2019, the European Commission took stock of its Better Regulation Agenda. It
concludes that the better regulation principles are an integral part of the
Commission's institutional culture and is widely supported by stakeholders.
However, there is still room for improvement in the organisation of better
also the general thrust of the speech given by Frans Timmermans, First
Vice-President of the Commission, at a conference on the subject held by the
Commission on 29 April. The problem is not because the EU regulates, but because
of the intensity and complexity of its regulations. The Better Regulation
Agenda has strengthened the transparency and efficiency of EU legislation. The
procedures, consultation methods and independent monitoring bodies of the
better regulation principles have contributed to evidence-based policy-making.
Timmermans’ only regret is that the Council, the European Parliament and the
Commission had not been able to agree on an impact assessment after the
inter-institutional negotiations. The results of the negotiations often
deviated considerably from the Commission’s original proposal, and thus also
from the impact assessment based on this proposal. This should be taken up
again by the next Commission.
Better regulation activities 2015 – 2018
A look at
the stocktake in detail seems to confirm stakeholder agreement on being
involved in all phases of the legislative process. The Commission held 417
public consultations between 2015 and 2018, of which 303 related to new
initiatives. Whereas the Commission received 461 responses on average to its
public consultations in 2015, by 2018 it received 2091. Further feedback
procedures were carried out by the Commission on delegated acts (151) and on
roadmaps and inception impact assessments (691). It also carried out 259
evaluations to check whether the initiative had produced the expected results
and replied to 89 proposals submitted via the REFIT platform.
In order to
convert facts and information from stakeholders into objective analysis to
support the Commission’s decision-making and to provide a basis for informed
decisions, the Commission carried out 218 impact assessments on legislative
proposals over the same period.
Regulatory Scrutiny Board, which examines the quality of impact assessments and
key evaluations with the aim of improving both activities, issued a negative assessment
on 43% of impact assessments and 41% of evaluations in 2017. In 2018, only 28%
of impact assessments and 27% of evaluations were negatively rated.
In order to
take stock of the Better Regulation Agenda and assess how well the instruments
it uses work in practice, the Commission launched a public consultation at the
end of last year (see article Nov 2018). The umbrella associations of Germany’s
social insurance system submitted comments to the consultation and stressed the
need for a suitably long consultation period to gather sound policy advice. It
also addressed the quality of the questionnaires, the content of which should
be designed in such a way as not to link different points in such a way that
assessments of individual aspects are impossible. The umbrella associations of
Germany’s social insurance system also argued that social and health aspects
should be adequately taken into account when new legislation is put forward.
Reactions at the conference
there was broad agreement to the Better Regulation Agenda, stakeholders at the
conference also expressed some critical opinions. Among other things, it was stressed
that consultations should only take place if the Commission is actually open to
feedback. The question was raised whether less is more, that is, whether the
Commission should limit itself to ‘significant’ consultations. The Commission
should create a real opportunity for engagement. Citizens must be convinced
that it is worthwhile for them to invest their time. The quality of the
questionnaires was also addressed. In terms of fact-based policy-making, it was
pointed out that consultations did not necessarily convey facts, but rather opinions.
The weighting of consultation contributions and the extent to which the number
of interests represented by an organisation are taken into account were also
interesting point regarding up-to-date legislation, particularly in the field
of technological innovation, was the question of the right balance between
fact-based legislation on the one hand and the need to achieve timely results
on the other. Particularly in fast-moving areas such as technology, it is
difficult to make legislation future-proof. Regulatory sandboxes were discussed
as a possible solution; these allow certain stakeholders to test legislation
before it is formally implemented and to create the legal certainty required to
ensure it can function properly. In order to keep pace in the digital age,
regulatory sandboxes must be used as a tool and their results taken into
account in impact assessments.
Both in its
stock take of the Better Regulation Agenda and at the conference, the
Commission underlined the need for joint efforts to achieve optimal results
through better regulation. Better regulation should remain a priority for the
future. However, Vice-President Timmermans said that the Commission was not the
only protagonist; the Parliament, the Council, Member States, local and
regional authorities and all other stakeholders all have a role to play.