Objectives of the Better regulation agenda

  • EU actions based on evidence
  • Understanding the impact of laws on citizens and businesses
  • Simplifying EU laws
  • Making decision-making more open and transparent
  • Allowing citizens, businesses and stakeholders to meaningfully contribute to policy and law-making

What the Commission is doing

The European Commission is responsible for planning, preparing and proposing new EU laws and policies. This responsibility also includes evaluating EU legislation and proposing improvements where necessary. The work is guided by the annual Commission work programme.

When proposing laws, the Commission is assessing their expected impact . For major initiatives foresight will be taken into account. Once laws are adopted, the Commission continues to monitor their implementation and application in the Member States and acts to update or simplify these laws where necessary.

The Commission’s efforts have been recognised internationally by the OECD, which ranked the EU's regulatory policy as one of the very best.

Track EU law-making

Learn more about the EU policy and law-making cycle.

EU policy and law-making cycle

Have Your Say – share your views and ideas

Since 2015, the Commission has been seeking evidence and feedback from citizens, businesses, and stakeholders at all stages of the legislative and policymaking process. In 2017 all feedback websites were integrated in one single Have Your Say portal.

On this platform, anyone can share their views on Commission initiatives across the entire policy cycle in all policy areas. It is possible to sign up for notifications regarding new developments in the evolution of an initiative, such as the publication of the Commission’s proposal or the adoption of the final legislation after negotiations with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

You can make a difference

Contributions from citizens and stakeholders have made a real difference to EU policies. They have guided and improved the Commission’s work on several important initiatives, such as the European Citizens’ Initiative, the European Solidarity Corps, the Common Agricultural Policy and our Guidelines for the energy efficiency of buildings.

Find out how the consultation process helped shape legislation.

Simplifying EU laws

The Commission is assessing the performance of existing EU laws and making changes where necessary to keep laws up-to-date.

  • The Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) programme was established in 2012 to make EU law simpler and to reduce unnecessary costs of regulation while still achieving benefits. As from 2021, all relevant legislative proposals in the Commission work programme will be subject to the “One In, One Out” approach, whereby each legislative proposal creating new burdens should relieve people and business of an equivalent existing burden at EU level in the same policy area.
  • The Fit for Future Platform, a high-level expert group composed of Member States’ national, regional and local authorities, the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee and stakeholders representing business and non-governmental organisations, assists the Commission in improving EU laws. This is done by gathering data, evidence and input on potential for simplification of existing EU laws, and issuing opinions for the Commission, including by taking into account digitalisation opportunities. Anyone can propose simplification of EU laws through the Have Your Say portal.
  • Evaluations and fitness checks are used to assess if EU laws, policies and funding programmes are delivering the expected results at minimum cost.

The Commission presents every year an overview of its efforts on simplification and burden reduction in the Annual Burden Survey and monitors regularly the programme’s progress in the REFIT scoreboard.

Ensuring Quality

The better regulation guidelines and toolbox contain guidance for Commission services on how to effectively implement common standards for better regulation at every step of the policy and law-making process.

In 2015, the Commission has established the Regulatory Scrutiny Board, an independent body of Commission officials and experts from outside the Commission. Its role is to check the quality of all impact assessments, fitness checks and selected major evaluations that inform EU decision-making. The Board publishes annual reports , presenting what it has done to deliver on its mission.

Strengthening subsidiarity and proportionality

Subsidiarity is about identifying the best level to make and implement policies. The EU should only act where it is necessary and where it delivers clear benefits over and above measures taken at national, regional or local levels.

The subsidiarity principle aims to ensure that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen. Except in cases where the EU has exclusive competence, action at European level should not be taken unless it is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level. 

Proportionality focuses on the financial and administrative impact of proposed legislation, to ensure that regulatory actions do not exceed what is necessary to achieve the legislative and policy objectives. Any such impact must be minimised and must be proportionate to the policy objectives. For the Commission this means delivering our ambitious policies in the simplest, least costly way, avoiding unnecessary red tape.

The "Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and "Doing Less More Efficiently" was established in 2017 to make recommendations on how to better apply the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. The Task Force handed over its final report on 10 July 2018. In October 2018 the Commission followed up, by setting out changes to the Commission's policymaking process as a result of the Task Force recommendations, including to promote a common understanding of subsidiarity and proportionality, and enable more active involvement of local and regional authorities.

Communication – The Principles of subsidiarity and proportionality: Strengthening their role in EU policymaking (23 October 2018)

Cooperation between EU institutions

The political will to improve the quality of law-making, review effectiveness of existing laws and update them where necessary, is shared by the three main EU institutions: the  European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission. An interinstitutional agreement on better law-making is in force since April 2016.

Interinstitutional agreement on better law-making

International regulatory cooperation

By informing each other and cooperating early on in the process, regulators and competent authorities can come up with solutions to similar problems, while keeping up their respective policy objectives and standards. This reduces the cost of doing business and creates more and fairer competition across borders.

On regulatory issues, the Commission cooperates closely with international partners, both in multilateral dialogues, for instance with the UN, the OECD and the World Bank, as well as in bilateral dialogues.

Regulatory cooperation is also part of bilateral free trade agreements, such as the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

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