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Brussels, 8 October 2010

Smart regulation: ensuring that European laws benefit people and businesses

Today, the European Commission has set out plans to further improve the quality and relevance of EU legislation. It will evaluate the impact of legislation during the whole policy cycle: when a policy is designed, when it is in place, and when it is revised. The Commission will work with the European Parliament, Council and Member States to encourage them to apply "smart regulation" in their work. Finally, to strengthen the voice of citizens and other stakeholders, the Commission has decided to increase the period of its public consultations from 2012 onwards.

The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said:

"Smart regulation should ensure that European laws benefit people and businesses. The financial and economic crisis has shown that regulation has a necessary role to play. It must be well designed to reach its intended objectives and to deliver sustainable prosperity and consumer protection without strangling economic operators, in particular SMEs. Today's proposals are essential if we are to deliver the ambitious objectives for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth set out by the Europe 2020 Strategy. A key part of getting legislation right is listening to the people who will be affected by it. For that reason we are strengthening the voice of citizens and other stakeholders even further and will increase our public consultation period from 8 to 12 weeks."

The Communication on Smart Regulation in the EU sets out action in three areas to achieve regulation which is of the highest quality possible, in full respect of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality:

First, the Commission will target the whole policy cycle by attaching more importance to the evaluation of existing legislation and policies. The resulting evidence will be put at the heart of the design of new or revised regulation, alongside with impact assessments. Impact assessments will continue to be carried out for all major legislative initiatives to provide evidence and transparency on all the benefits and costs of the policy choices available for political decision-making. The Commission will also include its existing actions to simplify legislation and reduce administrative burdens within its systematic review of existing legislation to ensure maximum impact of these activities.

Second, as smart regulation is a shared responsibility of all those involved in EU policy-making (the European Parliament, the Council, the Member States and other stakeholders), the Commission will continue to work with all these actors to ensure that the agenda is actively pursued by all. It will also strengthen its work on the implementation side of policies by making legislation clearer and more accessible, and will work with Member States, for strict enforcement of it. The Commission calls on Parliament and Council to make further progress on their commitment to do impact assessments on substantive amendments of its proposals.

Third, the voice of citizens and stakeholders will be further strengthened by prolonging the consultation period from 8 to 12 weeks from 2012 onwards, by carrying out a review of the Commission's consultation policy in 2011 and by increasing predictability on the Commission's planned proposals and ex-post evaluation work to allow stakeholders to prepare their engagement at a much earlier stage.

The Commission also approved the 2009 Report on Subsidiarity and Proportionality (17th Report on Better Lawmaking). The report provides background information on the principles, and presents examples of key cases where subsidiarity concerns were raised. It demonstrates the broad variety of opinions held by the different actors – the Commission, the European Parliament, the Council, the Committee of the Regions, the Economic and Social Committee and national Parliaments.

The Commission will report on progress on the smart regulation agenda in the second half of 2012.


Under its better regulation agenda, the Commission already achieved a significant change in the manner it makes policy and drafts legislation. It has increased transparency and accountability and promoted evidence-based policy making.

Impact assessments accompany all legislative initiatives with major impacts and an independent Impact Assessment Board controls their quality. By the end of August 2010, the Commission had carried out 520 Impact Assessments.

A recent Special Report of the European Court of Auditors "Impact Assessment in the EU Institutions: do they support decision making?" (IP/10/1187) recognised that this system which has an unrivalled scope among existing ones, is considered to be good practice within the EU and is supporting decision-making within the EU institutions.

The Commission has increased the range of opportunities to allow stakeholders to contribute to the policy making process, including through publicly available roadmaps informing about the planned policy and consultation work for all major Commission initiatives.

An on-going Simplification Programme is bringing substantial benefits to citizens and businesses. By the end of 2010, altogether around 200 simplification proposals will have been adopted.

The Action Programme for Reducing Administrative Burdens is on track to exceed its target of cutting red tape by 25% by 2012. The Commission's proposals, if adopted, would generate annual savings of EUR 38 billion for European companies, thereby reducing administrative burden by 31%. The European Parliament and Council recently approved a proposal on value-added tax which will bring about EUR 18.4 billion of these savings and are discussing another proposal to allow over 5 million micro-enterprises to be exempted from EU accounting rules.

The Commission extended the mandate of the High Level Group of Independent Stakeholders, chaired by Edmund Stoiber, until the end of 2012.

The Inter-institutional Agreement on Better Law-Making and the Inter-institutional Common Approach to Impact Assessment set out how the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council collaborate in this area. Commission and Member States experts collaborate and share views through the Group of High-Level National Regulatory Experts.

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