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Last week, on 19 May, Frans Timmermans unveiled the European Commission’s plans to ensure that there is Better Regulation in EU, at a Press Conference in Strasbourg(Read here). As First Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr Timmermans has responsibility for delivering apackage of reforms that cover the entire policy cycle. The package has been designed to:

  • increase openness and transparency in the EU decision-making process;
  • improve the quality of new laws through better impact assessments of draft legislation and amendments; and
  • promote constant and consistent review of existing EU laws, so that EU policies achieve their objectives in the most effective and efficient way

What are Timmermans’ objectives?

In launching the initiative, Frans Timmermans pointed out that better regulation is one of the top priorities of the EU. He explained that

“Better regulation is about making sure we deliver on the ambitious policy goals we have set ourselves in the most efficient way.”

That requires rigorous assessment of the impact of legislation right through the different stages of the legislative process. Without impact assessment, political decisions will not be sufficiently well-informed and evidence-based. To assist the process, the Commission is strengthening its approach to impact assessment and evaluations to improve the evidence base which underpins all legislative proposals, without prejudice to political decisions. In particular, the Commission’s Impact Assessment Board, operating since 2006, will be transformed into an independent Regulatory Scrutiny Board. The Box below outlines the role of the new Board.

Cooperation with European Parliament and European Council

The European Commission has to work closely with the European Parliament and the European Council in delivering its reforms. Accordingly, the Commission will now enter into negotiations with the Parliament and Council over a new Interinstitutional Agreement (IIA) on better law-making. As part of this agreement, the Commission is calling on the Parliament and Council to carry out impact assessments of any substantial amendments they propose during the legislative process. In addition, an independent technical panel can be set up upon request of the Parliament, Council or Commission to analyse whether an amended proposal is practical to implement, creates understandable rights and obligations for the interested parties, and avoids disproportionate costs. The Commission is of the view that any such assessment should be finalised and made public within a reasonable amount of time to inform the political decision-making process.

The Commission has now submitted its detailed proposals, for better law-making, to the Parliament and Council, aiming for agreement before the end of 2015. The proposals include:

  • a common commitment to the existing Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) programme;
  • impact assessment throughout the legislative process;
  • continuous monitoring of the performance of EU regulation and more thorough evaluations;
  • coordinated annual and multi-annual planning, including consultation on the Commission Work Programme;
  • greater transparency on trilateral negotiations; and
  • joint efforts to reduce unjustified “gold-plating” of EU legislation by Member States.

More Transparency and Consultation

The Commission’s documentation shows how important it is to have greater transparency and more consultation. Accordingly, the EU policy-making process is being opened up to further public scrutiny and input for outsiders. A web portal is being prepared where initiatives can be tracked and new public consultations undertaken when the Commission is evaluating existing policies or assessing possible new proposals. There will also be new opportunities for stakeholder comments throughout the entire policy lifecycle, from the initial Roadmap to the final Commission proposal. After the Commission has adopted a proposal, any citizen or stakeholder will have eight weeks to provide feedback or suggestions which will feed into the legislative debate before Parliament and Council. This transparent approach will also apply to secondary legislation, in the form of delegated and implementing acts. For the first time, draft measures which amend or supplement existing legislation, or which set out specific technical provisions, will be made public for four weeks before adoption. This will allow for stakeholder comments prior to their adoption by the Commission or Member State experts. All of these initiatives are steps in the right direction. And it is only right that citizens, businesses and other stakeholders have the facility to judge the EU on the impacts of its actions: not just new initiatives, but, even more importantly, the rules already in force.