Briefing Influence

  • Open Europe proposed appointing a new ‘EU Subsidiarity Commissioner’, who would be tasked with reviewing both new and existing EU laws to ensure they are proportionate, add value, and could not be better handled at the national or local level.
  • Incoming European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker did actually appoint former Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, whose pro-EU reform credentials are beyond doubt, as First Vice-President in charge of cutting unnecessary EU red tape. It is the first time such a post has is created within the European Commission.

2 September 2014

The New European Commission should

Open Europe published an eleven-point mandate for the new European Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker. If adopted, the proposals contained in Open Europe’s mandate would radically boost Europe’s competitiveness, save UK taxpayers £19.3 billion over a seven-year period (and EU taxpayers £200 billion overall), and make sure that the EU keeps well clear of regulating policy areas that are better handled at the national or local level. The proposals include:

Appoint a new ‘Subsidiarity Commissioner’

It is high time the EU stopped paying lip service to how important it is that decisions are made as close as possible to the citizens they affect and started enforcing the subsidiarity principle properly. Decisions must be taken nationally where possible, and on the EU-level only where necessary. The best way for the Juncker Commission do so would be to appoint a ‘Subsidiarity Commissioner’ and put him in charge of reviewing both new and existing EU laws to ensure they are proportionate, add value, and could not be better handled nationally or locally. Any EU laws that do not meet these criteria should be scrapped.

Embrace transparency

All new EU laws should be subject to an ‘origin test’, whereby the European Commission specifies in which of its departments the proposal was tabled – and which member states or interest groups have been pushing for it. All EU documents should be made accessible to citizens, and the minutes of the meetings of the college of commissioners should be published. The Juncker Commission should also cut off funding for think tanks and politicised NGOs – especially those backing more European integration – as this creates an in-built conflict of interest.

Cut the cost of Brussels

The pay of EU officials should be cut proportionally, ranging from a 5% reduction across the lowest salary bands to a 15% reduction across the upper ones. This would lead to a total saving of £310 million across the EU institutions. Separately, scrapping EU quangos and institutions that duplicate the work of others could save EU taxpayers almost £288 million a year.


End growth-destroying EU spending

Putting an end to the recycling of regional development subsidies among the wealthiest EU member states could save EU taxpayers £123.3 billion over the current EU budget period (2014-2020). This would allow EU structural funds to be better targeted at the genuinely less developed EU member states. Similarly, cutting the EU’s farming subsidies – which are paid out to landowners irrespective of what they do with their land – by 30% would save £70.5 billion over the current EU budget period. Conversely, the EU should at least double its spending on research and development.

Get on with services liberalisation

Even though the EU is supposed to allow workers to move freely within its borders, certain service professions remain highly regulated. The EU economy could be boosted by €294 billion (2.3% of EU-wide GDP) if the already agreed Services Directive were fully implemented and a new ‘country of origin’ principle were added to establish the principle that, if you can trade in one EU country, you can trade in all of them. The New European Commission should table an update to the Services Directive to that effect, and if it cannot be agreed by all 28 member states, those who want to pursue further liberalisation should be free to do so under so-called ‘enhanced cooperation’ – a quirk in EU law that allows a smaller group of countries to press ahead with closer cooperation in specific policy areas.

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