Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making

In “Constitutional Affairs - AFCO”

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Commission President Juncker made a clear commitment to better regulation in his Political Guidelines. On 19 May 2015, the Commission put forward a comprehensive package entitled 'Better Regulation for better results – An EU Agenda'. This included a proposal for a new interinstitutional agreement (IIA) on better regulation, with the aim of reaching an agreement on the text before the end of 2015.

The European Parliament has repeatedly called for a revision of the 2003 IIA on Better Law-Making and for enhanced interinstitutional programming.

Negotiations were officially launched on 25 June 2015 under the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council. The negotiations were conducted by Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the ALDE Group, on behalf of the EP; Nicolas Schmidt, Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Economy, on behalf of the Luxembourg Presidency; and Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President, on behalf of the Commission.

At the opening of the negotiations, the then EP President Martin Schulz stressed the following points in particular:

  • Whereas reducing unnecessary administrative burdens remained an important objective, it was important for the European Parliament that better regulation did not become deregulation and did not result in weaker social, environmental, health or safety standards.
  • The role of impact assessments was likely to become a central issue in the negotiations. The European Parliament believed that impact assessments can be an important tool in reaching well-informed decisions; at the same time, it wished to ensure that impact assessments are not used in such a way as to hinder, or even unduly replace, democratic and political decision-making.

The three institutions, Council, Parliament and Commission, came to an agreement on the substance of the IIA on 8 December 2015. The new Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making was signed on 13 April 2016 and entered into force the same day.

The new IIA on Better Law-Making aims to improve the way the EU legislates and to ensure that EU legislation better serves citizens and businesses. Its purpose is thus to make sure that EU laws and policies are effective in achieving their objectives, with a minimum of administrative burdens.

The IIA provides for closer cooperation regarding the multiannual and annual programming. It provides for early exchanges of views, both before and after the adoption of the Commission work programme. After the adoption of the Commission work programme, a 'joint declaration on annual interinstitutional programming' is to be signed by the Presidents of the three institutions (para 7), setting out 'broad objectives and priorities for the following year'. The first joint declaration of this kind was signed by the respective presidents on 13 December 2016 in Strasbourg. The agreement also provides for interinstitutional consultations in the event that the Commission plans to withdraw any legislative proposal. The agreement requires the Commission to provide reasons for such withdrawals and to take due account of the co-legislators' positions when doing so. Prompt and detailed consideration' is to be given to own-initiative requests made by the Parliament and the Council (based on Articles 225 and 241 TFEU respectively).

The IIA underlines the contribution of better regulation tools to the better quality of legislation. In line with EPs position, there is no automatic trigger for IAs to be carried out later in the legislative cycle: Parliament and Council will carry out impact assessments of their substantial amendments 'when they consider this to be appropriate and necessary'. The definition of a 'substantial' amendment is to be determined by each institution. In its Communication on Better Regulation of September 2016, the Commission praises the IIA as a 'significant step forward in the culture of better regulation', and calls upon the Parliament and the Council to step up their IA work to support their substantial amendments.

Regarding delegated and implementing acts, the IIA envisages further negotiations to define delineation criteria for delegated acts and implementing acts, which are to start without undue delay after the entry into force of the agreement. It further provides for consultation of Member States' experts will be consulted by the Commission in the preparation of delegated acts, and Parliament and Council's experts will have equal access to all the related meetings and documents of such expert groups. A joint public register for delegated acts will be set up by the end of 2017 (similar to the existing 'comitology register' for implementing acts). The institutions also commit to prompt alignment of existing legislation to the framework of the Lisbon Treaty, which concerns in particular acts providing for the use of the 'regulatory procedure with scrutiny'. In December 2016, the Commission has tabled a proposal for a regulation adapting a number of legal acts providing for the use of the regulatory procedure with scrutiny to Articles 290 and 291 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Regarding transparency of the legislative process, the co-legislators have committed to, inter alia, enhancing transparency of legislative procedures, which includes trilogue negotiations: A joint database on legislative files will be established, allowing for traceability of the various steps of the legislative process.

To adress the phenomenon of so-called 'gold-plating', the IIA further calls upon the Member States to 'communicate clearly' to their public when transposing Union legislation. Accordingly, elements which Member States choose to add in the process of transposition 'that are in no way related' to Union legislation, should be made 'identifiable' in the accompanying documents.

The three institutions further confirmed their commitment to simplifying legislation and avoiding administrative burdens while at the same time ensuring that the objectives of legislation are met.

The IIA was implemented by the respective institutions at political and technical levels. Parliament's new Rules of Procedure (rapporteur: Richard Corbett, S&D, United Kingdom), approved by Parliament on 13 December 2016, incorporated the changes brought by the IIA on Better Law-Making. An own-initiative joint report on the interpretation and implementation of the agreement (rapporteurs: Richard Corbett, S&D, United Kingdom and Pavel Svoboda, EPP, Czech Republic) was adopted by the JURI and AFCO committees on 25 April 2018, and voted on during the May II plenary session in 2018. The EP resolution takes stock of and welcomes the progress made so far in implementing the agreement noting, in particular, the adoption of two joint declarations on the EU's legislative priorities (for 2017 and 2018-2019), improved access of Parliament's experts to documents and meetings concerning the preparation of delegated acts, and the joint register of delegated acts, which became operational in December 2017. The resolution also identified outstanding issues where efforts should be stepped up. This included negotiations regarding information-sharing in negotiation and conclusion of international agreements, negotiations regarding the non-binding criteria for delineation of DIAs, and establishing a dedicated joint database on the state of play of legislative acts.

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Author: Laura Tilindyte, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/01/2023.