The number of laws introduced by the European Union fell 11% last year to the lowest number of changes since 1979, researchers reported today.

According to research from legal publisher Sweet & Maxwell, 1,474 legislative changes were made in 2012. The total, which includes regulations and directives and other measures, compares with 1,660 in 2011 and 3,000 in 2001. The number of directives fell by 86% last year, to 63.

The drop represents a ‘concerted effort’ by the European Commission to reduce the volume of new legislation, said Laurence Gormley, professor of European Law at the University of Groningen in Holland.

‘The feedback from governments around Europe has been that excessive legislation from Brussels is hurting business growth and productivity, by forcing unnecessary costs on businesses and European economies,’ he said. 

‘The EU has taken this on board and is now actively trying to create a legislative framework that is fit for purpose.’

The EU requires a number of legal changes to occur each year in order to operate effectively, with some of the new laws an attempt to repeal ‘overly prescriptive’ legislation, he said. However, he added the current number of changes is still ‘substantial’.

In October 2012 the European Commission published guidelines to reduce regulation on member states through its Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) programme. 

The commission said it would simplify or withdraw EU laws based on whether they were fit for purpose and in the best interests of individual countries.