The TOP 10 most burdensome EU legislative acts for SMEs

As part of its ambitious policy actions¸ the European Commission published the results of its survey amongst Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) entitled “Which are the TOP 10 most burdensome EU legislative acts for SMEs?” This exercise was done with the objective of minimizing the regulatory burden for SMEs and adapt EU regulation to the needs of micro-enterprises.  The public consultation consisted of an on-line questionnaire using Interactive Policy Making (IPM) software and ran from October 2012 until 21 December 2012 and was available in 21 EU languages.  The identification of the most burdensome pieces of EU legislation was carried out in two steps. In the first stage¸ a consultation was run through the European Enterprise Network (EEN). Its results were used as a basis for the next consultation¸ the last phase of the exercise.  The consultation attracted responses from 1000 organisations¸ although there appeared to be considerable differences in the number of respondents per Member State.

Respondents were offered the choice to reply using one or several of the following options:

  • identifying the areas where EU regulation is the most burdensome;
  • choosing from a list of legislative acts which they found the most burdensome or
  • reporting on other regulatory requirements which they find burdensome.

Finally¸ respondents were asked to give an example of a piece of legislation which has been successfully revised and which is now less burdensome.


The Top 10 burdensome EU legislation resulting from the public consultation were as follows:

1.REACH (Registration¸ Evaluation¸ Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals)

2. VAT – Value added tax legislation

3. General Product Safety and market surveillance package

4. Recognition of professional qualifications

5. Shipments of waste – Waste framework legislation – List of waste and hazardous waste

6. Labour market-related legislation

7. Data protection

8. Working time

9. Recording equipment in road transport (for driving and rest periods)

10. Procedures for the award of public contracts (public works¸ supply and service contracts)

This consultation process provided SMEs with the opportunity to express their views and ideas on the sources of legislative burden. In addition¸ stakeholders were asked to identify any other policy area or piece of legislation which they felt particularly burdensome. This approach was generally welcomed by respondents. However¸ several of them acknowledged the difficulty in identifying the source of regulatory burden (e.g. EU or national legislation).

The results highlight 11 burdensome policies and 14 pieces of EU legislation¸ with a fair overlapping