EU lobbied to cut regulation: European business groups push for more privatisation ahead of summit

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The Independent Online
EUROPE'S two most influential business lobby groups yesterday pressed for the European Union to cut regulation, push for privatisation and allow the private sector to lead the economy.

The European Round Table of Industrialists said the Corfu summit of heads of government this weekend should speed up the process of liberalising the telecommunications sector. National monopolies are 'limiting innovation and the reduction of tariffs,' an ERT report issued yesterday says.

The report advocates private finance to build new information super-highways and a looser pan- European regulatory structure to replace national frameworks.

The summit is due to decide on how to progress with the White Paper on economic growth agreed by the EU last year. The paper puts development of new information infrastructure at the heart of efforts to revive competitiveness. But European industry is keen to see that this does not involve new tax burdens, and that the private sector gets the maximum benefits.

The summit is likely to see a split between governments like Germany and Britain who want to put the emphasis on free markets, and Jacques Delors, the outgoing President of the European Commission, who stresses the need to underpin social stability.

Unice, the organisation of European employers, also pressed yesterday for the summit to deregulate Europe, removing what it regards as unfair burdens on employers. In a report on competitiveness, it advocates 'a smaller and more efficient public sector, a more flexible labour market and an improved climate for entrepreneurs'.

The employers are lobbying for deregulation and privatisation of postal services, telecommunications, energy and transport, and the introduction of market mechanisms for services that remain in the public sector.

The split between industry, which wants deregulation and lower taxes, and labour, which stresses the importance of maintaining social protection and labour legislation, is shaping up to be an important battle in Europe over the next decade.