This independent blog collects news about projects or achievements in regulatory reform / better regulation. It is edited by Charles H. Montin. All opinions expressed are given on a personal basis.
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26 March 2010

REACH inches closer to risk management

BR experts interested in risk regulation should examine recent declarations by the new Commission on REACH. See press release dated 25 March. The two commissioners "are taking action to make progress towards the registration of chemicals and the management of substances of very high concern". According to a comment on EurActiv: (quote) The commissioners' "common interpretation of the REACH text" breaks the deadlock on substituting hazardous substances and represents a step change compared to the situation that prevailed under the previous Commission. The agreement clarifies the authorisation procedure for hazardous substances on socio-economic grounds. Under the REACH regulation, even if a substance presents a risk to human health or the environment, authorisation may be granted if the socio-economic benefits are proven to outweigh risks arising from its use and if there are no suitable alternatives. Under the Commission's new procedure, "all available information is to be considered and will be used in a so-called 'weight of evidence approach'" (endquote).

24 March 2010

Precautionary principle must apply to nanomaterials (France)

A report was issued today by the French agency in charge of sanitary security (AFSSET) publishing the results of a study on risks posed by nanomaterials for the population and the environment. It lists hundreds of products present in our daily lives. The report recommends to apply the precautionary principle: enforce traceability and specific labelling, prohibit the use of nanoparticles where risks outweigh advantages, harmonise rules at European level. The question for us better regulators is: is this suitable risk regulation?

RIA in the Commission: room for improvement?

Here are two recent scrutinies of the Commission's way of conducting impact assessments:
1/ UK House of Lords (European Union Committee) Fourth report "Impact Assessments in the EU: room for improvement?" (ordered for print 2 March)
This report focuses to a large extent on the impact assessment process, in particular how IAs are produced, the role of the Impact Assessment Board in monitoring their quality, and their subsequent use by the European Institutions. It records the views of various stakeholders in EU better regulation and suggestd areas where further examination might be necessary. It makes few firm conclusions but it does note that "the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament may not be making as full use of impact assessments as they might".
2/ Comparison EU/ US: Draft chapter of a book to be published in 2010: "Comparing Regulatory Oversight Bodies Across the Atlantic: The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the US and the Impact Assessment Board in the EU", by Jonathan B. Wiener and Alberto Alemanno.
The chapter explains why the IAB may appear to be a weaker regulatory gatekeeper than OIRA. The American oversight body can even issue 'prompt' letters to spur beneficial new policies (rather than only checking proposals by the agencies). "By contrast the IAB has an internal, multi-member, institutionally-dependent representative board whose powers are mainly the ability to recommend that an IA should be redone and resubmitted to the IAB, and to communicate its views to the collegial Commission. Indeed, lacking veto power, the IAB cannot block, as could OIRA, a DG draft IA or a policy proposal."
See also, in French, an article by R. Alemano "Quis Custodet Custodes dans le cadre de l'inititiative Mieux Légiférer, une analyse des mécanismes de surveillance de la qualité réglementaire au sein de la Commission Européenne" (available from the author).

23 March 2010

New publication about European risk regulation

Yesterday I attended the launch of a new technical publication of great interest to BR experts: the European Journal of Risk Regulation (EJRR). You can order the first issue free from this website.
As we know, risk management is one of the most difficult challenges of BR. There is an abundant literature and research, with OECD centralizing reflection for practitioners.
Last night, the many challenges for regulators were listed, among which: the perception of risk by the public, based on correct science or not, the need to manage these perceptions and the risks themselves through appropriate regulation or other policy instruments, and the complexity of the variables involved. And nowhere are risks as difficult to tackle as in the area of public health, covering inter alia food and feed, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, pesticide, hence the need for a specific medium to engage both regulators and stakeholders, and provide the theoretical backdrop for action.
The first issue contains a valuable update on recent trends in RIA by L. Allio, including consequences of smart regulation.
For more on risk regulation, read an article (33 pages) by Jonathan Wiener and Michael D. Rogers.
Contributions are to be forwarded to the editor of EJRR: Alberto Alemanno (HEC Paris).

18 March 2010

Lisbon treaty triggers review of EU law making procedure

The Lisbon treaty on the functioning of the EU entered into force 1 Dec 2009. Among changes are two articles on the Commission's executive powers which derive from the European Parliament (EP) slightly increased competence, and other factors. It is interesting to monitor the discussion and ensuing result from the Better Regulation perspective: will the new procedures be more effective, democratic control being increased without losing efficiency and quality of legislation?

12 March 2010

French president announces time to deregulate

It is rare that regulatory policy makes headlines in France, but here is one of these rare occasions: President Sarkozy, describing his political agenda from now to the next presidential elections, said in an interview published today in Figaro Magazine, that he would call in 2011 for a "pause" in legislating activity to give Parliament a chance to improve the reforms that have already been implemented, and even, during the second part of 2011, to deregulate (in French "délégiférer")if required. "Complexity is such that no-one fully understands the law. Tackling the magnum opus of legislative and administrative simplification will by then be long overdue."

UK, NL & DK offer smart regulation content

Today, three front-runners have published a joint contribution which will be of great interest to all better/smart regulation experts: "Smart Regulaition: a cleaner, fairer and more competitive EU".
You can find this document on http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file54760.pdf, and the executive summary via http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file54761.pdf or via http://www.rr.nl/ or http://www.eogs.dk/

11 March 2010

Standardisation in support of Better Regulation

Ralf Lottes, Secretary General of ECOS, the voice of environmental NGOs in standardisation draws our attention to the newly defined contribution of standardisation to better regulation at European level. The Commission has published in February a report by an expert group, which updates orientations for standardisation, in keeping with EU2020 and takes on new challenges: "standards can address the challenges of climate change, energy, sustainable development and changing consumer needs and expectations". In reaction to the report, the ECOS press release under the title "Environmental groups welcome calls for greener standards and more balanced participation" develops how standards can best be used to promote the general interest. The European Standardization System (ESS) has been a central element in the delivery of the single European market, in particular, through the use of Directives in key areas under the 'New Approach' policy, integrated into the New Legislative Framework.

10 March 2010

MP report highlights limits to French Reform

3 March 2010: Mr F. Cornut-Gentille, MP, delivers his report on modernisation and the quality of service to the minister in charge, E. Woerth. The report is critical of the lack of progress on quality of public services, in spite of recent improvements in e-government. Statistical annexes to the report show that the public is not impressed: 2/3 of citizens believe state reform is just another word for staff cuts. Reacting to this news the next day, the minister announced the creation of a "quality barometer", a project which had been on hold for some time. This shift to greater emphasis on the expectations of the end users of regulation confirms the trend inaugurated in February with the announcement of 15 measures to enhance egov procedures for citizens. It may also be a wider tendency in Better Regulation policies to devote more attention to implementation and enforcement issues, rather than endlessly review legal texts.
Background: French 2008 plan to cut red tape.

European Parliament supports cutting red tape for small companies

Very small companies could be exempted from having to draw up annual accounts, after MEPs approved changes to accounting obligations in EU law. It would be up to each Member State to grant such exemptions, depending on the impact the directive would have in that country. Companies would in any case still have to keep records of their business transactions and financial situation. If all Member States were to exempt micro companies and did not impose additional requirements, the proposal could save an estimated at €6.3 billion. In spite of this vote, the Commission proposal remains blocked in the Council.
See European Parliament press release

08 March 2010

Red tape reduction boosted by Warsaw meeting

The Standard Cost Model network is currently the best forum for EU member states (and a few neighbours) to exchange views and information about administrative costs. The network met in Warsaw on 5 March and from discussions and presentations, I drew some new insights worth sharing:
- the host-country, Poland, gave an in-depth presentation of the current SCM operations in their administrations, within the wider framework of better regulation (called "Regulatory Reform" in Poland). All the usual components of a BR strategy are present, and the business orientation will be strengthened by a draft "deregulation statute" (which is close to approval) aimed at limiting administrative control over the setting up of companies, and simplifying the related procedures;
- the UK presented in detail results and lessons learnt from their"benefits of regulation" project, an outline of which is given on the SCM site;
- there was a presentation of current trends in the European Commission, "first steps towards smart European regulation";
- André Nijsen, a consultant from the Netherlands, who had made a noted presentation at the Bertelsman 2009 conference "perspective on the SCM", gave an outline of a technical report comparing national variants of the original Dutch SCM. I was impressed by the scope and quality of the analysis, and agreed with most if not all the suggestions to align concepts and methods, in order to tackle efficiently burdens in a growing number of situations. (CH MONTIN)

01 March 2010

EU Better Regulation : social and health impacts

On 24.02.10, I attended a lunch time conference in the European Parliament on the theme "EU Better Regulation - from economic to citizen-centric," organised by the Smokefree Partnership. It was opened by Arlene McCarthy, MEP, who stressed that Better Regulation is a continuous learning process, and not deregulation, and was attended by about 50 participants, predominantly stakeholders from the health sector, but with a few business representatives and officials from the Commission.
This discussion comes after the publication of several recent interesting documents on social impacts: the Stiglitz Report, the EU Beyond GDP international initiative; and recent academic research into the origins of RIA;
Dr Anna Gilmore and Dr Katherine Smith, University of Bath presented research that suggests that British American Tobacco (BAT) has been the driving force behind the EU's Better Regulation framework ever since the 1990s, though the authoresses warn that "It is too early to say whether RIA will promote corporate objectives over public health in the way BAT and its allies hoped."
Discussions centrered on the quality of impact assessments, and especially the difficulty of quantifying benefits and costs (price of a human life?), the risks stemming from over-reliance on industry data, and on ways to improve the consultation of civil society before new legislation is drafted. A press release has been published.
See also Commission Guidance for assessing social impacts (CH MONTIN).

Germanic approach to RIA

Lorenzio Allio, who contributed to this publication, informs us about a new book in preparation on the German, Austrian, Swiss approach to RIA. The Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) is defined in rules of procedure. But this does not automatically lead to the smooth implementation of the legislation in practice. This book (in preparation for April 2010) analyzes the experiences and shows (inter) national trends. The different perspectives of science, policy and management are the subject of the first part. The second part examines the relevance of administrative costs and related actions under the RIA. The forecasting behavior of the actors is a necessary condition for effective RIA, as shown by the example of European chemicals regulation REACH. The third part discusses experiences with the RIA in Austria and Switzerland. This is supplemented by a general overview of the practice of the RIA in OECD countries. The fourth part deals with development perspectives of the RIA: Is the principle of sustainable development enshrined in the RIA? What measures can be taken to improve the implementation of RIA in practice?