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Document 52006AR0397

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on Better lawmaking 2005 and 2006

OJ C 305, 15.12.2007, p. 38–42 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)

15.12.2007   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 305/38


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on ‘Better lawmaking 2005 and 2006’

(2007/C 305/08)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

believes that the work of the European Union, the Member States and the regional and local authorities must be reinforced by means of a real partnership, in order to respond more effectively to the economic, social, environmental and democratic challenges facing Europe, all the time respecting the competences of the various tiers of authority;

takes the view that priority should be given to improving the regulatory environment, simplifying the Community acquis and applying the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality as well as strengthening consultation and impact evaluation methods with a view to promoting genuine governance at multiple levels within the European Union;

regrets the paucity of references to the local and regional dimension in the ‘Better lawmaking’ package, whereas the White Paper on European Governance adopted in 2001 stressed the need to build a better partnership between the various tiers of authority, in the knowledge that local and regional authorities are to a large extent responsible for implementing and sometimes even transposing Community legislation, depending on their powers;

hopes that the institutional regulation in the context of the current IGC will preserve the provisions set out in the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe when it comes to the local and regional authorities and the Committee of the Regions and, more specifically, the provisions relating to the definition, implementation and monitoring of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles;

is in favour of the Commission and the national and regional parliaments setting up a mechanism for monitoring the subsidiarity principle as soon as possible, so as to submit EU legislative proposals to detailed scrutiny at a very early stage in the process;

while arguing in favour of strengthening its involvement in evaluating the territorial impact of major Community policies, offers to place its expertise at the service of the European Commission so as to contribute to the impact analyses for all new legislative proposals having a major local or regional impact;

hopes that the ‘Better lawmaking’ initiative will be accompanied by adequate information and communication initiatives regarding the players involved in implementing Community legislation — in the majority of cases the local and regional authorities — and the beneficiaries of Community legislation, in particular the European public.

Reference documents

Report on Better lawmaking 2005

COM(2006) 289 final; SEC(2006) 289

A strategic review of Better Regulation in the European Union

COM(2006) 689 final

Commission working document: First progress report on the strategy for the simplification of the regulatory environment

COM(2006) 690 final

Commission working document: measuring administrative costs and reducing administrative burdens in the European Union

COM(2006) 691 final

Action Programme for Reducing Administrative Burdens in the European Union

COM(2007) 23 final; SEC(2007) 84; SEC(2007) 85

Better Lawmaking 2006 Report

COM(2007)286 final; SEC(2007) 737

Rapporteur

:

Mr VAN DEN BRANDE, Member of the Flemish Parliament (BE/EPP)

Policy recommendations

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

General recommendations

1.

believes that the work of the European Union, the Member States and the regional and local authorities must be reinforced by means of a real partnership, in order to respond more effectively to the economic, social, environmental and democratic challenges facing Europe, all the time respecting the competences of the various tiers of authority;

2.

takes the view that priority should be given to improving the regulatory environment, simplifying the Community acquis and applying the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality as well as strengthening consultation and impact evaluation methods with a view to promoting genuine governance at multiple levels within the European Union;

3.

underlines that, in the context of the Commission's drive to codify and recast legislative proposals, ‘better lawmaking’ should not simply mean ‘less lawmaking’ and that any withdrawal of legislation by the Commission should be justified by an assessment of the European value added of the legislative proposal; it therefore calls on the European Commission to exercise its role as a driving force within the European integration process fully from now on, recalling that a coherent long-term political vision translating into tangible political action is a necessary condition for ‘better lawmaking’ and ‘better regulation’;

4.

supports the European Commission's efforts to promote better lawmaking by withdrawing on-going legislative proposals whenever appropriate in the interests of the subsidiarity principle, and calls on the Commission to continue along this path;

5.

regrets the paucity of references to the local and regional dimension in the ‘Better lawmaking’ package, whereas the White Paper on European Governance adopted in 2001 stressed the need to build a better partnership between the various tiers of authority, in the knowledge that local and regional authorities are to a large extent responsible for implementing and sometimes even transposing Community legislation, depending on their powers, and should therefore be more closely involved throughout the ‘Better lawmaking’ initiative, not least through CoR participation in the various interinstitutional coordination groups;

6.

hopes to see local authorities, regional parliaments and regional assemblies involved in the preparation and finalisation of Community legislation, to a degree commensurate with their powers, so as to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of the decision-making process;

7.

endorses the priority given by the European Commission's 2007 work programme to improving the regulatory environment not least to serve the Lisbon strategy objectives of competitive growth, employment and sustainable development, thus promoting a better quality of life for the European public;

8.

warmly welcomes the Better Lawmaking 2006 Report, which gives consideration to its wish to be consulted and involved in the pre-legislative phase, particularly when it comes to upholding principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in the context of impact analyses; but would nevertheless stress the need in future to bolster these efforts with regard to coordination among the various tiers of authority, communication on the Community decision-making process and the scope of Community legislative intervention and its financial and administrative impact on local and regional authorities;

Application of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles

9.

renews its commitment to the constitutional dimension of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and, in the absence of a Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, underlines the importance for regional and local authorities and for the Committee of the Regions of implementing the protocols or their respective content concerning the role of national parliaments in the EU and the application of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles, as soon as possible;

10.

hopes that the institutional regulation in the context of the current IGC will preserve the provisions set out in the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe when it comes to the local and regional authorities and the Committee of the Regions and, more specifically, the provisions relating to the definition, implementation and monitoring of these two principles;

11.

stresses that according to the Treaty in its current form, the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality are the levers for multiple-level governance, which means responsibility for their application must be shared, and a genuine culture of subsidiarity must be established in the European Union;

12.

warmly welcomes the Berlin Declaration of 25 March 2007, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, which stresses the need to share tasks out between the European Union, the Member States and their regional and local authorities, and thus gives recognition to multi-tiered governance;

13.

calls upon the other European institutions to take regular and systematic account of the local and regional dimension of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles at all stages of the legislative process;

14.

wishes, to this end, to make its expertise available, not least through the subsidiarity monitoring network, in accordance with the assessments made and conclusions drawn by the two pilot tests conducted to date;

15.

urges the regional parliaments to set up parliamentary committees to monitor the application of the subsidiarity principle and become preferred contacts in the above-mentioned network;

16.

welcomes the European Commission's initiative of informing national parliaments directly of all new legislative proposals and consultation documents, and inviting them to inform it of their reactions so as to improve the policy-making process, particularly with regard to the subsidiarity and proportionality principles and the actual content of proposals; and calls for this practice to be extended to sub-national legislative bodies, in accordance with the distribution of competences within each Member State;

17.

calls for binding internal agreements on the procedures for early warning systems to monitor application of the subsidiarity principle, to be drawn up in Member States where competences are shared between national and regional level;

18.

consequently calls on the European Commission to set up a computerised system to give local and regional authorities access to appropriate information at all stages of the legislative process;

19.

is in favour of the Commission and the national and regional parliaments setting up a mechanism for monitoring the subsidiarity principle as soon as possible, so as to submit EU legislative proposals to detailed scrutiny at a very early stage in the process; and insists that provision should be made for the Committee to cooperate in the establishment of this mechanism, so as to make the most of existing synergies, the Committee being prepared to share the experience it has gained from its subsidiarity monitoring network;

Consultation process and structured dialogue

20.

underlines the importance of it being consulted during the legislative process, in its capacity as the institutional representative of the local and regional authorities of the European Union and as the European Commission's official consultative partner; strengthening this consultation will make the decision-making process more open, inclusive, operational and democratic, and bring it back to the level closest to the European public;

21.

reiterates the commitments made under the cooperation protocol signed in November 2005 with the European Commission, which stipulated that ‘Under the good governance principle the Committee must play to the full its role as a link in the dialogue with local authority organisations. The Commission shall ensure that the Committee is fully involved in the political preparation of jointly organised meetings’, and welcomes the involvement since 2004 of nine European Commissioners in a structured dialogue, along with nearly 80 European and national associations representing regional and local authorities;

22.

believes that the structured dialogue with local and regional authority associations is a tool that should be used in the preparation phase for the European Commission's legislative work programme in particular;

23.

offers a number of suggestions for future discussions with the social dialogue partners with a view to improving the procedures involved and securing the initial objectives of this dialogue, while also strengthening the political and institutional role of the Committee of the Regions:

hold a structured dialogue session at an appropriate time of the year so that the associations of local and regional authorities and the Commission can have a proper discussion on the work priorities before the Commission adopts its annual legislative work programme;

prepare the annual programme and meeting agendas for the structured dialogue by means of close cooperation between the Committee and the European and national associations of local and regional authorities;

develop the interface with local and regional media in cooperation with the associations of local and regional authorities;

provide the opportunity for local and regional authorities to submit comments in writing and to raise issues of interest to them, in accordance with the European Union agenda, and receive a reply;

provide minutes, prepared by the relevant Commission services, after each meeting;

put an emphasis on strengthening the follow-up to structured dialogue by means of regular evaluation in close cooperation with the Committee and the national and European associations that represent local and regional authorities;

24.

would also like to have greater responsibility for organising the structured dialogue and to see a more transparent process established;

25.

reiterates the recommendations it made in its opinion on the ‘Better lawmaking 2004’ annual report, calling for systematic consultation of local and regional authorities at an early stage in the preparation of European legislation; and believes that it is essential to ensure that the consultations are effective and that they are taken into account;

Improved transposition and application of Community legislation and policies at local and regional level

26.

recalls that local and regional authorities are, in the main, hostage to the quality of transposition of Community legislation at national level; and emphasises the importance of improved coordination between the national level and local and regional authorities;

27.

reiterates the need to put the partnership principle into practice during both the preparation and the implementation phase of Community legislation and policies;

28.

recalls that the European Commission launched and developed the idea of tripartite contracts and agreements on objectives; repeats its proposal that these instruments should be revised and proposes the establishment of European territorial pacts, drawing on the results of the test phase initiated by the European Commission for tripartite agreements;

29.

underlines the fact that European territorial pacts, like the European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation, would boost territorial coherence and the flexibility of policies with a high local impact, owing to structured cooperation between the various levels of governance in order to implement objectives defined jointly between the local, regional and European levels; recourse to this instrument should remain voluntary;

30.

stresses that there can be no real partnership without a financial contribution from each of the parties to the agreement; and proposes that discussions on the financing of the European territorial pacts should focus on the potential for synergy between existing budget headings in the areas concerned and the Structural Funds on the European side, and the budget headings available at local, regional and national levels, without creating another financial instrument for Community regional policy or requesting additional funds to this end;

31.

considers that consultation should be stepped up between the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions with regard to the definition and implementation of the European territorial pacts;

32.

assures the European Commission of its desire to play a proactive role to encourage the conclusion of European territorial pacts and to be a reliable partner to all the players concerned;

33.

calls, nevertheless, for greater support from the European Commission with regard to initiatives from local and regional authorities; also stresses on the need to give greater attention to existing projects, which must not be abandoned once the test phase is over;

Impact analysis and evaluation of the administrative and financial burden

34.

in accordance with the recommendation set out in its opinion on ‘Better Lawmaking 2004’, welcomes the European Commission's proposal to set up an independent impact assessment board under the authority of the president in order to strengthen monitoring;

35.

argues in favour of strengthening the involvement of the Committee of the Regions in evaluating the territorial impact of major Community policies; also stresses the key role that local and regional authorities can play in transposition and implementation if they are properly involved in the preparation of legislation;

36.

supports the search for a common impact analysis method and a joint methodology for assessing the administrative costs engendered by European legislation; recommends tailoring this methodology to local and regional level so as to be able to evaluate as effectively as possible the financial and administrative burdens shouldered by local and regional authorities; and wishes to be fully involved in interinstitutional cooperation in this area;

37.

welcomes the European Commission's action programme for reducing administrative burdens in the European Union and the objective proposed to the European Council of 8 and 9 March 2007 of a 25 % reduction in the burden to be reached jointly by the European Union and the Member States by 2012; recalls nevertheless the need to take into account the local and regional dimension as well as the role of local and regional authorities in implementing this objective;

38.

in the spirit of the cooperation agreement of November 2005, offers to place its expertise at the service of the European Commission so as to contribute to the impact analyses for all new legislative proposals having a major local or regional impact;

39.

on this note, undertakes to carry out a pilot test in the context of its Lisbon strategy monitoring platform, with a view to contributing both to making the consultation of local and regional authorities on European legislation systematic in the preparation phase and to searching for a common method for analysing the resulting impact of the said legislation for local and regional authorities; believes in this respect that it would be useful and tie in well with its commitment to the success of the Lisbon objectives were it to be represented at the spring European Council meeting;

Simplification of Community legislation, transparency and information

40.

repeats its request for a regional strand to be added to the national action plans for the simplification of legislation;

41.

welcomes the Commission initiative aimed at promoting transparency, and points out in this respect that if the EU genuinely wishes to increase its democratic legitimacy, it must also do more to involve local and regional players in its legislative and decision-making processes; regrets therefore that no reference is made to the local and regional dimension in this initiative and calls on the Commission to give greater consideration to this matter;

42.

hopes that the ‘Better lawmaking’ initiative will be accompanied by adequate information and communication initiatives regarding the players involved in implementing Community legislation — in the majority of cases the local and regional authorities — and the beneficiaries of Community legislation, in particular the European public; Community legislation cannot be properly implemented if it is not understood by the players concerned; this means that in addition to involvement in the pre-legislative process, there is a need to develop information and communication;

43.

on this note, draws the Commission's attention to the need to arrange for the translation of all the legislative proposals it has adopted into all the official languages of the European Union, before the official start of the Community's legislative stage and before referral to the Committee of the Regions;

44.

stresses the potential of its subsidiarity monitoring network to become an effective tool for information and communication in the context of the Community's legislative process.

Brussels, 11 October 2007.

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Michel DELEBARRE


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