Dutchman to target EU red tape in gesture to Britain

Dutchman to target EU red tape in gesture to Britain

BRUSSELS - The Dutchman set to help run the new EU executive promised on Tuesday to cut red tape, echoing a pledge by incoming European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to focus on priorities to regain voters' trust.

The comments by Frans Timmermans, at a parliamentary hearing to confirm his nomination as Juncker's first vice president, are likely to be welcomed by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has urged Brussels to cut back on EU regulation to help him persuade Britons not to vote to quit the European Union.

Timmermans told EU lawmakers that if confirmed he would propose a list of pending EU legislation that could be scrapped."By the beginning of next year, I will propose ... a list of pending proposals which should be withdrawn," he said.

Timmermans, until recently Dutch foreign minister, also promised to review EU legislation by the end of 2015, with a view "to better serve Europe's interests". "We will have to be brutally honest about what does not work or delivers unintended results," he said.

London's accusation that EU red tape strangles small companies is part of wider concerns in Britain that the European Union institutions have become overbearing and pernicious.

Cameron has sought support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU leaders to cut regulation, winning a promise from the European Commission, the EU executive that proposes laws, to scale back legislation seen as unnecessary.

Juncker wants to take that further once he takes office on Nov. 1, sensitive to Cameron's plan to convince voters that remaining in the EU is in Britain's interest before a referendum Cameron has promised in 2017 on continued EU membership.

Scrapping or loosening EU rules that limit the work week to 48 hours, guarantee employees 11 hours of rest in any 24-hour period and give temporary agency workers the same rights as permanent staff are high priorities, British officials say.

However, France has warned it would not accept changes that threatened workers, food safety or the environment.

The Netherlands has also emerged as Britain's ally in London's efforts to erase the EU goal of an "ever closer union"that features in the preamble to EU treaties. Eurosceptics perceive it as a journey towards an EU super-state.

Timmermans, from the political centre-left, said that the European Union should remain "a community of nations" that work together: "I firmly believe that the EU can only be strong if member states are strong and that the strength of member states depends on the strength of the union," he said.

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