Better publicity for more effective public consultations.

SW – 09/2019

‘I want Europeans to build the future of our Union’, announced Ursula von der Leyen, President-elect of the Commission, in her guidelines for the next European Commission. She wants a greater push for European democracy. Furthermore, European citizens should play a leading and active role in setting priorities and objectives.

Through its Better Regulation Agenda, the European Commission wants to ensure transparency in the legislative process and give citizens and stakeholders the opportunity to participate in the development and evaluation of EU legislation and policies. The umbrella associations of the German social insurance system also make regular use of opportunities to provide policy advice.

Special Report by the European Court of Auditors

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has now published a special report in which it assessed whether the European Commission’s public consultations have effectively contributed to involving citizens and stakeholders in the adoption and evaluation of EU legislation. The auditors came to a mostly positive conclusion. The EU Commission’s framework for consulting the public during the preparation and evaluation of EU legislation and policies is of a high standard.

Areas for improvement identified by the auditors included insufficient publicity and feedback from the Commission. The auditors found that the consultations with the lowest response rates were those where the Commission used few communication channels for publicity, as opposed to those with very high response rates. Increased publicity and the translation of surveys into all official EU languages could lead to greater participation in consultations.

The ECA also recommended providing timely feedback on the outcome of the consultations. In some cases, no reports on the results were prepared after the consultation, or only after a long delay and often only in English.

EU Commission’s stocktaking

The Commission itself also conducted a stocktaking of the Better Regulation programme in April 2019 (see article May 2019), having previously given citizens and stakeholders the opportunity to express their views in a public consultation. The umbrella associations of the German social insurance system were also involved (see article Nov 2018 and full position paper) and pointed out that a thorough analysis and detailed presentation of the results would help to make evaluation processes more transparent. In addition, the German Social Insurance has called for impact assessments, where it is deemed appropriate, to take a thorough look at social and health issues. 

EESC assessment

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is also currently addressing the topic of better regulation and is calling for an integrated impact assessment which takes account of criteria such as social protection, employment and health. In its Opinion, which will be discussed in the Committee’s plenary session at the end of September, the EESC calls on the Commission to develop a ‘smart evaluation matrix’ which will make it possible to assess the impact of major amendments proposed by co-legislators and stakeholders.

The EESC considers that continuing the Better Regulation Agenda should be made conditional on certain substantive improvements and proposes that responsibility for the programme be given to a Vice-President of the new EU Commission.