"This report is on the European Commission's "better regulation" programme. The Commission is promising that scrapping or revising a number of directives will save businesses around 40 billion euros by reducing the "administrative formalities" they impose. In Better Regulation: a critical assessment, Laurent Vogel (ETUI) and Eric Van den Abeele (University of Mons) reveal the agenda within the agenda.

In the first part of the report entitled "Making lies sound truthful", Laurent Vogel dissects the methods used by the audit firms and consultancies contracted by the Commission to do the study that came up with the figure of 40 billion euros in savings. "The method seems never to have been looked at by economics and statistics researchers to see if it stands up", finds the author. More alarmingly still, "there are also some instances of blatant figure-massaging to meet the sponsors' political agendas".

The author also criticizes the Commission's inordinate reliance on the work of a group of experts appointed to support the "Better Regulation" programme. Most of the group - known as the Stoiber Group after its chairman, the former conservative premier of Bavaria - are highly pro-deregulationist. The report points out that in addition to his job of advising the Commission, Mr Stoiber has since 11 November 2009, been Chairman of the Advisory Board of Deloitte, one of the firms involved in carrying out the study concerned.

The second part of the report is equally damning. "Better Regulation: a new religion trying to spread the word?" asks Eric Van den Abeele. The author sets the exercise within the ideological context of the early 1990s that spawned it, and gives a broad brush picture of its development to the present day. Staring out as a 'Better Lawmaking' agenda to improve the quality of drafting of legislation, the aim now seems to have shifted from improving directives to simply scrapping those suspected of doing most harm to business competitiveness."

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