Additional tools

Guidelines on Stakeholder Consultation

Key requirements

  • • A simple consultation strategy identifying and targeting relevant stakeholders and evidence must be developed for each initiative, evaluation or Fitness Check and Green Paper.
  • • The consultation strategy and consultation documents must be discussed and agreed by the Inter Service Group (ISG) or, if no ISG is established, by the Secretariat General and any other associated service.
  • • Without prejudice to the exptional circumstances outlined in box 1, a 12-week internet-based public consultation must be part of the consultation strategy for initiatives subject to impact assessments, evaluation and Fitness Checks as well as for Green Papers.
  • • Key elements of the consultation strategy should be outlined in the Roadmap/Inception IA.
  • • Stakeholders must be able to provide feedback on each Roadmap (including for evaluations) or Inception Impact Assessment, on legislative and policy proposals adopted by the College and for draft implementing and delegated acts 79.
  • • Any consultation activity (but not the provision of feedback opportunities) must fulfil the Commission's minimum standards for consultation, as outlined in these guidelines.
  • • A report outlining the overall results of the consultation work and providing feedback (synopsis report) must be published on the consultation website and, where applicable, added as an annex to the impact assessment/evaluation report. Such a report would also provide an occasion to summarise relevant feedbacks received in parallel.

1. INTRODUCTION

Who should read these guidelines?

All officials involved in the preparation of legislative or policy proposals or in their evaluation should read these guidelines including officials and managers who are responsible for ensuring the quality of stakeholder consultation in the lead DG.

More detailed guidance is also available in a separate "tool box" which accompanies this guide. This is aimed at those directly involved in preparing the various steps of stakeholder consultation.

Why does the Commission consult stakeholders?

The initial design, evaluation and revision of policy interventions benefits from considering the input and views provided by stakeholders, including those who will be directly impacted by the policy but also those who are involved in ensuring its correct application. Stakeholder consultation can also improve the evidence-base underpinning a

given policy initiative. Early consultation can avoid problems later and promote greater acceptance of the policy initiative/ intervention.

In addition, the Commission has a duty to identify and promote in its policy proposals the general public interest of the Union as opposed to special interests of particular Member States or groups or parts of society – hence the need to consult widely.

Box 1. Treaty provisions

  • • According to Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union 80, ‘the European Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union’s actions are coherent and transparent’.
  • • Protocol No. 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality annexed to the Treaty stipulates that ‘before proposing legislative acts, the Commission shall consult widely’.

2. SCOPE AND DEFINITION OF STAKEHOLDER CONSULTATION

Consultation is a formal process by which the Commission collects input and views from stakeholders about its policies.

Consultation is a continuous process and formal stakeholder consultations complement the Commission's broader interaction with stakeholders (e.g. meetings or exchanges or through existing permanent platforms for dialogue 81).

The term 'stakeholder consultation' applies to all consultations with stakeholders in the process of preparation of a policy initiative or the implementation of an existing intervention.

It does not apply to:

  • • Inter-institutional consultations (e.g. reports from the EP, opinions from national parliaments etc.),
  • • Specific frameworks for consultation provided for in the Treaties or in primary legislation, such as
  • - the consultation of the consultative committees in the context of the legislative process (Articles 304 and 307 TEU),
  • - the consultation of social partners (Articles 154-155 TFEU) 82,
  • - consultations in the area of environment (Regulation (EC) N° 1367/2006).
  • • Opinions provided by Committees under Comitology,
  • • Opinions provided by expert groups involved in the preparation of Delegated Acts,
  • • Stakeholder consultation preceding the submission of draft Delegated and Implementing Acts prepared by any EU agency or body to the Commission,
  • • Input from citizens in the context of the 'European Citizen Initiative' (Article 11 [4] of the TEU).

3. GENERAL PRINCIPLES AND MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR STAKEHOLDER CONSULTATION

Stakeholder consultation is governed by four principles and five minimum standards taking proportionality into account. 83 They are complemented and further defined by these guidelines.

Box 2: General principles and minimum standards for consultation

Relations with stakeholders are governed by four general principles:

  • (1) Participation: Adopt an inclusive approach by consulting as widely as possible;
  • (2) Openness and Accountability: Make the consultation process and how it has affected policy making transparent to those involved and to the general public;
  • (3) Effectiveness: Consult at a time where stakeholder views can still make a difference, respect proportionality and specific restraints;
  • (4) Coherence: Ensure consistency of consultation processes across all services as well as evaluation, review and quality control.

These principles are complemented by five Minimum Standards that all consultations have to respect:

  • A. Clear content of the consultation process ('Clarity'): All communication and the consultation document itself should be clear, concise and include all necessary information to facilitate responses;
  • B. Consultation of target groups ('Targeting'): When defining the target group(s) in a consultation process, the Commission should ensure that all relevant parties have an opportunity to express their opinions;
  • C. Publication: The Commission should ensure adequate awareness-raising publicity and adapt its communication channels to meet the needs of all target audiences. Without excluding other communication tools, (open public) consultations should be published on the internet and announced at the "single access point" 84;
  • D. Time limits for participation ('Consultation period'): The Commission should provide sufficient time for planning and responses to invitations and written contributions;
  • E. Acknowledgement of feedback ('Feedback'): Receipt of contributions should be acknowledged and contributions published. Publication of contributions on the "single access point" replaces a separate acknowledgment if published within 15 working days. Results of (open public) consultations should be published and displayed on websites
  • linked to the "single access point" on the internet and adequate feedback given on how the results of the consultation have been taken into account.

4. WHEN IS STAKEHOLDER CONSULTATION REQUIRED?

Stakeholders should always be consulted when preparing a Commission legislative or policy initiative or when performing an evaluation or Fitness Check.

According to the working methods of the Commission 2014-2019 85 and accompanying instructions to the services, stakeholder consultations can in principle take place throughout the whole policy cycle. However, stakeholder consultations can only be launched for initiatives which have received political validation by the appropriate political level (cf. Chapter II on Planning).

As part of promoting greater transparency, stakeholders should be consulted or be able to provide feedback on the following 86.

Box 3: Mandatory consultation and feedback requirements

Mandatory open, internet-based public consultation (minimum 12 weeks)87:

  • • Initiatives with impact assessments. Consultation is on the basis of consultation documents including questionnaires, background information, the Inception IA etc.;
  • • Evaluations. Consultation is on the basis of consultation documents including questionnaires and background information, the Roadmap, etc.;
  • • Fitness Checks. Consultation is on the basis of consultation documents, including questionnaires, background information, Roadmaps, etc.;
  • • Green Papers.

Stakeholders must be able to give feedback on:

  • • Roadmaps for Evaluations and Fitness Checks roadmaps (4 weeks), and Roadmap and Inception Impact Assessments (suggested timeline for feedback to be provided on a case by case basis taking in to account the expected timing of any subsequent consultation);
  • • Draft Delegated Acts and Implementing Acts (4 weeks)88;
  • • Legislative or policy proposals adopted by the College and, where applicable, the
  • accompanying impact assessments (8 weeks).

4.1. Delegated Acts and Implementing Acts

The opportunity to provide feedback on delegated acts will apply with a limited number of exceptions. For implementing acts, the opportunity to provide feedback must be considered for acts adopted under committee control. However, several categories of exemptions apply and due to the varied nature of implementing acts the final decision should be made on a case-by-case basis. Delegated and implementing acts are now, as a general rule, included in Agenda Planning. When introducing the Agenda Planning entry, an indication should be given whether the opportunity for stakeholders to comment on the draft text is foreseen. This is in order to facilitate the preparation of a forward planning to inform stakeholders of the Commission's future intentions to seek feedback on particular delegated acts and implementing acts.

In certain cases, the Commission will not consult on draft delegated and implementing acts. These cases and the reasons are summarised in the table below:

Exceptions to the 4-week public consultation on Delegated/Implementing Acts 89:

Type

Reason

Examples

No (or limited) margin of discretion

Lack of policy alternatives

Acts implementing an international standards into EU law without any (or limited) discretion.

Corrigenda

Drafts have been prepared by an EU agency or body and have been subject to full public consultation before being submitted to the Commission and for which the Commission does not have the intention to significantly modify them

Extensive consultation on the draft text has already taken place in a dedicated framework

Acts based on regulatory technical standards submitted by the European Banking Authority or by European Securities and Markets Authority

Urgency / emergency measures

Time limitations do not allow additional consultation period

Acts under the urgency procedure or other urgent acts, e.g. temporary exceptional support measures in the agricultural field, urgent/emergency measures addressing threats to public, animal or plant health.

Budgetary procedures and measures, programme management decisions

Lack of policy alternatives / implementation of agreements already decided on

Decisions on work programmes and selection and award decisions

Individual authorisation decisions / acts / decisions based on the assessment of compliance with legal requirements

Lack of significant impact, routine acts

Marketing authorisations in the pharmaceutical field or comparable authorisations, inclusions, amendments in the PDO&PGI register, (de) classification of control bodies

Temporary risk management decisions

Lack of policy alternatives / no significant direct impacts / no deviation from the advice of risk assessors

Temporary food safety measures

Based on scientific opinions from an agency or scientific committee on which a public consultation has already taken place where the Commission follows the agency findings

Extensive consultation on the substance has already taken place in a dedicated framework

Areas in which agencies such as EFSA have given a scientific advise

Other duly justified reasons, eg.:

  • • Involving business secrets or security threats
  • • Influence on markets

Public consultation not possible or not appropriate, eg. due to legal restrictions or practical constraints.

Acts with confidential content (such as in the aviation safety or space area, Galileo)

Acts relating to the common organisation of the markets in agricultural products, measures relating to aid to certain Member States

Authorisations to Member States relating to own resource calculations

5. WHO IN THE COMMISSION SERVICES IS RESPONSIBLE TO SET UP CONSULTATION ACTIVITIES?

The responsibility for running stakeholder consultations is decentralised to the Commission service responsible for the respective initiative. Commission services choose consultation tools and methods on the basis of consultation objectives, target groups and available resources, taking into account the key mandatory requirements set out in these guidelines.

Consultation strategies and consultation documents must be discussed and agreed by the inter-service group (ISG) established for the policy initiative90. The inter-service group ensures that the consultation strategy and the various consultation activities are in line with the relevant requirements and monitors the quality of consultation activities, including where parts of them are outsourced. If no ISG is set up for a given initiative, the responsible Directorate General must consult and seek approval from the Secretariat General. The Secretariat General is responsible for launching all public consultations on the 'Your voice in Europe' website91.

In some cases, external consultants can support or even conduct the consultation work, but the lead service remains accountable for setting the scope and objectives of the consultation, its process, outcome as well as compliance with the Minimum Standards and requirements92.

6. HOW TO PREPARE AND CONDUCT A CONSULTATION - THREE INTERACTING PHASES

The consultation process can be structured into three interacting phases:

  • (1) Establishing the consultation strategy;
  • (2) Conducting consultation work;
  • (3) Informing policy making.

Each phase consists of several consecutive steps which provide the framework for a high quality, transparent stakeholder consultation.

6.1. Phase 1 - Establishing a consultation strategy

Effective and useful consultation starts with a good planning of all consultation work that is to be conducted in the course of preparing an initiative (consultation strategy).

Consultation is not a one-off event, but a dynamic, on-going process that may vary in terms of objectives, target groups, methods and tools used and timing. It is important, therefore, to plan carefully and design a consultation strategy which:

  • • Covers all consultation activities that will be carried out;
  • • identifies the most appropriate consultation methods, tools and communication methods to announce the consultation;
  • • provides all relevant and interested stakeholder groups with the opportunity to express their views;
  • • endeavours to receive relevant input of highest possible quality;
  • • defines the required time and resources to carry out the different consultation activities;
  • • remains proportionate to the expected scope and impact of the initiative it supports and to the consultation objectives.

Box 4. The interacting phases and key steps of the consultation process

Quality assessment of the effectiveness of the consultation process

A consultation strategy is always case-specific and should be defined early in the planning process of the initiative, impact assessment, evaluation or Fitness Check. The consultation strategy may need to be adjusted throughout the policy preparation phase, in order to take into account policy developments or conclusions drawn from the application of other better regulation tools.

The consultation strategy should be outlined in the Roadmap, Inception IA or Evaluation Roadmap to provide advanced information to stakeholders on upcoming consultation activities, allowing them to prepare well or select consultations they want to participate in. The consultation strategy must, therefore, be discussed and endorsed by the ISG or associated services (cf. point 5 of this chapter) when finalising the Roadmap or Inception IA.

The consultation strategy93 should cover the following elements:

Step 1: Set consultation objectives;

Step 2: Identify or "map" stakeholders;

Step 3: Determine consultation methods, tools and ensure accessibility;

Step 4: Create a consultation webpage.

6.1.1. Step 1: Set consultation objectives

The first step in designing the consultation strategy is to define the consultation objectives:

  • • What is the goal of conducting the consultation?
  • • What proposal or initiative, or what aspects of it are to be consulted on?

Based on the stage in the policy development process, the consultation objectives can be, for example, to gather new ideas 94, collect views and opinions95, gather factual information, data and knowledge 96; and test existing ideas and analysis 97.

Issues to consider when defining consultation objectives

  • • The context, scope and expected impacts of the initiative and the stage in the policy development process.
  • • The consultation background of the initiative under preparation:
  • • consultations that have already taken place;
  • • future consultations that will take place after the current one and their respective objectives.

This should help identifying the information already available and the additional elements sought from the stakeholder consultation.

  • • The scope of the consultation:
  • • What items or aspects are the focus of a consultation at a particular stage of the procedure?
  • • Where is it still possible to influence the outcome of the policy preparation, what items or aspects have already been decided?
  • • The difference between collecting views or opinions (subjective) and collecting data or facts (objective).

Clear communication of the objectives on the consultation web page and in the relevant consultation documents: transparency about the objectives of each consultation activity allows stakeholders to identify quickly and at minimum effort if the content of a consultation affects them or not, and its expected outcome will avoid mismatched expectations from the responding target groups and obtain the input that is being sought.

The scope of consultation will differ depending on the nature of the initiative, the timing and the context. For initiatives accompanied by Impact Assessments as well as for Evaluations and Fitness Checks, the scope must at least cover the following aspects:

Mandatory scope of consultations on Impact Assessments, Evaluations and Fitness Checks 98

Initiatives accompanied by Impact Assessments 99:

Stakeholders must be consulted on all IA elements in the IA process. The key issues which must be addressed are therefore:

  • • The problem to be tackled;
  • • The issue of subsidiarity and the EU dimension to the problem,
  • • The available policy options; and
  • • The impacts of the policy options.

Evaluations and Fitness Checks 100:

It is essential to consult on the mandatory evaluation criteria, which are:

  • • Effectiveness of the intervention;
  • • Efficiency of the intervention in relation to resources used;
  • • The relevance of the intervention in relation to the identified needs/problem it aims to address;
  • • Coherence of the intervention with other interventions which share common objective; and
  • • The EU added value resulting from the intervention compared to what could be achieved by Member State action only.

6.1.2. Step 2: Map Stakeholders

An important element of any consultation strategy is to identify or map the stakeholder groups that should be consulted. This will help determine the most appropriate consultation methods and tools. Where available and useful, modern ICT tools to help catalogue, identify and reach stakeholder groups in a comprehensive manner.

The basic rule is to consult broadly and transparently among stakeholders who might be concerned by the initiative, seeking the whole spectrum of views in order to avoid bias or skewed conclusions ("capture") promoted by specific constituencies.

A successful stakeholder mapping involves 101:

  • 1. Identification of stakeholder categories relevant for or interested in the concerned policy area(s),
  • 2. Sorting stakeholder categories according to the level of interest in or influence on the concrete initiative that is to be consulted upon.

Identification of stakeholder categories relevant for or interested in the policy area

The key issue is to identify which stakeholder categories are relevant for the concerned policy area(s).

Services should build up knowledge on who has an interest in the policy area. They should also identify the persons and groups with expertise or technical knowledge in a given field and keep track of inputs made in earlier consultation exercises or less formal contacts and exchanges. Member States could also be invited to provide a list of interest groups for the concerned policy area within their countries.

Existing contacts (e.g. in mailing or distribution lists), subscriptions in the 'Commission at work notifications' and the 'Transparency register' or the track record of participants in previous consultations could be used as a starting point. Also advisory or expert groups or standing groups of stakeholders, established by Directorates General around a specific policy area could be considered, in particular for targeted consultations. Interservice Group members could also suggest new contacts. Due attention should be paid to data protection issues 102.

Stakeholders categories (non-exhaustive list):

Citizen/individual

Industry/business/workers' organisations

  • • Multi-national/global
  • • National
  • • Small and Medium-sized Enterprises
  • • Business organisation
  • • Trade Union
  • • Chamber of commerce

EU platform, network, or association

  • • Representing for-profit interests
  • • Representing not-for-profit interests
  • • Representing professions/crafts

Organisation/association

  • • National organisation representing for-profit interests
  • • National organisation representing not-for-profit interests,
  • • National organisation representing professions/crafts
  • • International/ Inter-governmental organisation

Public authority

  • • EU institution
  • • National government
  • • National Parliament
  • • Regional/ local/municipal authority
  • • National competent authorities/agencies

Consultancy

  • • Think-tank
  • • Professional consultancy
  • • Law firm

Research/academia

  • • University
  • • School & education establishment
  • • Research institute

Other

Sorting stakeholder categories according to the level of interest in or influence on the concrete initiative

Understanding the stakeholder type to which stakeholders belong helps identifying their potential level of interest or influence on the concrete initiative which is to be consulted upon. In turn, this supports the selection of the most appropriate consultation methods and tools.

Box 5: Stakeholder types

The Minimum Standards define three stakeholder types, those:

  • • Affected by the policy;
  • • Who will have to implement it;
  • • Who have a stated interest in the policy.

It is useful to distinguish between stakeholder categories, which the concrete initiative may affect (both directly and indirectly) in a significantly different way, e.g. consumers versus industry; those who will benefit versus those who will have to pay/to change their actions/behaviour etc..

Differentiation within a specific stakeholder category should also be examined. For example, businesses can be affected by the concrete initiative differently, depending on their size (e.g. micro, small or medium-sized business), location (including those in third countries), type of activity, whether they are public or private, incumbent operators or new entrants.

For a successful stakeholder mapping, the following aspects should be considered:

  • • Identify target groups that run the risk of being excluded: There might be differences between stakeholder groups regarding their access to consultations or availability of resources they can dedicate to participation in consultations. For
  • example, for rural areas with limited internet access, using different tools than an internet-based consultation can ensure wider participation.
  • • Seek balance and comprehensive coverage: social, economic and environmental bodies; large and small organisations or companies; wider constituencies (e.g. religious communities) and specific target groups (e.g. women, the elderly, the unemployed, ethnic minorities), organisations in the EU and those in non-member countries (e.g. candidate, associated or developing countries or major trading partners of the EU). It should also be recognised that similar stakeholder groups in different Member States may operate under different conditions, (such as for instance the local business environment and market or regulatory conditions) and may not always have similar interests.
  • • Identify if you have the need:
  • – For specific experience, expertise or technical knowledge; or
  • – To involve non-organised interests, as opposed to organised interested parties at European or Member States level.
  • • Avoid 'regulatory capture': The same businesses/representative organisations should not always be exclusively consulted, as this increases the risk of listening to a narrow range of interests.
  • • Use clear and transparent criteria for selection of participants: For targeted consultations like meetings, conferences or other types of stakeholder events with limited capacity, a pre-selection of participants in the consultation event may be necessary.

6.1.3. Step 3: Determine consultation methods, tools & ensure accessibility

The most appropriate consultation methods and tools 103 depend on the objectives of the consultation, the identified stakeholders, the nature of the initiative as well as required time and resources.

A consultation strategy can foresee several consultation activities, using different consultation methods and tools, serving different purposes at different stages of the policy development process and targeting different stakeholder categories. Not all stakeholders must be addressed in every consultation activity.

Anticipate how contributions will be analysed in relation to the choice of the consultation method and designing the consultation tools;

The overall result of the consultation will be the sum of various inputs received, at various moments, through different methods and tools and from all participating stakeholders, all of which will inform the ultimate decision.

Consultation methods

There is a general choice between open public or targeted consultations, depending on the consultation objectives and target group(s) identified through the stakeholder mapping:

  • • Open public consultation reaches a wide spectrum of respondents without, however, ensuring full representativeness. The relevance of opinions collected needs, therefore, to be thoroughly assessed . Open public consultations can foster transparency and accountability and ensure broadest public validation and support for an initiative.
  • • Targeted consultations allow more focused interactions or dialogue and may tap expertise more efficiently, in particular when dealing with a very specific or technical subject. Privileged access for some stakeholders should be avoided.

Consultation tools

The choice of the consultation method will determine the consultation tools. The consultation tools most commonly used are written consultations via consultation documents or questionnaires as well as direct interactions with stakeholders via meetings, conferences, hearings or other events 105.

The selection of the most appropriate consultation tool should take into account

  • • Proportionality;
  • • The degree of interactivity needed (e.g. written consultation versus stakeholder events/ online discussion fora/ other internet based tools);
  • • Accessibility considerations (language regime, disability etc.) 106; and
  • • Timing requirements.

In practice, effective consultation often requires a combination of written consultation tools (used for both open public and targeted consultations) and more direct interactions with stakeholders.

If the consultation should provide statistically representative results, then particular tools should be foreseen, such as surveys (e.g. Eurobarometer).

Mandatory timeframes for consultation and feedback

Mandatory open, internet-based public consultation:

How long?

When?

  • • Initiatives with impact assessments
  • • Evaluations
  • • Fitness Checks

Minimum 12 weeks 107

Decision on case-by-case basis

  • • Green Papers

After adoption by the Commission

Stakeholders must be enabled to give feedback on:

How long?

When?

  • • Roadmaps for Evaluations and Fitness checks

4 weeks

After publication

  • • Roadmaps, Inception Impact Assessments

Indication to be provided

After publication

  • • Draft Delegated Acts 108

4 weeks

After conclusion of the Inter-Service-Consultation in parallel with Member State experts.

  • • Draft Implementing Acts 109

4 weeks

After conclusion of the Inter-Service-Consultation and before the vote in the Comitology Committee

  • • Legislative or policy proposals adopted by the College and, where applicable, the accompanying impact assessments

8 weeks

After adoption by the Commission

6.1.4. Step 4 - Create a consultation webpage

Establish a consultation webpage on the DG's websites for the policy initiative under preparation and publish the consultation strategy, including the planned dates of the various consultation activities, as soon as known. Dates for consultations will also be included in the Commissions' Consultation Planning Calendar, compiled by the SG based on information received from the DGs and to be published on 'Your Voice in Europe'.

Add and up-date all information about the various consultation activities linked to a given initiative. Communication relating to a consultation should be clear and concise.

Specific sub-pages for the various consultation work should be created (e.g. open public consultation, stakeholder conference etc.).

The link to an open public consultation webpage will be posted on the 'Your voice in Europe' website which is available in all official EU languages.

In order to ensure consistency and user-friendly access to information, the standard consultation page template should be used 110. A vade mecum with explanatory notes on how to prepare the standard consultation page is available on the internal Commission website 111.

6.2. 55BPhase 2 – Conduct the consultation work

Once the consultation strategy has been endorsed by the ISG (Phase 1), the various consultation activities can be launched. For each consultation activity, the following steps should be followed:

  • • Step 5: Announce and communicate;
  • • Step 6: Run consultation;
  • • Step 7: Inform on contributions;
  • • Step 8: Analyse content.

6.2.1. Step 5 – Announce and communicate

Announce the launch of a planned consultation activity on the dedicated website and ensure that the advertisement chosen is adapted to all target audiences. Services should use those communication channels which are most appropriate to reach the relevant target groups.

The consultation target group(s) should be clearly specified in the consultation document and on the consultation web page.

Box 6. Ways to publicise the consultation

  • • Press conference, including issuing a press release and/or the possibility of a more in-depth briefing for journalists;
  • • Mid-day express and newsletters;
  • • Speeches delivered during relevant events;
  • • Placing announcements in relevant publications; adding links on web sites and proposing articles for either general and/or more specialized media;
  • • Commission's blogs and social media;
  • • Commission Representation in the Member States could also be a distribution point, as well as DG COMM which can provide useful input and resources;
  • • Other 'intermediaries' through which information can be spread are the Permanent Representations to the EU and the Member States’ expert groups; invite Member States to publicise on national/regional/local websites;
  • • If an open public consultation is launched, certain stakeholders will be automatically alerted via their registration with the Transparency Register or the Notifications system of the Commission 112.
  • • Contacting interested parties or organizations 113

6.2.2. Step 6 – Run the consultation and provide acknowledgment

The practical organisation and facilitation of the consultation needs full attention. There should be sufficient staff foreseen to reply to questions, solve technical problems and process the contributions.

Consultation documents

All consultation documents need to be endorsed by the ISG or, for open public consultations for initiatives for which no ISG exists, by the Secretariat-General.

The quality of consultation documents determines the quality of contributions and thus the quality of input to policy making.

It is good practice to test consultation documents (e.g. presentations, surveys or questionnaires) with some test persons who were not involved in the drafting. These should be as closely as possible resembling the actual target audience of the consultation or sub-groups of this target-audience.

The purpose of this testing is to find out whether the target group will find the consultation documents easy to understand and practical to use. Test persons can for instance be colleagues in other units, other DGs or stakeholder groups who can give their

personal critical feedback on how to improve the documents further, e.g the European Enterprise Network if the consultation targets also individual SMEs.

Stakeholder identification and Transparency Register

It is important to mention clearly in the consultation notice that the identity of stakeholders and their interests should be mentioned in order to ensure consideration of the contribution 114. You should make sure that the personal and background information requested by respondents before they can reply will allow you analysing replies by any of the stakeholder categories you target (e.g. if individual SMEs cannot identify themselves as such in their reply, you will not be able to analyse their replies separately).

Organisations, networks, platforms or self-employed individuals engaged in activities aiming at influencing the EU decision making process are expected to register in the Transparency Register. During the analysis of replies to a consultation, contributions from respondents who choose not to register will be treated as individual contributions (unless the contributors are recognized as representative stakeholders through Treaty provisions 115).

Acknowledgement of receipt

Written contributions can be provided under different forms such as (e-)mail, web tools or social media. Whenever stakeholders provide written contributions to any type of consultation, it is best practise to send an acknowledgement of receipt and provide information as to when the contributions are likely to be published. If contributions are sent by e-mail or using social media platforms, these same channels can be used to acknowledge receipt. To minimize work, individual or collective acknowledgments of receipt could be automatically generated at the entry point.

In case contributions are published within 15 days after closure of the consultation activity, the publication will replace a separate acknowledgment of receipt. If the 15-days' limit cannot be respected, reasons for the delay should be explained on the website and a new deadline should be indicated.

6.2.3. Step 7 – Inform about contributions

The careful and transparent treatment of contributions received in the course of a consultation is crucial and establishes a good basis for preserving constructive cooperation and fruitful relations with stakeholders.

Publication of contributions on the webpage

After a consultation has ended, the contributions made by stakeholders should be published. Contributions should be published in the languages in which they were submitted and/or the language used for the consultation activity.

Written contributions should be made public on the dedicated consultation webpage. In the case of stakeholder consultation events (meetings, hearings, conferences, etc.),

summary minutes and speeches or presentations provided during the event should be made public on the consultation webpage.

According to the relevant data protection rules 116, respondents have the following options:

  • • Publication of the contribution with personal information;
  • • Anonymised publication of the contribution (without the name/ name of the organization);
  • • No publication but use of the contribution for statistical and analytical purposes.

Inform on key issues of the contributions

It is good practice to prepare and publish on the consultation website a short document summarising the key issues raised in each of the separate stakeholder consultations foreseen in the consultation strategy (e.g. informal report, minutes of a stakeholder meeting, list or table of contributions). This is particularly useful where consultation activities are spread out over a longer period of time and will facilitate the preparation of the final synopsis report which should summarise the results of all consultation activities undertaken.

The summary documents of consultation activities help increase transparency and provide the basis for further analysis and feedback to stakeholders on how the consultation has informed policy making.

Summarise contributions

Give a concise and balanced overview of contributions received during a specific consultation activity

Give factual information on input received

  • • Who contributed?
  • • Whom are they representing?
  • • What aspects are addressed?
  • • What are their views and concerns?
  • • Which communication channels were used for contributions?

Stay neutral

  • • Document the input as received:

Avoid qualifying it, taking position or giving feedback

Aggregate at an appropriate level

  • • Cluster information

Inform on the process

  • • Inform on what was done so far in terms of consultation activities and on the next steps

Add Disclaimer

  • • Emphasise that the contributions received cannot be regarded as the official position of the Commission and its services and thus does not bind the Commission.

6.2.4. Step 8 - Analyse content

Once consultation work is completed, the input received for each consultation needs to be thoroughly analysed.

Keep in mind that responses to consultations are generally not statistically representative of the target population: Ratios can generate a false perception of representativeness and can thus lead to wrong conclusions. If you need statistically representative input, use an appropriate consultation method (e.g. surveys).

The way of presenting results should be objective and unbiased.

A brief descriptive overview of contributions should be complemented by a qualitative assessment.

Brief descriptive overview of the profile of respondents

Based on simple descriptive data, an overview of the profiles of respondents can, for example, provide information on:

  • • The distribution of respondents across Member States and/or third countries;
  • • The distribution of respondents by stakeholder category;
  • • The distribution across any other dimension (e.g. clustering by sector) that might be relevant for the specific consultation or where similar trends in replies or particular concerns can be observed.

Analysis based on substance/content of responses (qualitative)

Examine content of contributions:

  • • Do the contributions respond to the questions/expectations?
  • • Compare the input with the objectives of the consultation, as defined in the consultation strategy and identify replies unrelated to the consultation topic.
  • • Distinguish between information (data/facts) and subjective opinions and views provided by respondents. Where possible, the source and reliability of data/facts needs to be verified.
  • • Are there views that strongly diverge from the mainstream view?
  • • Do the contributors match up with the list of stakeholder target groups? If not, is additional consultation necessary?

Provide a qualitative appreciation of the responses and the respondents:

  • • Respondents´ involvement and interest in the policy,
  • • the way they benefit or are impacted by the policy
  • • if they reply on their behalf or if they represent some specific interests,
  • • to which extent and how their contribution has been consolidated (i.e. stakeholder organisations should as a good practice describe how they organised their internal consultation and come up with a consolidated reply).

Presentation of the analysis

(i) Analysis on the basis of the different stakeholder categories

This approach would be appropriate when consulting many different stakeholder groups with differing and potentially conflicting views on a few issues:

  • • Distinguish the main stakeholder categories – the brief descriptive overview builds already the basis for this.
  • • Distinguish within the main stakeholder categories e.g. if similar response profiles can be identified (geographical-Member State group 1 and Member State group 2; citizens–students and citizens–retired; or industry-producer, intermediary, distributor etc.)
  • • Once broken down by stakeholder category, identify the nature of the responses, e.g.:
  • • Do they support/oppose/suggest modifications to a certain policy measure?
  • • Do they provide new ideas? Do they suggest an alternative approach?
  • • Do they provide further information/facts of the impact of a policy measure?
  • • Can the information/facts ne considered objective? How reliable is the provided information/facts (identify source and reliability)

The relative importance of this analysis should result from the consultation objectives in the consultation strategy (Phase 1).

(ii) Analysis on the basis of the different consultation topics

This approach would be suitable when many issues are discussed and fewer stakeholders with potentially less differing or conflicting views consulted.

  • • Identify the main issues that stem from the replies to the consultation
  • • Distinguish between the views of main stakeholder categories, for each of these issues and identify the nature of responses (e.g. facts vs opinions). The questions could be structured as indicated under (i).

6.3. Phase 3 – Inform policy making and provide feedback

The contributions received through the various consultations carried out in the context of the consultation strategy feed into the further work in relation to the policy initiative. It is

up to the competent Services to provide information on the outcome of the overall consultation work, the conclusions that may result and any other related issues.

6.3.1. Step 9 – Synopsis of entire consultation results

Adequate feedback should be provided to stakeholders. It is critical for those participating in stakeholder consultations to know how, and to what extent, their input has been taken into account and to understand why certain suggestions could not be taken up in the policy formulation. Providing effective feedback will contribute to the overall transparency of the Commission's policy-making, enhance the Commission's accountability and credibility, and potentially solicit better responses to future consultations.

Synopsis report

At the end of the consultation work, an overall synopsis report should be drawn up covering the results of the different consultation activities that took place.

The synopsis report must consist of the following elements:

  • • Documentation of each consultation activity undertaken on the same initiative including, if applicable, reasoning as to how and why the consultation strategy outlined in the Roadmap / Inception IA has been altered,
  • • Information on which stakeholder groups participated, which interests they represented and whether all identified stakeholder groups have been reached,
  • • Description of the results of each consultation activity, if different consultation activities have been undertaken on the same consultation scope, a comparison of their results including interdependencies, consistencies or contradictions,
  • • For ad hoc contributions received outside the formal consultation context, a description of the origin of the contributions received including identification of the type of stakeholder and their represented interests,
  • • Feedback on how the results of the consultation have fed into policy making.

The synopsis report should not exceed 10 pages and be made available in all languages in which the consultation was published on the consultation website.

The synopsis report should accompany the initiative through Inter Service Consultation to adoption of the initiative by the Commission. If the consultation has taken place in the context of an Impact Assessment or Evaluation, the synopsis report is also annexed to the IA or Evaluation report.

Explanatory memorandum

For legislative proposals, the explanatory memorandum should reflect how far the main contributions have been taken into account in the draft policy initiative and if not, substantiated why not.

Give the reasons for the options chosen:

  • • Report why certain options were discarded (especially when those were widely supported by the respondents);
  • • Highlight the link between respondents'/participants' input, impact assessment or any other factor that justifies the options the Commission proposes.

7. QUALITY CONTROL

Internal quality assessment of the consultation process

With the view to improve future consultations, it is good practice to carry out a proportionate internal quality assessment of the consultation process. The conclusions should be shared with the services involved in the inter service group or, in case no ISG has been established, with the services associated for the initiative, including the SG.

Assessment of the effectiveness of the consultation strategy

An end-of-process survey addressed to all consulted parties could help gauge the depth of stakeholder satisfaction with the process, as well as with the final outputs and outcomes. This could also help to identify best practices, learn from past experiences and to reap the benefits of a well-organised consultation process. A summary of the outcome of this survey should be published on the consultation webpage established for the initiative.

The assessment of the consultation strategy should help answer three questions:

  • (1) Did the consultation strategy work? (E.g. did it reach its target groups, did it meet its objectives, how effective and efficient were the different tools, and how relevant were the responses collected and what was their impact?
  • (2) Did the process work? (E.g. what worked well and less well, how satisfied were stakeholders participating in the consultation, which are the lessons to be drawn for the future?
  • (3) What impact did the process have? (E.g. on participants, on the outcome, on policy makers?)