What’s going to be in the Better Regulation Communication?

Peter Holdorf

The Ursula von der Leyen Commission will soon set out how it intends to improve on the EU’s Better Regulation agenda.

The Communication on Better Regulation led by Maroš Šefčovič, the Commissioner for Interinstitutional Relations, is now scheduled to be adopted on 24 November by the College of Commissioners.

Here are a few things to watch out for next month as Mr Šefčovič presents the Communication:

How will the ‘one-in, one out’ principle work?

As she took office, Ursula von der Leyen committed to applying a ‘one-in, one-out’ principle. The principle, in brief, aims to ensure that “newly introduced burdens are offset by relieving people and businesses of equivalent administrative costs at EU level in the same policy area”.

NGOs were quick to call the principle inherently incompatible with the increased climate and environmental ambition of the European Green Deal.

Is this a rushed conclusion? Much will depend on how the principle is going to work in practice. So far, the only real step has been to recast the former REFIT Platform as the ‘Fit-for-future platform’.

The Commission Services need a clear framework for applying the principle: what constitutes a ‘burden’? What is an equivalent administrative cost? What does ‘offsetting’ look like?

What’s the Green Oath to ‘do no harm’ going to look like?

When Frans Timmermans presented the European Green Deal, the European Commission made a green oath: ‘do no harm’.

The Green Oath means that all EU actions and policies should “pull together to help the EU achieve a successful and just transition towards a sustainable future”.

Recently, the European Council committed to making the EU expenditure under the multi-annual financial framework and the Next Generation EU Recovery Plan consistent with the “do no harm” principle.

The aim to ensure that all Green Deal initiatives “achieve their objectives in the most effective and least burdensome way” is not exactly groundbreaking. The real question is how the Commission will ensure that all other non-Green Deal initiatives will live up to the Green Oath?

The Green Deal states that all explanatory memorandum accompanying all legislative proposals and delegated acts will include a specific section explaining how each initiative upholds this principle. This could be a significant change to further mainstreams sustainability across all EU policy.

The Better Regulation Communication needs to set out in much more detail on how this will work. How will ‘harm’ be measured? How precautionary should we pay towards potential harms? Will there be exceptions in certain areas or for certain ‘minor’ initiatives? And critically, will there be any steps to ensure that the Council and the EP take any notice of the Green Oath?

Will Better Regulation reinforce the “right of initiative” for the European Parliament?

As she was seeking approval of her candidacy, Ursula von der Leyen stated in front of the European Parliament her support to its right of initiative as a part of ‘a new push for European democracy’.

When the European Parliament adopts resolutions asking for a legislative proposal, Ursula von der Leyen committed to “responding with a legislative act in full respect of the proportionality, subsidiarity, and better law-making principles.”

That’s a stronger commitment than the one in the Better Law-Making Agreement from 2016 to respond on requests adopted under Article 225 of the Treaty.

The College of Commissioners will discuss all such resolutions and will then respond within three months of their adoption with a decision on the follow-up. That’s in line with what’s in the 2010 EP-Commission Interinstitutional Framework Agreement.

The European Parliament in this term adopted two resolutions asking for legal proposals by the European Commission. They are currently working on others.

Is the reinforcement of the European Parliament’s “right of initiative”  a special moment in the history of the EU?

The Better Regulation Communication may add further details on how it will be put into practice and set out clearly which better law-making principles will be applied when deciding on the legislative response.