Wednesday 20 September 2017

State of the Union: better regulation and enforcement

The latest updates on the  European Commission’s State of the Union 2017 web page are the new industrial policy strategy, press release IP/17/3185, cybersecurity, press release IP/17/3193, and the flow of non-personal data in the EU, press release IP/17/3190.

I have presented roughly half of the 108-page State of the Union 2017 brochure in earlier blog entries. Now we turn to better regulation and enforcement.

Better regulation

The substance of the section on better regulation is on a single text page (63), but it carries a lot of punch.

The Commission’s figures demonstrate that it has been serious about being big on big things and small on small things, which tallies with my experience of the strategic way the Juncker Commission works, beginning with the political guidelines, which said:

My agenda will focus on ten policy areas. My emphasis will be on concrete results in these ten areas. Beyond that, I will leave other policy areas to the Member States where they are more legitimate and better equipped to give effective policy responses at national, regional or local level, in line with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. I want a European Union that is bigger and more ambitious on big things, and smaller and more modest on small things.

I am just going to provide a few links to readers, who want to go beyond the SOTEU 2017 brochure.
Sorted under the Democratic change priority, the Better regulation webpage offers background information and links, although the page is in need of an update, for instance the Commission Work Programme (CWP) 2017, soon to be followed by the CWP 2018. (It would be helpful if the Commission priority pages and other web pages provided the date of the latest update.)

Here is an introduction to the Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) programme, as a part of the Commission’s better regulation agenda and integrated into the CWP process.

We remember the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making (13 April 2016); here an IIA explanation.

On 13 December 2016 the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission signed a Joint Declaration on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2017, and the Parliament’s Legislative train schedule - last updated to the end of June - keeps track of legislative proposals.
Here is an introduction to impact assessments in EU legislative processes and here to the Regulatory Scrutiny Board.  

Subsidiarity and Proportionality Task Force

From the state of the union address we remember president Juncker’s new opening:

Last but not least, I want our Union to have a stronger focus on things that matter, building on the work this Commission has already undertaken. We should not meddle in the everyday lives of European citizens by regulating every aspect. We should be big on the big things. We should not march in with a stream of new initiatives or seek ever growing competences. We should give back competences to Member States where it makes sense.

This is why this Commission has been big on big issues and small on the small ones, putting forward less than 25 new initiatives a year where previous Commissions proposed over 100. We have handed back powers where it makes more sense for national governments to deal with things. Thanks to the good work of Commissioner Vestager, we have delegated 90% of state aid decisions to the regional or local level.

To finish the work we started, I am setting up a Subsidiarity and Proportionality Task Force as of this month to take a very critical look at all policy areas to make sure we are only acting where the EU adds value. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who has a proven track record on better regulation, will head this Task Force. The Timmermans Task Force, which should include Members of this Parliament as well as Members of national Parliaments, should report back in a years’ time.  

Better enforcement

The European Union is, as president Juncker underlined, a community of law. Correct and timely transposition is crucial, as is effective application of EU law (page 66):

Better application of EU law is a priority of the Juncker Commission and a key part of the Better Regulation Agenda. The Commission restated its commitment to improving the application of EU law in a Communication of December 2016 which sets out a more strategic approach to its infringement policy. It announced that it would give priority to pursuing the most serious breaches of EU law affecting the interests of citizens and businesses. As of September 2017, 1,659 infringement cases have been opened by the Commission. This is a considerable increase from the previous years.

SOTEU brochure presentations   

Having come this far, we might as well remind ourselves what the remaining part of the State of the Union 2017 brochure promises to deal with:

The State of Public Opinion in the EU
Progress in the Economic Situation
Policy Implementation Report
The European Solidarity Corps: One Year on
Visits to national Parliaments
Citizens’ Dialogues
Letter on the Roadmap for a More United, Stronger and a More Democratic Union   

Future blog posts are going to look at these sections.

Ralf Grahn

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