About the Legal Service
Activities of the Legal Service
- The Commission’s legal adviser
- The Commission’s legal representative
- Helping to improve the quality of drafting of EU legislation
Helping to improve the quality of drafting of EU legislation
- 1. Role of the Legal Revisers
- 2. Drafting quality: background
- 3. Seminars on the quality of legislation
The Legal Revisers of the Legal Service form part of the "Quality of legislation team". They bear primary responsibility within the Commission for the quality of drafting of Community legislation. They intervene at an early stage to ensure that Commission legislative proposals and draft Commission acts are drafted clearly and precisely and comply with the rules as to form.
The Legal Revisers check that the correct legal terminology is used and the legal implications are the same in each official language. They also provide guidance on drafting matters and offer drafting training.
There has long been a concern to improve the quality of Community legislative drafting. In 1992, the European Council adopted the Birmingham Declaration, which called for: “Community legislation to become clearer and simpler”.
That Declaration led to the adoption of the Council Resolution of 8 June 1993 on the quality of drafting of Community legislation .
In 1997, the Amsterdam Intergovernmental Conference adopted Declaration No 39 on the quality of the drafting of Community legislation.
The Conference noted that “the quality of the drafting of Community legislation is crucial if it is to be properly implemented by the competent national authorities and better understood by the public and in business circles” and called on the institutions to “establish by common accord guidelines for improving the quality of the drafting of Community legislation […] and [to take] the internal organisational measures they deem necessary to ensure that these guidelines are properly applied.”
To comply with Declaration No 39, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission adopted the Interinstitutional Agreement of 22 December 1998 on common guidelines for the quality of drafting of Community legislation.
That agreement laid down 22 guidelines on drafting, covering general principles as well as specific parts of acts and drafting points. It also listed the organisational measures called for by Declaration 39:
- a joint practical guide for persons involved in the drafting of legislation
- organisation of internal procedures to enable the legal services of the institutions to make drafting suggestions in good time, with a view to applying those guidelines;
- the creation of drafting units in the directorates general;
- legal drafting training for staff, making them aware in particular of the effects of multilingualism on drafting quality;
- cooperation with the Member States with a view to improving understanding of the particular considerations to be taken into account when drafting texts;
- development of information technology tools for assisting legal drafting;
- collaboration between departments responsible for ensuring the quality of drafting;
- reports on the measures taken in pursuance of points (a) to (g).
In 2000, the Lisbon European Council set the European Union a new strategic goal for the next decade, namely: “to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.” As part of the Lisbon strategy, in July 2001 the European Commission adopted the White Paper on European Governance, which stated that the European Union “must pay constant attention to improving the quality, effectiveness and simplicity of regulatory acts.” That same year it adopted a report and a communication calling for a new strategy and a new culture of simplification of regulation. In June 2002 it adopted a set of measures under the governance initiative. The measures were all designed to lead to better lawmaking and included an Action Plan on simplifying and improving the regulatory environment.
Responding to an invitation from the Seville European Council held in June 2002, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission adopted the Interinstitutional Agreement of 16 December 2003 on better lawmaking, affirming their common commitment to improving the quality of lawmaking and to promoting simplicity, clarity and consistency in the drafting of laws. The agreement also calls, in particular, for greater transparency and accessibility of EU legislation, a new culture of keeping the regulatory burden as light as possible and improved follow-up to legislation adopted.
To implement points (d), (e) and (g) of the Interinstitutional Agreement of 22 December 1998 on common guidelines for the quality of drafting of Community legislation the Legal Revisers organise seminars on quality of legislation. They invite outside experts to speak in particular on:
- National approaches to drafting quality;
- What national rules on legislative drafting exist and how they are applied;
- Training in legislative drafting;
- Problems caused by transposition and application of Community acts;
- Practical examples of drafting problems and solutions.
The number of those who have attended one or more seminars or expressed an interest in the programme keeps growing. A large proportion of the participants are from the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council but most of the other European institutions and bodies are represented. Participants also include national drafters, staff of permanent representations and missions to the European Union, academics and representatives of lawyers’ associations.
Changing the legislative culture
The seminars should help to change the legislative culture, as called for by certain Member States and referred to by the European Parliament in its resolution of 29 November 2001 on the White Paper on European Governance (OJ C 153 E, 27.6.2002, p. 314). Such a change in culture is a central element in the Better Regulation programme pursued by the Commission, the other institutions and the Member States.
Summary reports are drawn up after each seminar. Those reports and other materials made available by the speakers are available via the links in the List of seminars on the quality of legislation.
Further seminars are in preparation.
For more information on the Legal Revisers’ work contact:
Last updated on 19.6.2013