Why a Better Regulation Agenda?
Focusing on the things that need to be done by the EU and making sure they are done well is a priority of this Commission. This is evidenced by the establishment of the post of First Vice-President for Better Regulation and the adoption of streamlined annual Commission Work Programmes for 2015 and 2016, with a more focused list of proposals based on the 10 political priorities of the Juncker Commission.
In May 2015, the European Commission presented a set of measures to deliver better rules for better results. This Better Regulation Agenda included new guidelines to be applied by the Commission when preparing proposals, a strengthened Regulatory Scrutiny Board to check the quality of impact assessments and evaluations, a new platform to involve stakeholders more closely in identifying problems with existing legislation and a proposal for a new joint agreement to promote better regulation in the European Parliament and the Council.
What does 'better' regulation mean?
Better regulation means achieving policy goals in the most efficient way. It is about better results, not deregulation or a weakening of social or environmental standards. Policy goals can be delivered through EU rules when necessary or via measures at national level or through non-regulatory means whenever that is sufficient or more effective.
The Commission believes achieving better results requires modernised law-making practices, keeping existing rules under review to make sure they are fit for purpose, improving transparency and involving stakeholders more in the preparation of new policy proposals and in the review of existing legislation.
What are the main points of the draft Inter-institutional Agreement?
The European Commission applies the better regulation approach in the preparation of its policy proposals and spending programmes. But while the Commission makes proposals, it cannot deliver better quality legislation without a similar commitment to better regulation from the European Parliament and Council.
Between June and December 2015, the Commission, Parliament and Council negotiated a new Inter-institutional Agreement on Better Law-Making to help the institutions work better together to promote the quality of Union legislation. An agreement has been found in principle and endorsed on 15 December by the Commission. It must be approved by the European Parliament and the Council before it can enter into force in 2016.
The negotiated agreement addresses issues such as transparency, impact assessment, evaluation of Union legislation, transposition of Union legislation in national law, how to simplify and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens as well as new procedures on the use of delegated legislation where the Commission is empowered by the legislator to act.
The main changes under the new draft agreement include:
Programming The agreement formalises the dialogue between the three institutions in the preparation of the Commission's annual Work Programme. In addition, the three institutions will identify in a joint declaration the items of major political importance to receive priority treatment in the legislative process. The agreement also includes provisions on multi-annual programming at the start of the new Commission, including a mid-term review.
Regulatory Fitness (REFIT) Programme
Each year the three Institutions will discuss specific sectors for simplification before the adoption of the Commission Work Programme. The Commission’s Regulatory Fitness programme will play the central role in simplifying the body of existing legislation, reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens and informing any future discussion about objectives for burden reduction in specific sectors.
Each new act will set out how the legislation will be evaluated in the future so that we can check it is working as planned, and adjust it accordingly.
Renewed Commitment to Impact Assessment
The agreement reaffirms the commitment by all three institutions to impact assessment. The co-legislators will perform impact assessment on substantial amendments where they decide it is appropriate and will take full account of further impact assessment work by the Commission - in addition to the original impact assessment - during the legislative process. The European Parliament and the Council will as a general rule take the Commission Impact Assessment as the starting point for their further work.
Gold Plating The agreement recognises the need to encourage Member States to be transparent about gold-plating (i.e. the practice of adding requirements when transposing an EU Directive), which may increase policy ambition but also introduce additional costs and red-tape. It does not contest the prerogative of Member States to gold-plate EU legislation, but calls for clear communication when this is the case.
Transparency The Commission will work jointly with the Parliament and the Council to build a common IT platform for delegated acts and will start work on a similar platform for the co-decision procedure. Not only should this deliver more transparency in the legislative process, it should also deliver efficiency savings in the longer term.
The agreement is accompanied by a common understanding under which the Commission will consult experts from Member States when preparing delegated acts. Access will be granted to EP and Council experts as observers.
The three institutions will work jointly on criteria to distinguish between implementing acts and delegated acts after the agreement is concluded.
What is the REFIT platform?
The Commission decided on 19 May to establish the REFIT Platform as an expert group of representatives from Member States, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and stakeholders to advise the Commission in making EU law more effective and efficient. Following an open call for expression of interest, the Commission has completed the preparations for the launch of the new REFIT Platform with the nomination of the members of the stakeholder group.
The REFIT Platform will invite and collect suggestions on regulatory burden reduction regarding EU legislation and its implementation in Member States, particularly in view of the needs and interests of micro-enterprises and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Platform members will assess the merits of these suggestions and their potential to reduce regulatory and administrative burden without endangering the achievement of the objectives of the legislation, and provide supplementary remarks and opinions on these suggestions. The Platform will forward the result of its work to the Commission or the Member State concerned and make all suggestions it discusses and its views on them public. The Commission will systematically explain how it intends to follow up on the suggestions it receives.
First Vice-President Timmermans will chair the first REFIT Platform meeting on Friday 29 January 2016. Proposals for regulatory burden reduction can be submitted via a dedicated online tool called "Lighten the load - Have your say".
How are the members of the REFIT Platform selected?
The stakeholder group consists of 20 members including two from the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of Regions. Today, the remaining 18 members have been appointed by the Commission based on an open call for expression of interest. The government group consists of 28 high level government officials nominated by each Member State.
When deciding on the membership, emphasis was put on selecting experts with direct experience of applying EU legislation. The Commission also sought to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, a balanced representation of various sectors, interests and regions in Europe and gender.
What is the REFIT programme?
REFIT is the European Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance programme. Its objective is to review the existing stock of EU legislation to ensure it remains fit for purpose and delivers the results intended. It aims to keep the body of EU law lean and healthy, remove unnecessary burdens and adapt existing legislation without compromising on our ambitious policy objectives.
REFIT has already been embedded in the annual Commission Work Programme exercise and in the Commission's political dialogue with the other EU institutions before and after the adoption of the Work Programme.
Within its Work Programme for 2016, the Commission will implement more than 40 REFIT initiatives including in key areas such as VAT, the Digital Single Market and the Energy Union. In 2016, the Commission will also follow-up on evaluations of NATURA 2000, the General Food Law and Health and Safety at Work rules. It will make new legislative proposals under REFIT for a renewable energy package, a definitive VAT regime and business statistical reporting. The Commission will also continue to review EU chemicals legislation within the REFIT framework, other than the REACH regulation.
What is the new Regulatory Scrutiny Board and when will its setup be completed?
The Regulatory Scrutiny Board checks the quality of impact assessments and evaluations prepared inside the Commission to inform College decisions. The new Regulatory Scrutiny Board was established in May this year and replaces the former impact assessment board. The recruitment processes to select the 6 new members will be completed in early 2016.
What changes announced in the Commission's May Better Regulation package have already been implemented?
In May this year, the Commission set out its approach to better regulation with a series of new actions and initiatives. These have been progressively implemented during the year.
-A draft Inter-institutional Agreement on Better Law-Making has been negotiated based on the Commission's proposal and endorsed by the College of Commissioners.
-New guidelines and a toolbox on better regulation are being applied inside the Commission with a transition period until the end of 2015 to allow adaptation to the new rules.
-New stakeholder feedback mechanisms have been set up, giving the possibility to make views known to the Commission from the very start of the preparation of an initiative on the basis of roadmaps and inception impact assessments; as well as when a proposal is adopted, in order to feed into the legislative process.
-The Refit Platform has been established and its members appointed, and the Platform will meet for the first time on 29 January 2016.
-The website "Lighten the Load - Have your say" is already operational and will accompany the REFIT Platform in providing feedback on existing EU laws.
-REFIT initiatives now feature systematically in the Commission's annual Work Programme, underlining their political importance to the Juncker Commission.
-A new Regulatory Scrutiny Board has been established and the recruitment of the 6 new members will be finalised in early 2016.
-The initial phase of the Better Regulation Portal will be available in June 2016.
-The opportunity to provide feedback on delegated acts and implementing acts will be launched in 2016.