Always think of consequences, Barroso tells EU officials

New guidelines published by the Commission on impact assessment say officials should look in particular at economic and competitiveness concerns when drafting new legislation.

Impact assessment affects all major Commission proposals, namely regulatory and other proposals having considerable economic, social and environmental impacts, proposals having a major impact on particular groups and proposals representing a major change or policy reform. 

While only about half of the Commission’s major proposals were assessed in a period covering 2003 and 2004, all major items included in the Commission’s annual legislative and work programme are subject to impact assessment since the beginning of 2005. Since then,  all work programme items must be accompanied by a roadmap, which should not only provide an estimate of the expected timetable for a proposal, but also provide more detailed information about how the impact assessment will be taken forward. 

The new guidelines, which were published on 15 June 2005, replace the “Impact Assessment in the Commission – Guidelines” and the “Handbook for Impact Assessment in the Commission – How to do an Impact Assesment”. As compared to those, the new guidelines stress the importance of economic and competition aspects when assessing new legislation. They also provide more detail on estimating the administrative burden that new proposals would put on citizens’ and enterprises’ shoulders. And finally, they advise EU officials to look into achieving objectives without regulation. 

Impact assessment is supposed to contribute to an effective and efficient regulatory environment and to a more coherent preparation of decision-making. It takes economic as well as social and environmental factors into account and follows the overall priority of achieving sustainable development. It should lead to proposals that not only tackle the problem they aim to solve but also take into account side effects on other policy areas. 

Consultation of stakeholders is an important part of impact assessment. In the EU, impact assessment is laid down as a principle in the Better Regulation action plan and in the European strategy for sustainable development

  • At the Gothenburg and Laeken European Councils, both in 2002, an agreement was found to establish a new integrated method for impact assessment. It was outlined in a Communication from the Commission.
  • In the autumn of 2004, the Barroso Commission declared impact assessments as one of its political priorities. The impact assessment practice so far was itself made subject to an impact assessment. It came to the conclusion: "While initial experience shows that the methodology used is sound, there needs to be a more systematic application of the current methodology across Commission services."
  • The Competitiveness Council on 25 and 26 November 2004 confirmed this line taken by the Commission.
  • On 8 June 2005, the Commission started an online consultation on cutting red tape, which will be open until the end of the year. 

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