that protect health, consumer rights, worker protections and our environment.

The current incarnation of this push for deregulation is the European Commission's so-called 'Better Regulation' agenda. In 2014 the European Commission went as far as to appoint a Vice President for 'Better Regulation'.

According to the European Commission, its 'Better Regulation' package is intended to 'improve the quality of new laws'. But Friends of the Earth Europe believes the contrary is true.

The European Commission's interpretation of improving the quality of laws focuses almost exclusively on reducing the so-called 'burden' to business caused by EU laws. And by burden they don't just mean the administration required to comply with laws, they mean all the costs of abiding by a piece of legislation, known as 'regulatory burden'.

By equating regulations to 'burdens' and ignoring the essential role of EU laws as safeguards for society, the European Commission is putting big business interests ahead of people and the environment.

So-called 'burdensome' laws are in reality vital protections covering, for example, waste, chemicals, air quality, product safety and food safety, and health and safety at work.

One example is the circular economy package, a host of measures intended to reduce waste, increase recycling and spur resource efficiency. After almost being finalised, the package was withdrawn in 2014 in the name of better regulation and a year later re-tabled with key environmental provision significantly weakened. The changes in the new version of the package closely reflect the demands of big business lobby groups.

Friends of the Earth Europe is working to champion the positive benefits of EU laws and safeguards and to challenge the misconception that regulation is a burden for society. We are fighting specific attempts to weaken or scrap important environmental and social protections. And we are raising awareness of the real drivers behind deregulation.

Friends of the Earth Europe is a founder of the 'Better Regulation Watchdog Network' -