When Jean-Claude Juncker became president of the European Commission, he promised to refocus the executive’s attention on the bigger political issues and cut regulations seen as unnecessary or hampering business. First vice-president Frans Timmermans was appointed to the new role, with a particular focus on the principle of subsidiarity, in addition to overseeing institutional relations.
On 19 May 2015, the Commission published the ‘Better Regulation’ package, which contained new guidelines on various phases of the policy cycle, as well as documents setting out the rules for a series of entirely new consultation platforms and a new body in charge of checking impact assessments (‘Regulatory Scrutiny Board’). The package also includes revised impact assessment guidelines, the publication of the long-awaited guidelines on ex-post evaluation, an upgrade of the EU’s consultation practices, the review of the Inter-institutional Agreement on Better Lawmaking.
The Commission claims that the cut in legislative proposals is partly in response to the results of the 2014 European elections, which apparently demonstrated that many citizens were concerned with what they perceived as undesirable levels of EU involvement in their daily lives. However, it is unclear where this perceived notion comes from. It is true that Europe is faced with an increasing level of Euroscepticism, but Eurobarometer surveys have demonstrated that 95% of citizens questioned consider that protecting the environment is important to them personally.
Within the network, T&E is monitoring actions taken under the ‘Better Regulation’ agenda and identifying potential risks to existing and future environmental and public health standards as they relate to transport and energy. It will then inform civil society, media and decision makers of these risks by organising public debates, promoting research, and through joint campaigning and advocacy work.
Under the Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) programme, the Commission is screening existing EU legislation in order to make sure that the benefits of EU law are reached and regulatory costs reduced without undermining policy objectives. Within the REFIT Platform, T&E works jointly with the Commission, governmental representatives and other stakeholders towards making EU regulation more efficient and effective for the benefit of civil society, business and public authorities.
T&E is also closely following the recently proposed comitology reform, the Single Market Information Tool proposal, and transparency efforts such as the setting up of a joint transparency register including the Council and access to justice in environmental matters. Furthermore, we have increased our work with the European Ombudsman and access to documents requests.