The European Commission has announced its "Better Regulation Package" to open up its procedures and cut back on legislation that is hard to understand after a huge rise in popularity of Eurosceptics in Europe.
The 2014 elections to the European Parliament saw Eurosceptic parties taking around 25% of the seats available. The parties included UKIP in the UK, National Front in France, The Peoples Party in Denmark and Syriza in Greece.
— European Commission (@EU_Commission) May 19, 2015
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans admitted:
"Eurosceptics are not wrong by definition. Eurosceptics annoy me because they are sometimes right. And when they are right we have to answer to them."
Trust in the EU has fallen, with those feeling positive about it falling from 52% in 2007 to 39% in 2014. Those feeling negative, according to the latest Eurobarometer poll, rose from 15% in 2007 to 22% in 2014.
Many people within Europe are baffled at the sprawling mass of EU institutions, dominated by the three main bodies: the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission.
But these mask a whole plethora of other mini-organisations. These include: The Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court of Auditors, the European Central Bank, the European External Action Service, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the European Investment Bank, the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized enterprises, the European Research Council Executive Agency, the Innovation & Networks Executive Agency and Euratom, among many others.
The legislative process is even more bewildering. The European Commission initiates a proposal; a member of the European Parliament, working in one of the parliamentary committees, draws up a report on the proposal; the parliamentary committee votes on this report and, possibly, amends it; when the Parliament has adopted its "position", this process is repeated one or more times, depending on the type of procedure and whether or not agreement is reached with the Council.
Worse still, a "regulation" is a binding legislative act; a "directive" is a legislative act that sets out a goal that all EU countries must achieve; a "decision" is binding on those to whom it is addressed; a "recommendation" is not binding; and an "opinion" is an instrument that allows the institutions to make a statement in a non-binding fashion.
"We are listening to the concerns of citizens and businesses — especially SMEs — who worry that Brussels and its institutions don't always deliver rules they can understand or apply. We want to restore their confidence in the EU's ability to deliver high quality legislation."
Timmermans' proposals mirror the agenda set by Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, who — on taking up office — said the Commission needed to improve its image by doing a few key things well, rather than doing a lot of things badly.