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Action Plan for Better Regulation

Regulatory simplification requires a strong political commitment from all the European institutions and the Member States throughout the legislative process. This Communication puts forward a number of actions, in the long term allowing the creation of a new legislative culture based on the "better regulation" principle.

ACT

Communication from the Commission of 5 June 2002, Action Plan "Simplifying and improving the regulatory environment" [COM(2002) 278 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The purpose of this Communication is to improve the regulatory environment. Following consultations, the Commission noted the need for better regulation throughout the legislative process: from preparation of the proposal by the Commission to implementation by the Member States. This Action Plan focuses on the responsibilities of each party concerned during the legislative process. It aims to enable all the institutions and Member States to produce better laws.

Actions to be implemented by the Commission

First of all, the Commission intends to improve the quality of the legislative proposals through a number of actions, such as:

  • establishing minimum standards of consultation by the end of 2002: one of the standards envisaged by the Commission is a minimum duration of six weeks for consultations and the creation of a single access point showing the list of consultations in progress;
  • developing an instrument to assess the impact of major legislative and policy initiatives: the impact assessments will make it possible to decide whether or not legislation should be passed at Community level. They will make it easier to identify the most appropriate legislative or non-legislative instrument;
  • expanding the explanatory memoranda accompanying legislative proposals on the basis of five criteria: for each legislative proposal, the Commission will present the consultations held and results obtained, the impact assessments, the reasons for choosing the instrument and, lastly, the budgetary implications of the proposal;
  • including a review clause in legislative acts, or even a revision clause, in the Commission's legislative proposals, which will make it possible to ensure that legislation is kept up to date and that legal certainty for users is preserved. These review clauses will be particularly beneficial in the fields subject to rapid technological change.

Secondly, the Commission undertakes to monitor the adoption and application of legislative acts more closely by:

  • giving the European Parliament and Council greater encouragement to come to an agreement quickly;
  • calling on the Council to vote by qualified majority wherever provision is made for this in order to accelerate the procedure;
  • making greater use of the opportunities to withdraw its proposals, particularly if a proposal is pending and has not been discussed for several years by the Council and the European Parliament. It will also withdraw its proposals if the amendments introduced by the European Parliament and/or the Council change the proposal disproportionately. Lastly, it stresses that proposals will be withdrawn under the process of negotiation and the political compromises achieved by the institutions;
  • following up infringements. It plans in particular to lay down criteria which will be used to establish priorities for examining possible breaches of Community law, for example the quality of transposition of the directives or the serious effects on Community interest. The Commission will also reinforce its checks on transposition.

Lastly, the Commission will ensure the general coordination and implementation of this Action Plan by setting up an internal network for "better lawmaking". This network will involve all the Directorates-General and will be coordinated by the Secretariat-General. It will have the following mandate:

  • to monitor compliance with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;
  • to coordinate the preparation of the annual assessment of the quality of legislation and of national reports;
  • to ensure that the Commission adopts a consistent position within the interinstitutional network and in its relations with the Member States.

Action proposed to the European Parliament and the Council

The Commission calls upon the Parliament and Council to commit to improving legislative quality, for example by concluding an inter-institutional agreement by the end of 2002. First of all, the Commission proposes that the institutions make more appropriate use of legislative instruments. This would be achieved by:

  • reverting to the original definitions of the directive and regulation laid down in the Treaty: regulations must be used only for action requiring uniform application in the Member States. As far as possible, the use of directives must be limited to the establishment of a general framework;
  • using certain alternatives to legislation, where appropriate, such as self-regulation, sectoral voluntary agreements or the open coordination method. The Commission will propose more frequent use of co-regulation to the legislator. This allows the parties concerned to adopt implementing measures in line with the objectives laid down by the legislator. The legislator can then judge whether the use of this instrument is appropriate;
  • the Commission's undertaking to avoid making its legislative proposals unwieldy.

The European Parliament and the Council are asked to support the Commission in its plans to simplify and reduce the volume of Community legislation. The institutions should therefore draw up a simplification programme. The Commission suggests that the European Parliament and the Council create structures specifically responsible for legislative simplification. It would be a good idea to have an inter-institutional agreement on the subject. The European Parliament and the Council are called upon to support the codification programme by adopting codification proposals under accelerated procedures.

The European Union institutions are responsible for the quality of the legislation adopted. Some amendments can alter the quality of the act because they have been drafted complicatedly or they are too precise or not precise enough. The introduction of a period during which the act can be reread by lawyer-linguists would make it possible to improve quality and consistency before final adoption. The Commission proposes that the European Parliament and the Council carry out impact assessments of the substantial amendments which they introduce at first reading.

Action concerning the Member States

The Member States should also be committed to improving and simplifying the regulatory environment. The Commission therefore recommends that the Member States:

  • transpose Community acts into national legislation faithfully and within the set deadlines;
  • involve the national, regional and local authorities responsible for transposing and applying Community acts as early as possible in the legislative process;
  • appoint a correspondent responsible for coordinating the transposition and application of Community acts.

The Commission proposes that the Member States take specific action, including:

  • electronic notification of national transposing measures, using a standard form. The Member States should at the same time submit concordance tables which can be used to compare the transposing measures with the original Community act;
  • consultations and impact assessments of any supplementary provisions added to legislative acts at the time of transposition.

Developing a common legislative culture within the Union

In order to successfully implement this Action Plan, the objective of improving regulations must be applied to the entire legislative cycle, from the drafting of the proposal to its adoption by the legislator to its application by the Member States. The development of a common legislative culture will ultimately benefit European citizens. The Commission therefore proposes the following actions:

  • the creation of a legislative network on two levels: on the one hand, between the Community institutions and, on the other, between the institutions and the Member States. The Commission proposes that the Community institutions set up a permanent mechanism, the "Better regulation" internal network, with the aim of implementing the Action Plan. In order to improve cooperation between the Community institutions and the Member States, the Commission intends to appoint "transposition and application" correspondents;
  • the annual assessment of the quality of legislation: the Commission will assess the implementation of the Action Plan on a yearly basis and will draw up national reports on a particular group of countries in turn;
  • public access to legislation must be developed, in particular by expanding public access to Eur-Lex, developing Internet forums and mobilising the traditional info-centres and contact points for Community information.

RELATED ACTS

Communication from the Commission of 6 June 2002 - "European Governance: better lawmaking" [COM(2002) 0275 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

This Communication complements the Action Plan "Simplifying and improving the regulatory environment". It aims to improve implementation by the EU through a number of initiatives, including:

  • clarification of executive responsibilities: the Commission proposes clarifying the rules governing comitology, in particular through the precise definition of each institution's remit. The European Parliament should be involved in comitology, particularly for the implementation of decisions under the codecision procedure;
  • a framework for the creation of European agencies: the Commission will submit to the Parliament and the Council the terms of an interinstitutional agreement on the subject;
  • consideration of the regional, urban and local contexts: regional and local authorities and the Member States will have the opportunity to conclude pilot contracts with the Commission with a view to achieving the Community's sustainable development objectives;
  • a new approach to vetting the application of the law: the Commission will pay closer attention to delays in the implementation of national application measures.

Lastly, this Communication reaffirms the importance of the Community method as a basis for building the European Union. The reforms of governance, "a quiet revolution in terms of the way we act", require the institutions to consolidate and clarify the sharing of their powers.

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 11 February 2003 - "Updating and simplifying the Community acquis" [COM(2003) 71 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

This Communication follows on from the Action Plan "Simplifying and improving the regulatory environment". Since the Community was established, the Community acquis has never undergone a full examination. The Commission proposes a Framework for Action aimed at simplifying the Community acquis and sets the following six objectives:

  • simplify the acquis;
  • consolidation of the acquis must be completed and kept rigorously up to date;
  • codification;
  • reviewing the organisation and presentation of the acquis;
  • ensure transparency and effective monitoring at political and technical level;
  • establish an effective implementation strategy.

This fact sheet is not legally binding on the European Commission, it does not claim to be exhaustive and does not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Treaty.

Last updated: 28.02.2007
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