by Elizabeth Golberg. Original Source: The Regulatory Review
With European elections on the horizon, and the five-year term of the European Commissiondrawing to a close, it is timely to reflect on whether efforts to regulate better have been effective. The 2015 Better Regulation program has generated positive results, but dissatisfaction with EU-level regulation continues to permeate the European political landscape. The next Commission needs to build on this progress and maintain the goal of achieving better regulation as a high priority.
Given widespread criticism for producing too many ill-conceived laws in areas better regulated at a national level, the current Commission followed its predecessors in giving high priority to improving regulation and strengthening the law-making framework. In its Better Regulation program of 2015, the Commission made impact assessment, consultation, and evaluation mandatory. All regulatory policy tools were brought under one conceptual and procedural framework so that EU laws would be systematically prepared and reviewed in knowledge of their economic, environmental, and social impacts, minimizing costs and avoiding unnecessary red tape.
The Better Regulation program further strengthened quality control and deployed strategic planning and political oversight measures to reduce the flow of new initiatives. Systematic ex post review of both laws and policy areas, prompted by and benefiting from stakeholder feedback were at the core of the Regulatory Fitness Program (REFIT) which aims to ensure that EU laws remain fit for purpose. The European Parliament and the European Council renewed their commitment to engage in the Better Regulation effort, agreeing to assess the impacts of their amendments to Commission proposals and to support ex post review.
Results are lining up with ambitions. Strategic planning with political oversight halved the number of regulatory proposals made during the current Commission’s first two years compared to the same period under the previous Commission. Impact assessments accompany over 80 percent of proposals going to the legislature. By the end of 2017, 75 percent of all impact assessments were supported by ex post evaluations, compared to 50 percent in 2016. This shows that ex post policy evaluations are being done more systematically, feeding into impact assessments for new laws or amendments to existing ones. Public consultation has also surged. In 2017, 92 percent of impact assessments were supported by open public consultation compared to 38 percent in 2015.
The EU does well by international comparison, being the only Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member ranked highly in all three categories of indicators—regulatory impact assessment, consultation, and evaluation—used in the OECD Regulatory Policy Outlook.
But has this flurry of Better Regulation activity actually supported decision-making and improved policy outcomes? To respond to this question, effectiveness needs to be measured.
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