The new Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making, adopted by the European Parliament on 13 April 2016, replaces a former Agreement dating back to 2003. The approval by the European Parliament follows the endorsement by the Commission and the Council on December 2015.
The new Agreement implies closer cooperation between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council as envisaged by the proposal put forward by the Commission in the framework of the May 2015 Better Regulation Package. It also reinforces impact assessments of new initiatives, as well as ensuring greater transparency in the legislative process. Moreover, it aims at enhancing ex post evaluation by applying review clauses in legislation. The application of sunset clauses will also be considered.
Among the nine chapters of the Agreement, the most relevant are:
- Chapter II, Programming. Parliament, Council and Commission engage together in the annual and multiannual legislative planning and priorities, in accordance with Article 17 of Treaty on European Union. The Commission will consult both the Council and the Parliament in order to take their views into account before adopting its annual work program. To facilitate longer-term planning, when a new Commission is appointed, all three institutions will exchange views on their principal policy objectives for the new term.
- Chapter III, Better Law-Making Tools. The text clarifies the elements that impact assessments should take into account such as the economic, environmental, social ones, and also the potential impacts on competitiveness and administrative burdens, especially with regard to SMEs, digital aspects and the territorial impact. It should be noted that each of the three Institutions is responsible for determining how to organise its impact assessment work, including internal organisational resources and quality control. The Commission will carry out impact assessments of its legislative and non-legislative initiatives, delegated acts and implementing measures which are expected to have significant economic, environmental or social impacts. The European Parliament and the Council will, when they consider this to be appropriate and necessary for the legislative process, carry out impact assessments in relation to their substantial amendments to the Commission’s proposal. The definition of a ‘substantial’ amendment should be for the respective Institution to determine.
- Chapter V, Delegated and implementing acts. The Agreement is accompanied by a Common Understanding aimed at identifying clearer criteria for distinguishing implementing from delegated acts as well as securing the transparency of the life cycle of delegated acts.
- Chapter VI, Transparency and coordination of the legislative process. Transparency in ensured throughout the whole legislative cycle (including proper handling of consultation between the three institutions) by introducing a common platform of legislative files, which provides an easy and smooth traceability of the different stages of the legislative process. Transparency will also be enhanced by the appropriate handling of trilateral negotiations. As for inter-institutional coordination, the document states that Parliment and Council are both co-legislators which maintain close contacts exchanging informal views on regular basis and ensuring better synchronization of their treatment of legislative proposals.
- Chapter VIII, Simplification. The three Institutions agree to cooperate in order to reduce administrative burdens. The Commission will, wherever possible, quantify the regulatory burden associated to individual proposals or legal acts. The Commission will also assess the feasibility of establishing objectives for burden reduction in specific sectors within the framework of the REFIT programme.
It is worth mentioning that the final Agreement is less ambitious than the May 2015 Commission’s proposal which set the bar very high. Further, it remains to be seen how the effective cooperation envisaged by the Agreement will be implemented by the three Institutions.