The need for impact assessments
Impact assessments are carried out on initiatives expected to have significant economic, social or environmental impacts. These can be:
- legislative proposals
- non-legislative initiatives (e.g. financial programmes, recommendations for the negotiations of international agreements)
- implementing and delegated acts
The findings of the impact assessment process are summarised in an impact assessment report. The quality of each report is checked by an independent body, the Regulatory Scrutiny Board, which issues opinions.
The impact assessment report must include a description of:
- the environmental, social and economic impacts, including impacts on small and medium enterprises and competitiveness, and an explicit statement if any of these are not considered significant
- who will be affected by the initiative and how
- the consultation strategy and the results obtained from it
Impact assessment reports are published with the proposals or with acts adopted by the Commission. They are also sent to the EU law-makers, the Parliament and Council, to consider as they decide on whether to adopt the proposed law.
Impact assessments form a key part of the Commission's better regulation agenda, which seeks to design and evaluate EU policies and laws so that they achieve their objectives in the most efficient and effective way.
How to contribute
The Commission's initial analysis of the problem, policy objectives and different solutions as well as their likely impacts is set out in inception impact assessments on which stakeholders can give feedback.
It is followed up by an impact assessment when stakeholders are consulted on all key aspects through open public consultations.
Once the legislative proposal, accompanied by its impact assessment report, is finalised and made public by the Commission, citizens and stakeholders have another chance to submit their feedback on the proposal, when it goes to the EU legislators.
Cooperation between EU institutions
The new inter-institutional agreement on better law-making agreed in April 2016 acknowledges the positive contribution of impact assessments to improving the quality of EU legislation.
According to the agreement, the EU Parliament and the Council take full account of the Commission's impact assessments when deciding on legislative proposals. The co-legislators can also carry out impact assessments in relation to substantial amendments during the legislative process.
Subsidiarity and proportionality
The correct application of the principles of subsidiarity (no EU intervention when an issue can be dealt with effectively by EU countries) and proportionality (EU action doesn't exceed what is necessary to achieve the objectives) when developing policies is assessed in impact assessments.