Written by Eva Casalprim and Laura Tilindyte,
In her introductory speech, Professor Garben (College of Europe) shared some inspiring thoughts regarding the quality of EU legislation, and discussed the structural factors of an EU of 28 Member States that render the task of adopting simple, clear and accessible rules rather difficult in practice. Professor Garben also emphasised the different, and sometimes conflicting, narratives of the EU better regulation agenda and stressed the need for further clarification and improvement.
The first joint declaration on EU’s legislative priorities, which was signed on 13 December 2016, was the focus of a panel discussion on legislative initiative and programming, Points raised at the seminar included emphasising that ‘priority treatment’ of certain initiatives, as envisaged in the agreement, should not be confused with ‘backroom deals’.
Recent better law-making efforts signal a shift of attention to the question how EU laws are being implemented and applied ‘on the ground’. Following the logic of the legislative cycle, the fourth panel on implementation of Union law focused on the need for effective monitoring of Member States’ transposition measures, including the ‘gold-plating’ phenomenon. Jose Luis Rufas Quintana of EPRS emphasised the importance of evaluation, and noted the shift towards the logic of ‘evaluate first’ before taking new measures. EPRS is contributing with evaluation/ex-post impact assessment work, however challenges remain, including the need for interinstitutional coordination and data-sharing.
The topic of soft law was introduced by Professor Dawson, who underlined that soft law has not been taken into account in the Inter-institutional Agreement, and is viewed with a certain degree of ambiguity and suspicion by European legislators. During the discussion, it was pointed out that, while better law-making signifies clarity, simplicity and coherence, soft law can involve ambiguity and no ‘clear effects’. Despite this initial perception, soft law can nevertheless become a useful instrument for clarifying, interpreting and updating rules in certain circumstances (guidelines, memoranda of understanding). The main issue was that soft law requires clarity.
Joe Dunne of EPRS concluded the seminar by reflecting that it is easier to quantify the costs of better law-making than to assess the benefits, however positive. The seminar served to underline that the achievement of a new Interinstitutional Agreement was a success in its own right.