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Ex-ante Impact Assessment Unit Directorate for Impact Assessment and European Added Value
9 October 2013
The Directorate for Impact Assessment and European Added Value
Lisbon Treaty (2009): European Parliament becomes co-legislator with the Council Greater scrutiny of implementation of EU Law EP committment to Better Law-Making in the EU: interest in ex-ante and ex-post scrutiny Creation of new Directorate for Impact Assessment and European Added Value in 2012 Background to the creation of the Directorate for Impact Assessment and European Added Value With the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the Parliament became in effect a joint legislature with the Council in most policy fields. With co-decision’ between Council and Parliament being the new norm, the Parliament has become a much more serious force in law-making and is naturally taking a growing interest in how and why legislative proposals are put forward by the Commission and in scrutinising in greater detail how EU laws, once adopted, are implemented and applied in practice. The Parliament’s general commitment to Better Law-Making in the European Union - first seen in its active role in pushing for an inter-institutional agreement on the subject a decade ago - reflects itself in a growing desire to look both ‘up-stream’ and ‘down-steam’ in the legislative process - focussing perhaps more than in the past on the quality of, and rationale for, any proposal, and on the quality and effectiveness of policy in action. These are, if you like, the ex ante and ex post sides of scrutiny, oversight and evaluation work. The creation of a new Directorate for Impact Assessment and European Added Value within the Parliament's administration - located in DG IPOL (the Directorate-General for Internal Policies) but serving all the parliamentary committees - reflects this Better Law-Making philosophy. It helps us as an institution to move more 'upstream' in the whole EU policy process, getting ahead of the curve.
Creation of the Impact Assessment Unit (IMPA)
The Impact Assessment (IA) unit was established in early 2012 as part of the EP’s new Directorate for Impact Assessment and European Added Value. Chronology: EP resolution of 8 June 2011 on guaranteeing independent impact assessments (Niebler report) calls for the “creation of an autonomous impact assessment structure for the European Parliament”. Decision of the Bureau of 4 July 2011 to create a Directorate for Impact Assessment. The Parliament has long pressed for every significant EU legislative proposal to be accompanied by an impact assessment (IA). This is now largely happening: the Commission produces about 75 IAs in an average year and some of them are several hundred pages long. They deal with the rationale for the proposal (‘problem-definition’), the legal base and choice of instrument, the advantages and disadvantages of competing policy options, and the potential costs and benefits of the various options, notably of course the option chosen. The EP has traditionally wanted an independent IA capability, separate to the Commission, but this has proved politically impossible. So decided to establish a tailored service, to suit EP's needs, in house. Following the Niebler report on the impact assessment process in 2011 which called for the “creation of an autonomous impact assessment structure for the European Parliament », the Parliament's Bureau decided that the institution should have at its disposal a stronger internal capacity specifically in the fields of both impact assessment and European added value. The new directorate was established in January 2012 in order to bring together a number of existing services and also develop a range of new services in these fields. It has parallel units for impact assessment and European added value.
What does IMPA do? It helps committees scrutinise the quality, completeness and independence of Commission Impact Assessments. How? Through an entirely new service: Initial appraisals of European Commission IAs Systematic analysis of all incoming IAs Identification of their strengths and weaknesses 4-8 pages Around 45 produced to date Committees can decide course of action To help committees scrutinise the quality, completeness and independence of Commission IAs, the new Impact Assessment Unit (within the new Directorate for Impact Assessment and Added Value), headed by Elke Ballon, now systematically analyses all incoming IAs and identifies their methodological (and other) strengths and weaknesses. It produces initial appraisals - usually four to eight pages long - which seek to determine whether the methodological criteria set out in the Commission’s impact assessment guidelines are met, and identify any other obvious strengths and weaknesses of the Commission's IAs, so that the parliamentary committees are better able to decide, very early on, exactly how they wish to proceed. That's something entirely new. We started this process last autumn and we have so far done about 45 initial appraisals: there are normally 70 to 80 IAs from the Commission each year. We are at the height of the five-yearly legislative cycle at the moment. On the basis of these ‘initial appraisals’, the committees can then decide whether they want to take up certain issues with the Commission and/or ask the Impact Assessment unit to undertake further work, like more detailed appraisals - as the Legal Affairs Committee has recently done on auditing standards and the proposed Common European Sales Law - or ask for substitute or complementary IAs - as the Civil Liberties Committee has done on the non-discrimination directive currently blocked in Council and the Environment Committee has recently done on a directive relating to honey.
Other services provided by IMPA
On the basis of these ‘initial appraisals’, committees can: take up certain issues with the Commission; ask IMPA to undertake further work, in the form of Detailed appraisals of Commission IAs Example: the Legal Affairs Committee recently asked for a Detailed appraisal of the proposed Common European Sales Law; ask for Substitute or Complementary IAs Example: the Environment Committee has recently requested a Subsitute impact assessment on a directive relating to honey. Committees may also request IAs on the amendments they propose. These are commissioned by IMPA from external experts. Example: Recent assessment of the potential impact on SMEs of 18 EP amendments to two proposed Public Procurement directives. On the basis of these ‘initial appraisals’, the committees can then decide whether they want to take up certain issues with the Commission and/or ask the Impact Assessment unit to undertake further work, like more detailed appraisals - as the Legal Affairs Committee has recently done on auditing standards and the proposed Common European Sales Law - or ask for substitute or complementary IAs - as the Civil Liberties Committee has done on the non-discrimination directive currently blocked in Council and the Environment Committee has recently done on a directive relating to honey. These new services are in addition to the existing right of committees, dating back to the mid-2000s, to have IAs conducted on their own proposed EP amendments. The Impact Assessment Unit is responsible for the provision of these impact assessments, which are to be carried out by outside experts. The Internal Market Committee did it last year on safety features for two-wheeled and three-wheeled vehicles and this year on the potential impact of amendments to two Public Purchasing directives on SMEs, whilst the Environment Committee has recently asked the Impact Assessment Unit to provide an IA on an important amendment to the Commission's ship recycling proposal, and the Civil Liberties Committee has requested IAs on some of the Parliament's amendments to the non-discrimination directive.
Summary of services provided by IMPA
Initial appraisals of European Commission Impact Assessments Detailed appraisals of Commission IAs Substitute or complementary IAs Impact assessments on substantive EP amendments With the exception of initial appraisals, which are produced systematically, any other work from the Impact Assessment Unit requires a formal request from the Committee responsible on the basis of a decision by its coordinators. In any event, with the exception of initial appraisals, which are produced systematically, in accordance with the EP impact assessment handbook, any other work from the Impact Assessment Unit in the form of detailed appraisals of Commission IAs, substitute or complementary IAs or impact assessments on one or more specific substantive amendments requires a formal request from the Committee responsible on the basis of a decision by the coordinators. The Impact Assessment Unit became fully operational last summer and has already done about 50 pieces of work in the above fields, all of which are put on the Parliament’s website.
Quality criteria for Impact Assessments
EP criteria to measure the quality of Impact Assessments: Transparent and targeted public consultations involving regional and local authorities; Proper justification of selected options (principles of subsidiarity and proportionality); Balanced analysis of economic, social and environmental impacts; Impact on: budgetary and MFF obligations, administrative burdens, competitiveness, SMEs (SME test), internal market freedoms (internal market test), vulnerable social groups (social benchmarking) and third countries. The Parliament, in its resolutions, has defined a certain number of quality criteria for impact assessments, such as transparent and targeted public consultations, involving regional and local authorities; proper justification of the options selected in the light of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality; a balanced analysis of the impact on the economic, social and environmental pillars and on public health, respect for and impact on budgetary and MFF obligations; impact on SMEs (the so-called ‘SME test’), impact in terms of administrative burdens, impact in terms of competitiveness, impact on the four freedoms of the internal market (‘internal market test’), impact outside the Union, impact on vulnerable social groups (social benchmarking), gender equality; etc. The Impact Assessment Unit checks whether the Commission’s impact assessment meets, firstly, the standards which the Commission has laid down in its internal guidelines and, secondly, the quality criteria which Parliament has defined in its resolutions.
The territorial dimension
Examples of IAs treated by IMPA where the regional or territorial dimension was important: EC proposal on Manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products: “The Commission could have been more explicit about regional consequences, by considering territorial impacts regarding tobacco production and manufacturing”; EC Fourth railway package proposal: “Notes on indirect economic impacts cover the aspects of innovation, macro-economic growth, regional impacts, relations with third countries and SMEs outside rail, but the results are not included in the comparative table of economic impacts”; EC proposal on Deep-sea stocks which has an impact on a limited number of countries and regions active in deep-sea fishing; One of the recurring criticisms in initial appraisals is that the IAs often do not identify precisely which Member States and regions will be the most affected by different policy options. In its initial appraisals, it has on several occasions indicated the absence of an assessment of the impacts at the regional level or at specific Member State level. For example: this was the case in the initial appraisal on the proposal on deep-sea stocks which has an impact on a limited number of countries and regions active in deep-sea fishing, proposal relating to the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. One of the recurring criticisms in our initial appraisals is that the IAs often do not identify precisely which Member States will be the most affected and do not usually include a differentiated assessment of implementation costs across Member States
Inclusion of the regional dimension
Few Commission Impact Assessments up to now include an explicit assessment of the territorial dimension of proposals, often because of lack of data. This could change due to: Publication by the Commission of territorial impact assessment guidelines (2013) giving important guidance on relevant modelling and methodological techniques; Progress made in data collection through programmes such as ESPON. IMPA will continue to scrutinise the Commission’s IAs bearing in mind the territorial and regional dimensions. Generally speaking, only a few of the Impact Assessments examined so far by the Impact Assessment Unit included an explicit assessment of the territorial dimension of a proposal. The lack of data is one of the reasons most frequently put forth by the European Commission for not being able to undertake a fully fletched territorial impact assessment. With the publication by the Commission of the territorial impact assessment guidelines in January 2013, which give important guidance to policy makers and practicioners on the relevant modelling and methodological techniques available, and the progress made in data collection through programmes such as ESPON, this situation is likely to change as territorial impact assessment will be better apprehended. The impact assessment unit will continue to scrutinise the Commission’s IAs bearing in mind the territorial and regional dimensions in light of the new Commission guidelines in this field and will continue to provide assistance to the parliamentary committees should they request territorial impact assessments to be conducted.
European Added Value EAVA services
In parallel to IMPA, we have a European Added Value Unit (EAVA) that helps Parliament identify areas where common European action or better coordination of existing national and European policies would be cost-effective or would help realise collective ‘public goods’. EAVA services European Added Value Assessments Cost of Non-Europe reports Added value of existing EU policies Just as impact assessment relates to how the Commission uses its ‘right of initiative’, so too does the question of the future added value of Union-level action. So, in parallel to the Impact Assessment Unit, we have a European Added Value Unit, headed by Joe Dunne. It strengthens the ability of the Parliament to identify where common European action or better coordination of existing national and European policies can be more cost-effective or help realise collective 'public goods' that would otherwise never happen. The European Added Value Unit helps committees identify general areas of policy where new action at EU level could be beneficial and then supports them when they propose specific ‘legislative initiatives’ in such fields. European Added Value assessments Whenever the Parliament uses its new right under Article 225 TFEU, introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, to propose 'legislative initiative reports' to the Commission, we are now routinely attaching a 'European Added Value Assessment', which distills and presents the best possible technical arguments for the initiative in question. Five of such EAVAs have already been done for the Legal Affairs, Internal Market and Employment Committees, covering Law of Administrative Procedure, 14th Company Law Directive, Statute for a European Mutual Society, governance of the Single Market and information and consultation of workers in restructuring. They should help ensure that the Parliament’s requests are taken increasingly seriously by the Commission. There is some evidence of this already happening. You may see the cumulative effect in the hearings for new Commissioners after next year’s European elections.
European Added Value services
Parliament has the right to propose legislative initiatives to the Commission: these are now accompanied by a European Added Value Assessment, which presents the best possible arguments for the initiative in question. EAVA also produces Cost of Non-Europe reports (CoNE)on policy areas where stronger EU-level action could be beneficial. Today, too many of our citizens have forgotten or do not see the positive benefits of existing EU action. In many areas, Europe is seen just as an added cost. EAVA not only researches the potential benefit of future action, but also the added value of current policies on the ground. We also have the possibility of doing 'Cost of Non-Europe' reports on policy areas where stronger EU-level action could be beneficial. The Development Committee has already commissioned one on how to improve the interaction between European and national development policies, where there may be potential savings of billions of euros. We are doing CONEs for the Industry and Energy Committee on gaps in the European energy market, the Transport Committee on gaps in SM in transport, and the Internal Market Committee on gaps in the SM more generally. The idea of there being a 'cost of non-Europe' was first pioneered here in the European Parliament in the early 1980s - through the Albert-Ball Report that paved the way for the relaunch of the single market by Commission President Jacques Delors. In recent years, the Parliament has asked the Commission revisit this concept and to take it much more seriously, and we ourselves are now taking it more seriously too. Today, too many of our citizens have forgotten or do not see the positive benefits of existing EU action and in many areas, Europe is seen just as an added cost. So the European Added Value Unit will not only research the potential benefit of future action, but the actual added value of current policies on the ground.
Conclusion IMPA and EAVA work is important both now and as we prepare for the European elections of 2014: MEPs want to be able to show that the EU can make - and is making - a positive difference for the citizen. When the new Commission comes into office in 2014, the Parliament will be in a much stronger position to justify its policy initiatives, as a lot of the advance research and analysis will already have been done. Impact Assessment work contributes to improved output from Commission DGs and European Added Value work strengthens the Parliament’s case when using its right of initiative. This work is important both now and as we prepare for Our Members want to be able to show that the European Union can make - and is making - a positive difference for the citizen. And when the new Commission President and his or her team come into office after the next European elections, the Parliament will be in a much stronger position to justify the future policy initiatives it then wants, because a lot of the advance research and analysis will already have been done. The reaction of the European Commission to this process has so far been generally positive. At the heart of the European Commission, in the President’s office and the secretariat-general, policy-makers have recently been adopting more of a joined-up, ‘policy cycle’ approach - seeing the initiation, enactment, implementation and evaluation of legislation as a circle or loop. On impact assessment, the Parliament is pushing in essentially the same direction as the Commission officials at the centre who coordinate IA work across all the directorates-general - in favour of higher quality in the standard and greater consistency in the methodology brought to bear in drafting IAs. Both the Commission’s own Impact Assessment Board - their important internal quality-control mechanism - and the Parliament’s committees have a common interest in the individual DGs upping their game. On the added value side, the principal purpose of our work is to strengthen the Parliament’s case when it invites the Commission to use its right of initiative. Hopefully, the reports and assessments we are drafting for parliamentary committees will lead to a higher level of policy ambition in the Commission in these areas. However, if the Commission still refuses a request from the Parliament, at least they will now have to give a more coherent and convincing account of why they are saying ‘no’. The fact that the Commission will be in receipt of say a 50-page European Added Value Assessment, accompanied by several detailed research papers, should help focus minds and take the argument to a new level.
Developments New Ex-post Impact Assessment Unit
Revision of EP handbook on impact assessment New Parliament in 2014
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