One of the aims of the Commission's Better Regulation strategy is to reduce the volume of EU legislation and to render it more readable and legally clear, thus making it more accessible and easier to enforce. Codification of existing legislation and recasting are techniques working to this effect.
The EU institutions (the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission) have concluded inter-institutional agreements on both codification and recasting. See section on inter-institutional co-operation.
The body of European law has developed progressively and many laws have been amended over the course of time. Codification means bringing all amendments to a given law adopted at different times into one law. Codification of cosmetics rules, for example, has allowed 45 different pieces of legislation to be brought within a single law.
In 2001, the Commission announced a codification programme covering all existing EU legislation and involving several hundreds of legal acts.
Making progress has been a particular challenge because, with the enlargement of the EU, it must be carried out in an increasing number of languages. Furthermore, codification requires that the acts in question are in a 'standstill', i.e. legislation is not subject to substantial amendments during the codification process.
In 2006, the Commission re-launched its codification programme involving more than 400 acts. By the end of 2008, the Commission had codified 227 acts. Of these, 142 acts have been adopted and published in the EU Official Journal.
The European Parliament and the Council work with the Commission to ensure that the relevant acts are adopted as quickly as possible. Codified acts are translated into all EU languages and published in the EU Official Journal.
To catch up with changing needs and circumstances and to attain new objectives, some laws are subject to frequent amendment. Normally, such amendments take the form of new laws. In certain cases these new laws, instead of simply modifying the parts of the law that need to be changed, present the required amendments into a consolidated text together with all past amendments. This technique is called recasting.
It implies modifying existing legislation whilst simultaneously codifying it in one consolidated text incorporating all previous amendments. This approach eliminates the need for a subsequent special codification procedure to integrate the substantial amendment into the basic legal act.
Recasting technique is widely used by the Commission; this is reflected in particular in the rolling simplification programme where nearly half of the planned simplification initiatives will be done by recasting.
However, the potential for use of this technique is constrained by several factors. For example, recasting can be considered only for those Commission legislative initiatives that aim to amend existing legislation, on average 40% of the total number of Commission proposals in a year, and it is a technique which would be disproportionate in cases where legal texts are amended very often or where individual amendments are relatively limited, in which cases it would not be efficient to reproduce the whole text in a recast form.
Consolidation of a legislative act, like codification, brings together a basic legislative act and all its amending acts in a single text. Although the resulting consolidated texts are not subject to formal decision-making and therefore do not have legal status, they greatly facilitate access to legislation and reduce the volume of texts.
By the end of 2008, the European secondary legislation, the legislative instruments adopted by the European institutions, had been consolidated in almost all EU languages (19). Consolidation in Bulgarian and Romanian is expected to be completed by early 2009 and in Maltese by the end of 2009.
All consolidated texts are accessible on EUR-Lex either through the specific act or in the Directory of Community Legislation in force.
A consolidated version of the Treaty establishing the European Community is also available in EUR-Lex.
legislative techniques of codification and recasting help to reduce
the volume of existing EU legislation and to render it more
comprehensible and legally certain.