What is the “Better Regulation” initiative about?
On 19 May 2015, the European Commission presented its package of initiatives for “Better Regulation”. According to the press release that accompanied it, “the Better Regulation agenda should review not just what policy areas the EU focuses on, but also how to make sure that our law-making procedures remain at the highest standard in terms of impact assessment, transparency, public consultation, and implementation.”
In other words, the initiative seeks to change the way how the EU makes laws, and in which areas.
The aim is to better justify the EU’s actions or non-actions to European citizens and to create more efficient policy making. It echoes former Commission President Barroso’s pledge that the EU should be “big on big things and small on small things”, something echoed by current Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for Better Regulation.
The Commission is keen to stress that it is not aiming for deregulation per se but at creating an appropriate environment in which the regulatory burden on business can be eased.
There are no quantitative targets, such as the “One-in-Two-out” rule introduced in the UK. Nevertheless, the Commission’s focus on “must have” and “added value” legislation will have an effect: the EC’s Work Program for 2015 contained 23 new initiatives and proposed to withdraw or amend around 80 initiatives for political reasons.
This sends a strong signal about what we can expect from the Better Regulation initiative.
What is in the Better Regulation package?
The Better Regulation package contains several elements, the main ones being:
- Communication from the European Commission: “Better Regulation For Better Results”;
- Communication from the European Commission on an Inter-Institutional Agreement for Better Regulation, which establishes general principles for cooperation between the European Institutions;
- Better Regulation guidelines and an impact assessment toolbox;
- Decisions on REFIT (Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme) including state of play and establishment of REFIT Platform; and
- Creation of and communication on a new, partly independent, Regulatory Scrutiny Board.
Under this package, we can expect that the processes for making decisions and legislation as we know them today will significantly change. All new and existing regulations and initiatives will be opened to scrutiny at all stages starting from the development of a proposal and ending with its implementation.
Finance Watch’s view
The Inter-Institutional Agreement includes a draft agreement on Delegated Acts, which should help to solve a number of problems with Delegated Acts and Implementing Acts. This is a welcome step, as is the discussion about returning to the normal “first/second readings” procedure in Parliament, which has been rarely used in recent years.
We are more concerned about additional binding consultations for Level 2 measures, as this is only going to benefit the business lobby. It is also likely to increase industry pressure on Level 2 drafting.
We are sceptical about the push for more impact assessments. It is hard to imagine how the legislative process will be improved from society’s point of view if every significant amendment requires a new impact assessment that looks mainly at the costs to business. For more on this, see our blog “Beware of the impact assessment“.
Finally, we think further consideration should be given to the REFIT proposals concerning the assessment and evaluation of laws after their adoption. There may be obligations to assess laws every five years but we believe there should more focus on the role and benefits that regulations bring to society.
You will find more information about the initiative on the website of the “Better Regulation Watchdog”: http://www.betterregwatch.eu/