I had a wonderful opportunity to talk about digitalisation of the EU administrative procedure at the DG GROW’s event “SME Relief Package: the Single Digital Gateway cuts red tape” that took place on 19 September 2023. I would like to express my gratitude to DG GROW and SMEUnited for organising this event, which is particularly salient now, especially for me as the The Rapporteur is an MEP who is in charge of making amendments for a specific law in a specific committee. More on Parliament’s report on Digitalisation and Administrative Law.
Now is not the easiest time for Europe’s SMEs, which is why it is key that we make understanding and complying with obligations under the EU law, and interacting with Union administrations as simple and painless as possible.
In short: the less time SMEs have to spend on bureaucracy and paperwork, the better.
I think that in order to reach this goal, we have to start by addressing information asymmetry, and I think that is exactly what the Digital Single Gateway does:
- Putting vital information at businesses’ fingertips rapidly means less time is wasted on research, and businesses can quickly get clarity, and, most importantly, get certainty, on their rights and obligations.
- Another great thing is the access to contact details for assistance services: one of the many issues we are covering in the report is the need to ensure there is always a contact point for businesses and citizens when they have issues and need support. This is particularly true for SMEs.
- Finally, the ability to report obstacles and issues is key: it’s vital that we adopt an approach of continuous improvement, and that feedback is used to improve businesses and citizens’ experience in the future.
These achievements, available for all EU countries and in all EU languages, already go a long way to improving the experience of businesses across the Union, and highlight the potential benefits of digitalisation for businesses, but of course, more should be done.
In The Legal Affairs Committee, one of the parliamentary committees that I am a member of. More, we are bringing forward a number of ideas with that in mind:
Firstly, we believe that the growing number of direct interactions between the EU and businesses, fragmentation of rules, and differences in procedures, rights and obligations, have begun to create uncertainty.
Businesses need clarity. We feel a common minimum set of rules for interactions with Union administrations, and clear information on rights and obligations, will help businesses interact with the EU with confidence. In particular, we’d like to proactively foster principles like the right to mistake and to rectification, especially for SMEs. Because small businesses should never be punished for making a genuine mistake, in particular when it comes to the European Level. We think the best way to achieve this is through the creation of a law of administrative procedure for our Union. These changes would represent a significant investment of time and effort for the Union, but quite like the Digital Single Gateway, they would be worth every minute, and every cent.
Secondly, we believe that in spite of the challenges and risks it poses, digitalisation of the Union’s administrations also provides us with solutions and new opportunities.
But for them to truly benefit businesses, we have to do it right. Which is why, first and foremost, we insist on the “only once” principle: entering the same data over and over again is a waste of their time and money for European SMEs, which is why we want to make the only once principle the standard across all business interactions with the Union’s Public Administration.
This could be supported by the upcoming European Digital wallet system, which has the potential to make interactions with the Union easier.
Digitalisation also offers us, to some degree, the opportunity to automate reporting and compliance.
Finally, and in the vein of the European Digital Wallet, I think it’s key we work on interoperability, in particular between the EU and member-states, to avoid duplicate reporting at different levels.
In an ideal world, I’d like to see businesses provide information once, at whatever level, and for it to be simple to make that information available both at the EU level and across member states.
I’d also like to see common forms or web services for procedures that exist in all countries, so that businesses can work in the language of their staff regardless of the member state they are working in.
Taken together, in addition to the Digital Single Gateway, these proposals will allow the EU to retain the high standards it is renowned for, while diminishing the burden for our businesses, particularly SMEs.
Single Digital Gateway (SDG) facilitates online access to information, administrative procedures, and assistance services that EU citizens and businesses may need in another EU country. Access to the gateway is via a search function in the Your Europe portalONE•••. The most important administrative procedures for cross-border users will be fully available online in all EU countries. By the end of 2023, Your Europe aims to offer access to 21 online procedures in all EU countries, with procedures such as registering a car or claiming a pension being fully digitalised and eliminating the need for paperwork.