Today I would like to take stock with regard to what this Commission has done on better regulation, why this is important, and what can be done to consolidate it, sustain it, and advance it further, also in the next Commission mandate.
Now I know that better regulation is not something that makes hearts beat faster, but it is something we need to put at the heart of our work if we want to deliver better policies for better results, as is the wish of our citizens.
It is not deregulation. I have said this already at the outset, when I discussed my mission letter in the European Parliament five years ago. It is not deregulation, a simple abacus count of how many of this and that simply cannot do justice to the big overhaul of our decision-making process. It is about ‘better’ regulation.
We came into office at a time of doubts and questions about the benefits of European integration. It was a time when there was a clear need for the Union to engage more fully with its citizens, to be more transparent, to justify why it needed to act, to act only when it needed to, and finally to act well, on the basis of the best available evidence, looking at economic, social and environmental impacts together, and working towards our common goals without unnecessary burdens. In short: big and ambitious where we must be, and smaller and modest wherever we could be.
This is why back in May 2015 we pushed for a radical agenda with a set of strong measures:
- We opened up policy-making to make the EU more transparent, more accountable and more responsive to the views of our stakeholders.
- We improved the way we inform political decision-making, strengthening our impact assessments and evaluations, and establishing the Regulatory Scrutiny Board to ensure the quality of such analyses.
- We established the REFIT Platform, redoubled and mainstreamed our efforts to simplify and eliminate those burdens that can be eliminated without affecting our policy goals, while at the same making sure our policies are updated and fit for purpose.
- We negotiated with the two other institutions a new Interinstitutional Agreement to make sure better regulation is a shared priority for all those involved in the design and implementation of EU legislation.
Today, more than 200 impact assessments and 250 evaluations later; after more than 400 public consultations, after publishing more than 350 draft delegated and implementing acts for feedback; after responding to 89 REFIT Platform opinions and launching 150 simplification initiatives; today, we scrutinized better regulation itself.
We consulted widely within and without the European institutions, asking what we did right and what we need to do better in the future.
The outcome is clear. There is a widespread recognition that we are leading by example. According to the OECD we lead globally.
There is a clear call on us to sustain our commitment to better regulation so that we can progress and work towards the further improvements people and businesses rightly demand.
Having said that, our stocktaking also provided critical feedback. There is always scope for improvement and, of course, the views of individual stakeholders on specific components of our policy vary. At times, they are qualified, at times outright critical.
And while better regulation is now embedded in the DNA of our decision-making, it is not yet irreversible. We have not yet reached the point of no return. We will need to continue working on this in the next couple of years.
If we want better regulation to remain at the heart of everything we do, we must nurture and strengthen our efforts, especially in a post-fact world where the very fabric of our democratic debate and scientific authority is being challenged.
We must make sure we will continue to respond to people’s needs on the basis of the best available evidence, instead of the emotions of the day. And we must continue striving to keep our regulations fit for the purpose for today and tomorrow.
Today’s Communication and its supporting Staff Working Paper outline our progress, summarize stakeholder views and, above all, map out for the next Commission the areas where further improvements can and should be sought.
I am looking forward to answering your questions, if you have any, but before that, please allow me to underline a few lessons that I think are particularly worth flagging.
- First, consultation and transparency are the areas where we progressed most, according to most. But at the same time these are also identified by most people as a priority for future progress. This testifies to the value of our choice to open up policy-making, but also to the remaining demand for more participative policy-making at EU level. I think this could be addressed to all institutions, not just to the Commission.
- Second, better regulation processes must provide the best possible timely support to policy-making. Sometimes it simply was not possible to do this as fully as one would have wished to. We have not always been able, for instance, to carry out impact assessments when providing urgent responses to the various crises this Commission dealt with in the three past years. This is a fact of life. It will happen again, but we must limit it as much as possible and strive to base as many policy choices as possible in the light of all readily available evidence. And we must always be able to explain why we did what we did when we did it.
- Third, our efforts to simplify and reduce burdens are widely appreciated, but we have not always communicated well about them. More importantly, a greater effort is demanded from all of us. We must look at ways to simplify simplification and eliminate the burdens of burden reduction. And all without putting into doubt our determination to achieve our ultimate policy goals. Better regulation has been and must remain a balanced and encompassing agenda.
- Finally, the Commission is a key player in furthering better regulation but it is not the only one. Delivering effective results on the ground and avoiding unnecessary layers of complexity is a responsibility we share with the European co-legislators and the Member States. I think this is also something that came out very clearly from the task force that Jean-Claude Juncker asked me to lead on subsidiarity and proportionality.
I am now ready to answer any questions you may have. Please allow me also to signal that this coming 29th of April we have organised a conference to present the results of our stocktaking and to debate their implications for the future of better regulation policy with a distinguished set of panellists. The conference is open to the public and the details for registering are in your press release.