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How They Govern: Cutting “la paperasserie”, and Other Moves for Change

  • November 16th, 2006
  • Posted by 7thmin

eu-flag-reduced-larger.pngRegulators of European business have moved against “la paperasserie“, the famous red tape of the European Union, vowing to “cut the administrative burden for companies by 25%, by 20212”.

That ambitious plan caps a busy week of undertakings in other fields: improved controls on the sale of illegal diamonds; some important company mergers; clamping down on fake goods; and more money for relief after natural disasters in South-east Asia.

Paperasserie – aka red tape

The European Commission says its strategic review of management practices should deliver a 1.5% increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the coming six years – but it will expect member state governments and local authorities to co-operate with reforms of their own.

Changes will include formation of an Impact Assessment Board to oversee impact assessment for all new legislation; and an ongoing simplification program for rules and regulations – especially in the complex and costly agricultural sector.

Diamonds

The chairmanship of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) to restrict world sales of diamonds from areas of armed conflict – “conflict diamonds” – is passing to the European Union, which states it will make the process “even more effective.”

Its Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said: “We need to dry up this source of income for those who stir up lethal conflicts, and ensure that those who buy diamonds … can do so confident that they are not contributing to this terrible trade.”

Its 2007 chairmanship would be used to close down remaining loopholes, and ensure effective implementation of controls by working closely with all participants – governments, industry and civil society.

The KPCS has 45 members including the EU as a single entity.

Since 2000 it has co-ordinated international efforts to keep diamonds off the legal world market where they have been produced by extraction in areas under occupation during civil war, and to provide rigid authentication standards for rough diamonds.

Cases have included Liberia and Ivory Coast.

Mergers

Under regulatory powers on industry concentration and competition the European Commission has cleared the way for the merger of the two major French energy companies, Gaz de France and Suez.

The merger is seen as a preparatory move for privatisation of Gaz de France.

The clearance was given with a proviso that both groups should divest themselves of sections of their operations in Belgium, precipitating debate there about the future of the gas industry.

The European Commission has also approved the merger of Nokia and the former mobile phones division of Siemens.

Fake goods headed by textiles

Customs are coming under more pressure from smugglers of fake goods who have taken to sending smaller consignments to evade seizures and keep authorities on the run.

Annual figures for the European Union have disclosed that fake textiles products are now the leading commodity in this trade, with more than 10 million articles seized, a 40% increase in one year.

The alarm has been sounded over a high level of seizures of food and drinks products (5 million, up 20%); a growing trade in falsely-labeled children’s toys; and pharmaceuticals, subject of a large internet trade.

Trade in falsely labeled cigarettes has gone down, the drop attributed to special co-operation between the EU and China.

Overall 75 million items were seized and 26 000 cases dealt with by authorities – up 20% in a year.

South-east Asia remained the main source of fake goods intended for Europe, with China accounting for more than 60% of seizures. New transit routes had opened up, through Afghanistan, Guinea and Switzerland. Dubai was an important transhipment point, and India was listed as an increasingly significant source of counterfeit medicines.

Much of the trade followed ingenious routes, e.g. shipments that would originate in China and go to the United Kingdom through the United Arab Emirates and the Bahamas.

Reference:

Frequently Asked Questions: 2005 customs seizures of counterfeit goods, MEMO/06/421; European Commission, Brussels, 10.11.06; Customs: Commission publishes 2005 Customs seizures of counterfeit goods, IP/06/1541; EC, Brussels, 10.11.06

• .Help in disasters

Europe is to give EU 7-million ($A 11.74-million; Decrates) for disaster relief reduction work in South-east Asia.

The European Commission says it will assist preparatory work, including warnings systems, in the most exposed communities of Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

It says the region is one of the most disaster prone parts of the world, citing the recent Jogjakarta earthquake, landslides in the Philippines, typhoons, and the tsunami that hit Indonesia in July 2006.

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