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IP/02/825

Brussels, 5 June 2002.

Better consultation and accountability: modernisation plan for clearer and better European legislation

Today, President Romano Prodi proposed a first set of initiatives to fulfil the commitment of the White Paper on European Governance to make the European Institutions work better. This can be done already now without requiring any change to the European Treaties. It is about doing better what the EU has to do, not about new powers or rules. The initiatives will enhance the openness and efficiency of the EU's working methods, complementing the Commission's proposals to the Convention on the future of the EU. The Commission calls on the other institutions and Member States to join it in this initiative by playing their part fully in making the EU's process more accessible and accountable. An Action Plan on Better Regulation will improve and simplify the EU's regulatory environment by making legislation more targeted and lighter. Minimum standards will be introduced for consultation during the policy development phase. They will improve public participation, and ensure equity and transparency in the dialogue between Commission services and the public. A new mechanism will improve the quality of EU legislation by analysing the impact of proposals in terms of economic, social and environmental impact.

President Prodi said : "European law is increasingly complex. All European institutions should step up their commitment to simplify regulation in order to reduce the cost of doing business in Europe and increase legal certainty for citizens."

He stressed the need for an agreement between the European institutions, and added: "The Commission has been busy reforming itself to meet new challenges. I call upon the European Council in Seville to give political backing to the reform of the Council of Ministers within the existing Treaty framework. This will complement our efforts to enhance openness and accountability."

Reforming governance means changing the way the EU institutions and national authorities work under the existing Treaty. The goal is to improve the way in which legislation and policies are prepared and implemented. EU institutions must work more openly and effectively. This requires active cooperation between Parliament, Council and Commission, and must involve Member State Governments as well. A concerted effort is essential to bring all interested parties and the European public at large into the process, making it more open and accountable.

Adapting and renewing the "Community method" (see memo/02/102) is at the heart of both the Convention on the Future of the Union and the exercise of improving European Governance. The Convention is working on new structures to make an enlarged EU function effectively and democratically. It will prepare important changes to the European Treaties. At the same time, all EU institutions must look again at the way they currently work and start implementing reform immediately. This is where today's decisions come in.

Inter-institutional Agreement

Improving the quality of regulation requires key changes by the European Parliament and Council, the EU's two legislative bodies. The Commission asks them to conclude an inter-institutional agreement on better regulation. This follows the conclusions of the Lisbon European Council in 2000, which called on the Institutions and the Member States to establish a coordinated strategy for simplifying and improving the regulatory environment.

This agreement should limit the content of directives to what really needs to be done at European level, promote impact assessment in respect of proposed amendments by Parliament and Council and lead to quicker adoption of legislation.

The agreement should contain a work programme for the various institutions in order to reduce the existing quantity of EU law by at least 25% before January 2005. Parliament and Council should take measures to achieve this target. There should be permanent interinstitutional coordination to follow the implementation of the Action Plan. The Commission will report on progress in its annual report on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

In any case, the Commission will make greater use of the possibility of withdrawing legislative proposals, on the basis of clearly identifiable criteria, particularly where Parliament and Council propose unacceptable amendments running counter to the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

Action Plan

The Action Plan for Better Regulation identifies improvements at various stages of the legislative cycle, from early conception to implementation. EU laws should be written in a less complicated style, making it easier for Member State authorities to implement them. European legislation should also be easier to understand for members of the public.

From 2003 we will progressively introduce a system whereby each major policy initiative will include: an overview of consultation with stakeholders; the results of the consultation; analysis of the measure's expected impact; and justification of the degree of legal constraint at EU level in accordance with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

The Commission will set out in clear language why the initiative is needed at European level.

We will rely more on co-regulatory approaches, whereby people and organisations take on commitments and responsibilities for achieving objectives fixed by EU legislators.

Some legislation needs to be adjusted to rapidly changing science and technology. From now on there will be a review clause in certain measures to make sure they remain up to date.

More open and equitable consultation

Reforming governance requires a stronger culture of consultation and dialogue between the public and the EU Institutions. For its own work, the Commission proposes minimum standards for consultation. These will apply at the stage of policy-shaping to a large number of proposals before decisions are taken.

The application of the standards will make clear 'who talks to whom' when new policy is being designed. It will organise better and more equitable participation of all those interested in a policy proposal. It will improve accountability by making public, as far as possible, the results of the consultation and the lessons drawn.

In short, the Commission will: make available in a concise manner all information needed to facilitate responses; publish widely in order to meet all target audiences, using single access points on the Internet; allow sufficient time for responses; acknowledge receipt of contributions and display results of open public consultations on the Internet; and allow all relevant parties to express their opinions. The Commission invites all interested parties to comment on its proposed standards.

In order to improve general access by citizens to information on the various stages of the legislative process, the Commission will, together with the other institutions, improve the Internet service 'Eur Lex' (available on following web site: http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/en/index.html)

A database will provide information on the various bodies currently consulted, giving a picture of how consultation of civil society can be structured. The database also provides information on civil society organisations, and is available on the Europa web site: 

http://europa.eu.int/comm/civil_society/coneccs/index_en.htm

Impact Assessment

Social, economic and environmental impact will be assessed for major initiatives when policies are being devised. This new mechanism is a major leap forward in improving the quality of regulatory and policy proposals. It integrates and broadens the various impact assessment procedures currently used by the Commission. The results of each assessment will be made public. This will help implement the European Strategy for Sustainable Development, and serve as an important aid but not as a substitute - for political judgement. This new system will apply gradually from 2003 onwards.

Such impact assessment will also help ensure that the European Union stays away from all matters that can be regulated more efficiently and effectively at national level.

Other follow-up actions on governance will be presented after the summer. The 259 reactions to the White Paper on European Governance can be viewed at http://europa.eu.int/comm/governance/index_en.htm. That web site will also contain information on the consultation process on minimum consultation standards.


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