Lesson 2.2 Impact Assessment

Icône de l'outil pédagogique Author

Ann-Katrin Bäcklund

Icône de l'outil pédagogique Introduction
The increasing interest for impact assessment (IA) activities in European policy making can be traced back to the Lisbon Strategy of 2000 where the European Union set itself the goal of becoming the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world. In its endeavour to achieve this goal, a core priority is to implement a better law making process in the union and in the member states. A way to achieve a better knowledge base for new regulations is to submit policy proposals for impact assessment. Great aspirations are tied to IA as a tool that will affect communication and unity in European politics in general and sustainability politics in particular.

Icône de l'outil pédagogique What is Impact Assessment
Policy assessments appear under several, partly overlapping, activities and concepts. The term Regulatory impact assessment (RIA) covers a general framework of principles for how to investigate possible outcomes of one, or a range of policy options. Rules for ex-ante assessment of proposed legislation exist in many member states. Special regulations about Sustainability impact assessment (SIA) are also common in many countries. Initially the EC used the concept Integrated or Extended Impact Assessment, but now only employs the straightforward concept Impact Assessment, which indicates that there shall not be any assessments that are less integrated or less extended than others. Hence the concepts RIA or IA mean some kind of ex-ante assessment, which considers economic effects of a policy and if possible social and sustainability aspects. Usually some kind of stakeholder consultation is required during the process. However, both in the EC and in member states the scope, methods and procedures used can vary considerably according to the political context and the issue at hand, from qualitative descriptions, to more research based approaches

Icône de l'outil pédagogique Impact Assessment in the EC
Since 2003 a formal IA is required for all regulatory proposals and negotiation guidelines for international agreements included in the Commission’s Work Programme (COM, 2002). The IA shall address "the full effects of a policy proposal including estimates of its economic, environmental, and social impacts”. There is also a systematic guideline for how the DGs shall proceed with the assessment work.

Icône de l'outil pédagogique IA practices in the EC

The IA work performed in the Commission has shifting practices. Nevertheless, the recommendations given in the Guidelines are making inroad in the work performed. When participating in assessment work initiated by the Commission it is recommended to read the Guidelines (SEC 2005(791)). The plans (Roadmap) for how a specific assessment will be pursued, is published on Secretariat General’s portal. It is quite likely that the procedures gradually will spread to administrations in member countries.

In the Roadmap the different policy options to be assessed are established, the data available determined. An outline of possible future monitoring and evaluation arrangements shall also be provided.

There is an assessment leader appointed at the DG responsible for the policy under development, whose role is to coordinate the assessment project, draw up the lines for the work, supervise the work of contracted expertise, perform the stakeholder consultations and finally draw together arguments and conclusions in an assessment report. The assessment report is later annexed to the Commission’s policy proposal.

To carry out the task assessment leaders can engage consultants to support their work. Contractors can be hired to perform major parts of an assessment or help with specific tasks like setting up relevant data. Consultants can be invited to suggest methods to be used in the assessment, but more often, the tools or methods to be applied are already specified in the call for tender. Consultants’ work is supervised by the assessment leader as the final responsibility for the product lies with the DG.

Icône de l'outil pédagogique The need for transparency
When the Commission proposes a regulation the DG’s argumentation for the policy recommendation in the proposal has to come across very convincing to decision makers and the public. The DG officers are under strong pressure from lobby groups which ask questions about the knowledge base for the recommendation made. It is therefore underlined by the interviewed that the transparency of the modelling process is very important. The models, the model chains and the assumptions made have to be understood by the assessment leaders in order for them to be able to explain and defend the conclusions made. Also the Commission’s Guidelines repeatedly advise the assessment leader to “flag-up uncertainties and assumptions in their final report” The need for simplification might be a source of conflict between the ambitions of a scientific modeller and an IA leader.

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