Impact Assessment is an essential element of the European Commission’s Smarter Regulation agenda, which attempts to simplify legislation. Impact assessments contribute to the decision-making process through the collection and analysis of data and information on planned interventions, and estimating their potential impact. Impact assessment should support decision-making institutions on finding the most appropriate way to address the particular problem.

The Court’s audit found that, since 2002, the Commission has had a comprehensive impact assessment system in place. Impact assessment has become a cornerstone of the Commission’s policy development and has been used to make improvement on the design of its proposals. Then, the Commission’s impact assessments are sent to the European Parliament and the Council and decision-makers in both institutions reported that impact assessments are helpful when evaluating proposals from the Commission. The one drawback is that if amendments are proposed during the legislative procedure, the related impact assessments are not updated. If the original Commission proposal is modified, there is not systematic analysis of the impact of those amendments. The potential impacts of the final piece of legislation are, thus, not known.

The audit identified areas for improvement related to the Commission’s procedures for impact assessments. In terms of the procedures, the Commission did not publish in advance all the initiatives which were to undergo an impact assessment, and for impact assessments that fall outside the Commission’s Legislative Work Programme, the reasons for choosing which initiatives are to be analysed were not made public. Consultation with stakeholders was used for initial input but was not carried out on draft impact assessment reports. However, the results and main messages from the report are not always easy to gather. Comparing the impacts of the policy options presented in the impact assessment report can also be difficult difficult.

The Court recommends the Commission give due consideration to the principles of clarity of objectives, simplification, realism, transparency and accountability when designing new interventions and revising existing ones. The Court further urged the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council to consider the findings and recommendations in the report when revising their Interinstitutional agreements on "Better law-making" and a "Common approach to impact assessment".

MEP Jan Olbrycht (EPP PL), vice-chair of the SURE said: "We shouldn’t forget that we’re in the post-Lisbon [Treaty] era and we have to implement a new inter-institutional agreement. These talks should re-define the scope of impact assessments… The whole process should be more transparent and written in a clearer manner."

The European Commission welcomed the findings of the Court and in a press release, reiterated President Barroso`s commitment to smart regulation. The Commission also hailed the fact that the European Court of Auditors had recognised that the independent quality control body it introduced – the Impact Assessment Board as "raising the quality of analysis".

For Further Information:

- Impact assessments In the EU Institutions: do they support decision-making?
- Impact assessments improve the Commission’s policy-making. Commission welcomes positive report by the European Court of Auditors.

EPHA Related Articles

- Health Inequalities Communication- a case study for Impact Assessment
- EPHA briefing note on Impact Assessments
- Health Impact Assessment capacity building project for North West of England
- article 3524
- *Update with the New Guidelines* EPHA response to the consultation on the draft Commission Impact Assessment Guidelines, July 2008.
- Consultation meeting on Impact Assessments on Smoke-Free Environments. 19 March 2008

Last modified on September 30 2010.