Planning and Proposing Laws

Better Regulation

    The Better Regulation agenda aims to guarantee evidence-based and transparent EU law-making, considering the views and input of those affected by the regulations.¹ It includes guidelines and a toolbox that provide quality standards for planning and proposing policies and laws.²

    The main objectives of the Better Regulation agenda are:

    • Ensuring that EU policymaking is based on evidence.
    • Simplifying and improving EU laws while avoiding unnecessary complexities.
    • Involving citizens, businesses, and stakeholders in the decision-making process.³

    Right of initiative

      The European Commission (The Commission) holds the ‘right of initiative’, which means it is responsible for proposing, planning, and preparing European legislation. It also evaluates EU laws and recommends improvements during policy reviews. Furthermore, the Commission monitors the implementation and application of adopted initiatives in the Member States.⁴

      The Commission suggests laws on its own initiative, based on the objectives outlined in the yearly Commission work programme. Additionally, it can respond to requests for law proposals from:

      • The European Council (consisting of heads of state or government from each EU country)
      • The Council of the European Union (consisting of government ministers from each EU country)
      • The European Parliament (directly elected by EU citizens)
      • Citizens themselves, if they successfully propose something through the European Citizens’ Initiative.⁵

      Call for Evidence

        A “Call for evidence” defines the problem to be addressed and the objectives to be achieved. It explains the necessity for EU action and presents various policy options. Moreover, it outlines the key elements of the consultation strategy, including whether a public consultation with a questionnaire is necessary.

        The Commission employs a “Call for evidence” to determine the scope of:

        • Politically sensitive and/or significant new laws or policies.
        • Evaluations of existing laws or policies.
        • Fitness checks of a bundle of related existing laws and/or policies.

        This approach has two steps: the roadmap/inception impact assessment and the questionnaire (where applicable).

        Impact assessments

        What are Impact Assessments?

        During the preparation phase, prior to the finalisation of a proposal for a new law by the Commission, impact assessments are conducted to evaluate the necessity of EU action and to analyse the potential consequences of proposed or planned solutions. Impact assessments are conducted on legislative proposals, non-legislative initiatives such as financial programs and recommendations for international agreements, and implementing and delegated acts. 

        What is the aim of impact assessments?

        The impact assessment report is required to outline the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the initiative, including its effect on small and medium-sized businesses and competitiveness. If any of these impacts are deemed insignificant, this must be explicitly stated. The report must also detail who will be affected by the initiative and how, as well as describe the consultation strategy and the results obtained from it. The results of impact assessments are documented in an impact assessment report, which is then reviewed by the independent Regulatory Scrutiny Board, which provides their opinions on the report’s quality.  Once completed, impact assessment reports are published alongside the proposals or acts adopted by the Commission. They are shared with the EU lawmakers, including the Parliament and Council, to consider as they decide whether to adopt the proposed law.⁷

        In April 2016, a new interinstitutional agreement on better law-making was established, acknowledging the positive impact of impact assessments on enhancing the quality of EU legislation. According to this agreement, when making decisions on legislative proposals, both the EU Parliament and the Council fully take into account the Commission’s impact assessments. Furthermore, during the legislative process, the co-legislators also have the right to conduct impact assessments for substantial amendments.⁸

        How are they structured?

        The Commission’s Impact Assessments must stick to a standardised format, beginning with a definition of the problem that requires potential action supported by the collected evidence. The next step involves establishing the policy objective and exploring various strategic options to achieve those objectives.⁹ During policy development, impact assessments evaluate the correct application of the principles of subsidiarity (avoiding EU intervention when member states can effectively handle an issue) and proportionality (ensuring EU action is not excessive and aligns with the objectives).¹⁰ The next step is analysing the likely economic, social and environmental impacts of each of the before-mentioned strategic options. Finally, the Impact Assessment has to consider future monitoring arrangements and use indicators to assess whether the action taken corresponds to what was intended.¹¹

        Role of Impact Assessment

        Impact analysis can play two important roles in public management:¹²

        • Ex ante impact analysis is conducted during the need for analysis and planning phase of the policy cycle. This involves a prospective analysis of the possible impact of an intervention to inform policymaking – similar to business planning.
        • Ex post impact assessment is conducted during the evaluation and management phase of the policy cycle. While evaluation aims to understand how a policy intervention addresses a particular problem, impact assessment specifically focuses on analysing the effects of the intervention. This covers the evaluation of intervention appropriateness, cost-effectiveness, accidental consequences, and learning from the current intervention to improve future approaches.

        How to contribute?

        The Commission initiates the process by analysing the problem, policy objectives, and potential solutions, along with their anticipated impacts. Stakeholders are invited to provide feedback on these assessments. A thorough impact assessment is then conducted, involving open public consultations with stakeholders to consider all important aspects. After the Commission finalises and publishes the legislative proposal and impact assessment report, citizens and stakeholders can give additional feedback when the proposal is presented to EU legislators.¹³

        The independent Regulatory Scrutiny Board¹⁴

        The Regulatory Scrutiny Board is an independent body within the Commission that advises the College of Commissioners. It ensures the quality of Commission impact assessments and evaluations during the early stages of the legislative process. The Board reviews and provides opinions and recommendations on the Commission’s draft impact assessments, fitness checks, and major evaluations of existing legislation. It also offers cross-cutting advice on better regulation policy to the Commission’s Secretariat-General.

        The Board’s opinions influence the political decisions of the Commission by examining the quality of draft reports on impact assessments and major evaluations. A positive or positive-with-reservations opinion from the Board is necessary for an initiative accompanied by an impact assessment to proceed for adoption by the Commission. In case of a negative opinion, the draft report must be reviewed and resubmitted to the Board.

        The Board consists of nine members, including a Commission Director-General who chairs the Board, four high-level Commission officials, and four externally recruited experts. All members work full-time for the Board for a non-renewable term of three years, which may be extended under exceptional circumstances.

        Once adopted, all impact assessments and related opinions of the Board are published online, as well as the reports of evaluations and fitness checks and their related Board opinions. The Board’s list of analysed cases is also made public.