Stakeholder consultation in the EU: Commission Guidelines

16-12-2015

A common reproach that has long been levelled at the set-up of European governance has concerned its 'democratic deficit'. In particular, this has encompassed the idea that the European integration process has traditionally strengthened the executive power at the expense of national parliaments, and pointed to the relatively modest powers initially granted to the European Parliament. Strengthening the democratic quality of EU decision-making became a central concern in the 2001 White Paper on European Governance which identified openness, participation and accountability among the principles of good governance. Against this background, the Commission has gradually developed and formalised numerous mechanisms aimed at broadening participation in order to increase legitimacy, transparency and effectiveness of its policies. While the Commission's consultation framework does not remain without its critics, it has undergone significant improvements. The current Article 11 TEU, introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, aims to give a new boost to 'participatory democracy' in the EU, alongside 'representative democracy', and mandates the Commission to carry out broad consultations with parties concerned. The Commission’s Better Regulation Package, adopted in May 2015, incorporates new consultation guidelines which, inter alia, expand the scope of stakeholder input throughout the policy cycle, further open up the impact assessment process to stakeholders' comments and signal renewed commitment to providing adequate feedback to stakeholders. It should also be mentioned that EU institutions, including the Commission, have developed a variety of mechanisms aimed at improving dialogue with wider society, formal stakeholder consultation being one of them. The following pages do not aim at providing a taxonomy of all of these mechanisms, but give a brief overview of the Commission Consultation Guidelines, which are yet to be implemented in practice.

A common reproach that has long been levelled at the set-up of European governance has concerned its 'democratic deficit'. In particular, this has encompassed the idea that the European integration process has traditionally strengthened the executive power at the expense of national parliaments, and pointed to the relatively modest powers initially granted to the European Parliament. Strengthening the democratic quality of EU decision-making became a central concern in the 2001 White Paper on European Governance which identified openness, participation and accountability among the principles of good governance. Against this background, the Commission has gradually developed and formalised numerous mechanisms aimed at broadening participation in order to increase legitimacy, transparency and effectiveness of its policies. While the Commission's consultation framework does not remain without its critics, it has undergone significant improvements. The current Article 11 TEU, introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, aims to give a new boost to 'participatory democracy' in the EU, alongside 'representative democracy', and mandates the Commission to carry out broad consultations with parties concerned. The Commission’s Better Regulation Package, adopted in May 2015, incorporates new consultation guidelines which, inter alia, expand the scope of stakeholder input throughout the policy cycle, further open up the impact assessment process to stakeholders' comments and signal renewed commitment to providing adequate feedback to stakeholders. It should also be mentioned that EU institutions, including the Commission, have developed a variety of mechanisms aimed at improving dialogue with wider society, formal stakeholder consultation being one of them. The following pages do not aim at providing a taxonomy of all of these mechanisms, but give a brief overview of the Commission Consultation Guidelines, which are yet to be implemented in practice.