The EU must reform Mar 02
Why does a car cost less in Denmark or Brussels than in the
UK? Why are beer, wine and cigarettes cheaper in Spain than in the UK or
Sweden? Why can we not buy any item for personal use from any part of the
EU without restriction? Rules, rules and more rules!
The summit of EU Heads of Member States in Barcelona is an
opportunity to review the economic liberalisation planned almost ten years
ago. Only two years ago in Lisbon, such a summit highlighted the
importance of making the EU "the most competitive knowledge-driven
economy in the world by 2010". What is the reality?
The EU continues to approve endless legislation affecting
employment and the environment - legislation that adds to the cost of
labour and the cost of production for industries. These costs impact
seriously on small and medium sized enterprises that sustain existing jobs
and create new ones. No wonder the USA creates more jobs in one year than
the EU does in ten!
I suggest a simple plan for the EU Member States:-
1. The EU must not impose any new taxes. Taxation in Europe
is too high and every attempt should be made to lower both direct and
indirect tax. Member States should compete with each other in offering the
best economic environment to attract inward investment - not harmonise and
force higher levels of taxation on the EU citizen!
2. The Social Chapter has introduced extensive social
legislation which results in very high non-wage costs of employing labour.
Often the laws are not enforcable e.g. there is cuurently a directive to
restrict a tractor operator to using his machinary for just 7 hours a day.
This is silly because a tractor is used much more during harvest time and
not at all during off season. In any case, how can you enforce such a law
on a private farm?
3. Small and medium-sized businesses including self-employed
people are overwhelmed by a mountain of paperwork - forms to be filled to
comply with all sorts of regulations! Such activity does not create wealth
and value added.Such red tape costs our businesses about £30bn every
4. The EU has failed to encourage the use of new
technologies in production, financial services, government affairs and in
public services. E-commerce, electronic data cards and widespread use of
IT allows the USA to increase its GDP by 0.5% - a benefit that the EU can
also secure for its citizens.
5. The EU must ensure that Member States comply with
existing legislation as we need our businesses to have a level playing
field. There is no single market for goods, services (including financial)
and labour as Member States continue to subsidise enterprises thereby
limiting the choice to consumers who end up paying high prices. Many
businesses and governments break the rules deliberately as the financial
penalties are not severe and court action takes years! There are, at
present, almost 1500 infringement proceedings pending in the European
Courts. The EU must take action to stop such abuse.
The EU will inspire its citizens and gain their confidence
only if it demonstrates that there is competence to deliver economic
growth and prosperity. Summits of the Heads of State should not be a photo
opportunity to impress domestic audiences for electoral advantage - they
should be business meetings without fanfare where decisions are taken that
can be implemented over a specified time frame.
I appeal to the EU Heads of State - if you want to inspire
your citizens, especially the young, then please cut out the bureaucracy
and kick-start action. The citizens of Europe need such action well before
they decide to vote in the next European Elections in June 2004!