Written by Sam Prestidge
When an EU policy initiative is likely to have significant economic, social and/or environmental effects, the European Commission usually produces an Impact Assessment (IA) to accompany its legislative proposal. Commission IAs seek to verify and justify the need for EU action and to identify the likely impacts of the various policy options available, explaining the Commission’s preferred choice and the expected benefits of the proposed action.
One of the main roles of the Ex-Ante Impact Assessment Unit within the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) is to analyse and appraise each Commission Impact Assessment, as it is issued, in order to assist the Parliament’s committees in their legislative work. The most common texts produced by the Unit are therefore short – six to twelve-page – Initial Appraisals of the Commission’s Impact Assessments. These seek to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each Commission IA, by assessing it both against the criteria set out in the Impact Assessment Guidelines of the Commission itself, and against the expectations of the Parliament, as defined in its own guidelines, adopted by the Conference of Committee Chairs.
Initial Appraisals begin by explaining the background to the legislative initiative, and go on to assess the ‘problem definition’ by the Commission, its stated objectives and the range of options considered. The scope of the Commission’s IA and the quality of its analysis of the potential economic, social and environmental impacts of the legislative initiative are then analysed, taking note of relevant specific dimensions, such as impacts on SMEs, competitiveness, fundamental rights, and relations with third countries.
In addition, the Commission’s internal process in drafting the IA is considered. Aspects typically addressed in Initial Appraisals include: whether and how far stakeholders have been properly consulted by the Commission; the degree to which the opinion of the Commission’s internal quality-control body, the IA Board, has been taken into account in the final text; the quality of data used in, and research undertaken for, the IA by the Commission; the coherence and consistency of the overall methodology employed; and the match between the legislative proposal in question and the IA accompanying it, which cannot always be taken for granted.
Since the Ex-Ante Impact Assessment Unit was established in 2012, it has produced over 100 Initial Appraisals, covering proposals in nearly all EU policy areas. All of the Initial Appraisals produced, as well as the Unit’s other publications, are available on the Parliament’s internet site.
For an easy insight into this material, we have selected three recent Initial Appraisals for your attention:
- Earth observation satellite data for commercial purposes
- Appliances burning gaseous fuels
- Structural reforms of EU Credit Institutions and transparency of securities financing transactions
Compendia of all Initial Appraisals generated in 2012-13 and 2013-14 are also available as PDF files.
Once the parliamentary committees have received the Initial Appraisals, they consider what, if any, further work they would like to do in this field. This can include more detailed appraisals, substitute or complementary impact assessments, and/or impact assessments on substantive amendments under consideration in committees. An overview of the ex-ante impact assessment work done in the period from June 2012 to June 2014 can be found in the Activity Report for June 2012 – June 2014.