Better Regulation principles: at the heart of the EU’s decision-making process

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Press conference of Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the EC, on Better Regulation stocktaking.European Union, 2019 Source: EC – Audiovisual Service.

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the European Commission is taking stock of the measures introduced under the Juncker Commission to deliver better results for EU citizens and businesses through more open, transparent and evidence-based policy-making.

Today’s report shows that the efforts to put better regulation at the heart of the decision-making process have been successful. This success should be consolidated and sustained so that we can continue to make further improvements.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “There is widespread recognition that we are leading by example, and people call on us to sustain our commitment to better regulation. Better regulation is now embedded in the DNA of European decision making. Now we must nurture and strengthen our efforts, especially in a post-fact world where the very fabric of our democratic debate and scientific authority is being challenged.”

The Juncker Commission, learning the lessons of the past, committed to acting only where the EU adds value and to do so on the basis of the best available evidence, looking at economic, social and environmental impacts together and avoiding unnecessary costs. Our efforts have been recognised internationally by the OECD, which ranked the EU’s regulatory policy as one of the very best in 2018. After presenting the Better Regulation Agenda in 2015, it is now the right moment to take stock of the Commission’s efforts to consolidate and sustain this new institutional culture and draw lessons for the future.

Lessons learnt and future improvements

The results of the stocktaking exercise are clear: better regulation has improved the way EU policy is made. There is a widespread demand for better regulation to continue to be an integral part of the Commission’s way of working while being further improved:

  •     Opening up policymaking: Since 2015, the Commission organised over 400 public consultations engaging millions of Europeans. For instance, the consultation on summertime arrangements received 4.6 million responses and the consultation on the evaluation of the Birds and Habitat Directive more than half a million. The new ‘Have Your Say‘ portal, a one-stop-shop for Europeans to contribute to EU policy-making was visited almost 900,000 times in 2018. In the future, we should look for ways to raise awareness about different opportunities to contribute to EU policy making. This would then help involve the public in policy-making more effectively.
  •     Better tools for better policies: Impact assessments and evaluations provide a sound basis for political decision-making whilst not substituting it. The newly established Regulatory Scrutiny Board – whose new annual report can be found here – guarantees the quality of such supporting analyses. Overall, we carried out impact assessments in the vast majority of cases that needed one. In 75% of cases, this assessment relied on an evaluation of what is already in place – demonstrating the “evaluate first” principle is increasingly applied. At the same time, some situations required adaptations and exceptions to better regulation practices when it was necessary to respond to urgent political needs, such as during the height of the migration crisis. In addition, the quality and timelines of better regulation tools can still be improved.
  •     Making EU legislation fit for purpose: The Commission presented some 150 simplification initiatives reducing unnecessary administrative burdens while supporting policy goals. The Commission also responded to nearly 90 opinions from the newly established REFIT Platform. Simpler and less burdensome legislation improves implementation, compliance and enforcement, eventually leading to better results, especially for small and medium enterprises. But we need to be better at sharing and deepening our practices.
  •     Better regulation is a shared effort: It is a joint responsibility of the European Parliament, the Council, the Commission, and the Member States to deliver and implement high-quality EU legislation that is fit for purpose and without unnecessary layers of complexity. The Commission can facilitate certain improvements but it cannot ensure them entirely by itself. For instance, public consultations can reach a much wider audience if other institutions at EU, national, regional and local level are involved. Additionally, the impact of amendments by the Parliament and/or Council to Commission proposals need to be more systematically analysed. Member States could also report more transparently on national measures taken to implement EU law in particular when such measures go beyond what is required by EU law (so-called ‘gold-plating’).

On 29 April, the Commission will hold a conference to take stock of the better regulation efforts, exchanging views with communities of stakeholders from civil society, business, research, public authorities and social partners and discuss possible ways forward (more information about the conference here)

Background

Better Regulation underpins the Commission’s work to deliver on President Juncker’s 10 political priorities, ensuring that the Commission acts only where the EU brings added value, and does so in the most effective and least burdensome way possible.

In 2015, the Commission adopted its Better Regulation Agenda transforming its internal working methods and planning processes. We incorporated better regulation into all stages of the planning and programming cycle and delivered streamlined annual work programmes. Better regulation is about professionalising every aspect of our policy-making and keeping it fit for today’s world.

The Better Regulation Agenda brought the following changes, among the others:

  •     Have Your Say now enables citizens to participate in the legislative process at all stages, including feedback on draft implementing and delegated acts;
  •     The Regulatory Scrutiny Board, ensures the objectivity and credibility of the evidence base underpinning the Commission’s political decisions;
  •     The Commission committed to always evaluate an existing law before revising it (“Evaluate first” principle);
  •     There is now a platform to gather feedback from civil society on how to improve existing EU laws and make suggestions the European Commission is committed to answer to – the REFIT Platform.

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