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Brussels, 6 April 2001

Interactive Policy Making: Commission seeks to use Internet in EU's policy-making process

The European Commission has outlined a new Interactive Policy Making initiative to improve governance by using the Internet for collecting and analysing reactions in the marketplace for use in the European Union's policy-making process. This initiative will be used to evaluate existing EU policies and for open consultations on new initiatives. Interactive Policy Making forms part of the "e-Commission" initiative and is linked to the Commission's governance and the regulatory policy initiatives. It aims to help the Commission, as a modern public administration, to respond more quickly and accurately to the demands of citizens, consumers and business with a view to making EU policy-making more comprehensive and effective. The Commission intends to start applying this system before the end of 2001.

"We constantly need up-to-date feedback on where and why problems are occurring in the marketplace with a view to putting remedies in place as quickly as possible. This initiative will help to make Commission policy-making more responsive to the needs of citizens, consumers and business", said Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein. Enterprise and Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen underlined that "To be a modern regulator, we need new ways of consulting stakeholders, for example through increased use of the Internet". "The development of a fully functioning "e-Commission" contributes to the Commission's objective of building a more service-orientated culture and as such is one of the fundamental pillars for the successful process of reforming the Commission", noted Commission Vice-President, Neil Kinnock

The Interactive Policy Making initiative involves the development of two Internet-based mechanisms:

  • A feedback mechanism which helps to collect spontaneous reactions in the marketplace, using existing networks and contact points as intermediaries, in order to obtain continuous access to the opinions and experiences of economic operators and EU citizens;

  • A consultation mechanism which will allow the more rapid and structured collection of stakeholders' reactions to new initiatives.

These mechanisms will enhance the Commission's ability to assess the impact of EU policies (or the absence of them) on the ground, to evaluate proposals for new actions, to respond rapidly and in a targeted manner to problems or issues that emerge, and to be more accountable for its actions.

On-line consultations will involve citizens, consumers and business who will be invited to give their opinions, via the internet, on new initiatives. The Commission is also open to cooperation with representative organisations and is, in this context, examining the possibility of cooperation with Eurochambers on its European Business Panel project.

The new mechanism will fill a gap in existing consultation tools. Feedback will be more structured than is presently the case and will, at the same time, be able to accommodate more complex issues than is possible using existing on-line questionnaires or opinion surveys.

The need for such action was highlighted at the Internal Market Forum (28/29 November 2000). Discussion at the Forum confirmed that European policy-makers need a constant flow of up-to-date feedback on where problems are occurring and why. The Commission and the European Parliament have stated, on several occasions, that this should result in more responsive policy-making from administrations, reflecting the real needs of citizens, consumers and business. This conclusion also corresponds to the results of a recent Eurobarometer survey, in which 73% of businesses questioned indicated that they perceived the Commission as not paying sufficient attention to their concerns (FLASH SURVEY 90 - "Dialogue with business" - January 2001).

The usefulness of intermediaries has been confirmed by existing experience in the on-line collection of feedback, namely the Business Feedback Mechanism (BFM), launched by the Commission in April 2000 as part of the 'Dialogue with Business' (see IP/00/391). The BFM uses 41 Euro Info Centres (EICs) as intermediaries to record the issues raised by businesses on a range of Internal Market and related policy areas. Businesses approach EICs on their own initiative, seeking information or advice on actual problems they encounter in the Internal Market. Gathering feedback through the BFM thus calls for no extra activity on the part of businesses. The EICs submit information about the queries they receive to the BFM database. The database is sufficiently detailed and structured to produce easily readable results relevant for policy-making. It currently contains information on more than 10,000 enquiries to EICs.

The network of intermediaries will gradually be extended to produce not only more feedback, but also feedback from a wider range of economic operators, consumers and citizens. In addition to extending the EICs' participation , the Commission will benefit from the experience of other existing networks of contact points such as European European Consumer Information centres (Euroguichets), the European Health Forum, the consultants available for free advice on European Union law in the Commission's Representations (Eurojus) and information centres in its Representations and Delegations.

The existing BFM database is being developed and enlarged so that it can record information concerning the whole range of European Union policies. The software being developed for this purpose will also be available in a "shell" form for use by Commission Directorates General (DG) wanting to conduct structured but relatively complex on-line consultations. The resulting data-base and consultation tool will be accessible to all DGs for policy-making purposes. The Commission will systematically promote the use of these instruments for the evaluation of existing policies and the preparation of new measures. This initiative is part of the Commission's reform process.

Further information on the initiative can be found on the Europa Internet site: (click on What's New)

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