Two months ago, the Commission’s First Vice President Timmermans launched the Better Regulation Package including numerous concrete initiatives aiming at improving the way EU institutions produce legislation. The EBF has been advocating for reasonable and smart legislation for a long time already and welcomes this initiative.
The Better Regulation Package aims to improve transparency of the decision making process, to wider public consultation, improve the impact assessments and to assess the existing stock of EU legislation. The two EBF experts in charge of the file, Blazej Blasikiewicz – Policy adviser legal and international affairs and Olivier Thomas – Policy adviser public affairs and banking supervision, answered our questions on how to ensure efficiency, proportionality and cost-effectiveness of new legislation in the EU.
What do you expect of this ambitious initiative?
Olivier Thomas (OT): Today’s political climate constantly challenges the existence of the EU. Policy-makers and political parties often campaign against the EU, claiming that its legislation creates unnecessary burdens on businesses and citizens. This package aims at correcting this issue and reveals a serious awareness on the part of the Commission, which is in any case a good thing.
Blazej Blasikiewicz (BB): The idea is not new though. Just to name two, remember, the action plan for Better Regulation in 2002 and two years ago the ECON secretariat’s public consultation on enhancing the coherence of EU financial services legislation. I think the outcome of these two initiatives brought benefits to the quality of legislation, but the recurrence of such exercises also shows that Better Regulation is a day to day work and not only a periodical fix.
Why is it different this time?
BB: The content of the package is much more ambitious than previous initiatives. It could radically change the way the institutions elaborate laws, as well as the way the interest groups work. What strikes me the most in this package is the expansion and the generalisation of the impact assessments, not to forget the ex post evaluations and the measurement of cumulative impacts of legislation. It could definitely enhance the dialogue at different stages of the legislative process.
OT: There is indeed more room offered by the Commission for the EBF to raise its voice. I however remain sceptical about the European Commission’s (and the other EU institutions) ability to fully achieve the announced revolution, i.e. systematic consultation, assessment and evaluation of legislations, with their current capacities. Especially in the Financial Services area, where banks were seriously impacted after the financial crisis with an exceptional amount of laws (and implementing measures), implying enormous costs of compliance and internal reorganisations. This tsunami of legislation induces exceptional resources from the institutions side to be able to assess, and evaluate properly the quality of the legislation.
How can the European Banking Federation effectively contribute?
OT: At the EBF, we are now performing our own fitness check exercise in order to help the Commission to identify inefficiencies, such as excessive burden, overlaps, gaps, inconsistencies, and/or obsolete measures, This will help identify the cumulative impact of these, covering both costs and benefits for the banking sector, and its possible impact on the economy.
BB: In parallel to this exercise, we will have the opportunity to contribute actively to the debate via the new online tools set up by the Commission. One of the best example is the so called Lighten the load website. This is where EU citizens and various stakeholders have the opportunity to directly ask questions or raise issues to the Commission. We will also closely monitor the work within the REFIT platform, a dedicated group composed of EU officials and high-level experts from the stakeholders’ side, which will analyse suggestions on regulatory and administrative burden reduction.
OT: Exactly. With all these new tools, platforms and procedures, the EU Better Regulation agenda should now benefit from more legitimacy and transparency. This will, in turn, lead to more concrete moves towards evidence-based policy-making in the European Parliament and in the Council. Let’s try to be part of it!