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EU Nations reject call to set common goal for cutting red tape

European Union governments refused to set a target for cutting national red tape, undermining the EU's campaign to ease the administrative burden on companies.

The European Commission in November urged member states to join it in reducing bureaucracy 25% by 2012 and said the relief would expand the EU economy 1.5%. National ministers today approved the target for the commission, the 27-nation EU's regulatory arm, and rejected it for themselves. „Taking into account the different starting positions, member states are invited to set their own ambitious national targets,” industry ministers said in a statement after a meeting in Brussels. EU heads of government will discuss the issue at a March 8-9 summit.

The commission's initiative is part of a better-regulation campaign to bolster EU growth that has trailed the US pace for most of the past decade. Commission President Jose Barroso took office in November 2004 vowing to ease legislation on industry and to cooperate more with member states to spur the economy. His pledges followed a period in which the commission expanded rules and clashed with national governments in a bid to enhance EU powers and open markets. The rejection of a European constitution by French and Dutch voters in 2005 heightened concerns the EU may be developing too fast.

The commission's role has continued to grow under Barroso because previous EU legislation foresaw such a development and because European integration is deep enough in areas such as the environment and transport to prompt calls for bloc-wide action. In addition, the commission continues to face disputes with member states in areas such as energy, telecommunications and banking as it enforces the EU's rules on barrier-free trade and services. (Bloomberg)