Germany and France ask EU to cut red tape for business – EURACTIV Italy

The German government and France plan to launch an initiative to ask the EU to reduce reporting obligations for companies, which Berlin hopes will help get the country’s economy back on track.

Economic growth forecasts for 2023 see Germany lagging behind all other major economies, making economic policy a top priority for the government, which will spend Tuesday and Wednesday (August 29-30) at the traditional two-day ministerial retreat at Meseberg Castle.

“Germany needs new momentum to strengthen the economy and growth,” says the 10-point plan (see below), released on Tuesday. The document adopted at the Meseberg meeting was drafted by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD/S&D) and his key ministers Robert Habeck (The Greens) and Christian Lindner (FDP/Renewal).

“For decades, a real tangle of bureaucracy has developed in Germany, which is difficult to navigate,” the document says. “This has become a real barrier to investment, especially for small and medium enterprises.”

Therefore, one of the main priorities is to reduce bureaucratic red tape within Germany and at the EU level. “It is necessary to speed up procedures, reduce bureaucracy and, if possible, not create a new bureaucracy. In Germany, as in the European Union,” the 10-point plan says.

Economy Minister Robert Habek (The Greens) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) want to start a Franco-German movement to reduce reporting obligations.

“It is clear for Germany and France that the lean rules that drive the momentum of innovation and progress in Europe are a fundamental prerequisite for sustainable growth in the European Union,” Habek, spokesman for the Ministry of Economy, told EURACTIV.

“We therefore jointly ask the European Commission to develop an ambitious action plan for acceleration and relief measures that can be implemented in the short term,” the spokesman added.

The push for a Franco-German initiative came in response to statements by French President Emmanuel Macron who called for a “pause” in new EU environmental regulations. At the time, his request was welcomed by the German Minister of Justice, Buschmann (FDP). interrogated members of the Green Party.

The spokesman stated that the German government was “in contact” with France about its proposals and that “detailed coordination will follow”. The French Ministry of Economy has not yet responded to our request for comment.

The Commission will present its proposals in September

In March, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Commission would present a plan to reduce EU corporate reporting obligations by 25% “by autumn”. The plan is likely to be part of the “help package” for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that the Commission will present on 12 September in Strasbourg.

The Commission spokesman confirmed the expected publication date, but told EURACTIV that he could not provide further information about the package. Thus, the proposals are destined to arrive one day before von der Leyen’s last speech on the State of the European Union under this mandate, which will take place in the plenary session of the European Parliament on Wednesday 13 September.

Welcoming the announcement, a spokesman for the German Ministry of Economy said: “We are asking the Commission to develop an ambitious agenda for the coming years as well, to accelerate green transformation and digital investment projects and ease the burden on business and administration.”

In another document, which is expected to be adopted on Wednesday in Meseberg and seen by EURACTIV, the ministries set out the proposals in more detail, focusing on Mittelstand, mid-sized companies that are often leaders in their niche sectors, which are considered especially important. essential to the German economy.

Help the German Mittelstand.

We will ask the European Commission to expand the definition of SMEs in the EU to include an additional category of “small mid-cap companies” (250-500 employees) and to re-examine the financial thresholds for defining SMEs. .

The paper says this should also exempt mid-sized companies from green reporting obligations under the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

The document also calls for the “abolition of double reporting obligations”, including “in the case of upcoming projects at the EU level”.

In doing so, the government is most likely referring to the planned Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSD), which is currently under negotiation among EU institutions and which aims to hold companies accountable for violations of human rights and the environment. environments throughout the value chain.

The law, which follows similar legislation at the German level, however, is being criticized by German employers’ associations because “it could lead to a significant tightening of existing legislation in almost all aspects”.

“This will hit German SMEs and especially skilled trades more and more directly,” the leaders of the German employers association BDA and the Confederation of Skilled Crafts wrote last week in a letter to Chancellor Scholz, adding that “politicians must acknowledge and respect the limits of what can actually be achieved.”

However, the latest move is seen by the German business community as a glimmer of hope.

“Meseberg’s proposal for a Franco-German push for more red tape reduction at the EU level gives hope that this issue will now be resolved,” Freya Lemke, chief lobbyist for the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) in the EU.

“However, the economy needs action, not just announcements, and it needs it quickly,” Lemke concluded.

(Edited by Natalie Weatherald. Contributed by Theo Burgerie-Gonce and Sylvia Ellena).

Read the German plan here (in German).

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