“Do less, but better” could well be the mantra of the new president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg. But it is in fact a term coined by another former prime minister of Luxembourg, Jacques Santer when he became president of that institution twenty years ago. The time lag, apart from the sense of history repeating itself, suggests that the EU is still struggling with the thorny issue of whether or not to regulate.
The new Juncker Commission, which was approved 22 October and is due to formally to take office on 1 November, does appear to be tackling this dilemma head-on. This is illustrated in part by the appointment of the first ever (and first in the pecking order) Vice-President in charge of better regulation, the former Dutch Foreign Minister, Frans Timmermans.
His role cannot be over-stated: in effect any proposed regulation being proposed by a Commissioner colleague has to cross the desk of the Vice President for his approval before it can be discussed and approved by the Commission as a whole. The advocacy repercussions are significant and are only starting to be appreciated by all those who seek to inform and steer public policy making at the EU level.