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Step 6. EU policy-making cycle and Better Regulation

This step will provide more insight into the EU policy-cycle and the accompanying points of entry for better regulation proposals.  We will do this by explaining the cyclical steps of EU policy-making which are:

  1. Formulation;
  2. Adoption;
  3. Implementation;
  4. Evaluation.

The Better Regulation Agenda (BRA) of 2015 introduced a number of measures and instruments on EU policy-making. The aim was to open up the EU policymaking process further and contribute to higher quality EU legislative proposals.  The practical aspects of implementing the BRA in the work of the Commission have been laid down in the Better Regulation Guidelines and Toolbox.

After the introduction of the Better Regulation Agenda (BRA) in 2015, the Commission also published the Better Regulation Guidelines and “Toolbox”. The content of the Toolbox and the Guidelines provide a detailed overview of what the Better Regulations Agenda means for Commission officials and how they should integrate the Better Regulation principles in their daily work.

To do: Familiarize yourself with the EU policy-making cycle and Better Regulation opportunities.

1. Formulation
Graphic Phase Formulation

The formulation step in the EU policy cycle is a process where the European Commission and its subsequent DG’s analyse if a legislative initiative is necessary. This can be done either by amending existing EU legislation or by drafting new EU legislation. During this process the lead DG of the European Commission involved in a new legislative initiative needs political validation to proceed.

This means an authorisation by the relevant political Commission authority to prevent policy drift. In other words, every initiative has to be signed off at the political level of the Commission, to ensure that only policy initiatives in line with the political goals of the current Commission are proposed. Before political validation, only informal consideration of the proposal is allowed.


The formulation process of EU policy-making starts publicly when the European Commission makes its intention to start drafting a new legislative proposal known to the public. This is done either by a policy communication or a

The policy communication is a specific type of Commission Communication. Where green and white papers are used to start a discussion or explain what the Commission might do, the Policy Communication shows what the Commission intends to do. However, the Communication is not codified in the Better Regulation Guidelines as a mandatory instrument in EU policymaking.

Roadmap/Inception Impact Assessment.

The Roadmap and Inception Impact Assessment (IIA) are the first official documents in the legislative cycle. While roadmaps and IIAs serve the same purpose, their level of evaluation differs. A roadmap or IIA should generally outline how, what and why the Commission proposes new legislation.

The publication of a Roadmap is mandatory for DG’s when it is considering a new EU legislative initiative. When a possible new legislative initiative is expected to have significant economic, social or environmental impacts, the Commission is obligated to conduct an Impact Assessment (IA).

The Impact Assessment is an instrument which follows the Inception Impact Assessment. With this instrument, the Commission investigates possible impacts of the envisioned EU legislative action. The Commission is obliged to conduct these for all major initiatives.

In that circumstance, an Inception Impact Assessment (IIA) is published instead of a Roadmap. After the publication of a Roadmap or IIA, a four week open consultation period will start. Stakeholders will be able to express their concerns, remarks or suggestions regarding this possible future legislative initiative.

When an Impact Assessment is conducted, the Commission will consult stakeholders to assess the potential effects of a new legislative proposal. How stakeholders will be involved is laid down in the consultation strategy which is presented beforehand in the IIA.

After the Commission has completed all preparatory steps and it has finished drafting a new legislative proposal, the proposal will be made public and sent to the EU co-legislators (the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers). If an Impact Assessment was conducted it will also be published and together with the legislative proposal. After the legislative proposal is published, stakeholders can provide feedback on the proposal and the Impact Assessment for a period of twelve weeks. The feedback which is received during this period will be transmitted to the EU co-legislators.

2. Adoption

Graphic Phase Adoption

Most EU acts are adopted via the Ordinary Legislative Procedure (OLP) of article 289 TFEU. The OLP works through a process of readings, where the legislative proposal is scrutinised and sent back and forth between the EU-institutions. In principle, the Commission prepares the proposal and the Parliament and Council ultimately adopt the act.

In practice, during most EU legislative procedures, the EU institutions make use of the so-called informal Trilogues to speed up the decision making process. During the legislative procedure

Trilogue refers to tripartite informal negotiations between the EU institutions, that take place during the legislative procedure. The fact that they are informal and not bound to strict first, second and third reading rules, allows for greater flexibility in the decision-making negotiations between the EU institutions.

there are many ways to submit a proposal for better regulation. Since this concerns influencing EU institutions during the legislative process, it falls outside of the scope of the BRIGHT-tool, which emphasis lies on better regulation opportunities outside of the legislative procedure.

3. Implementation

Graphic Phase Implementation

During the stage of implementation, EU legislation is in force and in principle there is less legislative and policy-making activity, with the exception of delegated and implementing acts. These acts, for example, lay down uniform conditions or technical details related to a directive or regulation. They are adopted via comitology or expert groups. Stakeholders can provide input on draft texts of these acts during a period of four weeks.

Apart from the consultation period of new delegated or implementing acts, there are other opportunities to submit proposals for better regulation at this stage of the EU policy-making cycle. One of these opportunities is the REFIT-Platform. Stakeholders can submit their issues and proposals via the Lighten the Load website. When the submission fits the criteria of the Platform, it will be discussed by the Platform and advise the European Commission about the submitted issue.

4. Evaluation
Graphic Phase Evaluation

The evaluation stage of the EU policy cycle is a process whereby the European Commission evaluates EU legislation. The publication of an Evaluation Roadmap

The Evaluation Roadmap is basically the same as the ‘regular’ Roadmap. The difference is that the Evaluation Roadmap outlines the Commission’s plans for an Evaluation or Fitness Check instead of legislation.

always precedes an Evaluation or Fitness Check, but has to abide by the same general rules as the normal roadmap in terms of consultation. It will outline why an evaluation is being considered and lay down

An Evaluation gathers evidence to assess how an EU legislation, policy or spending activity has performed (or is working), and considers why this has occurred. The Commission investigates if the EU act is still fit for purpose and delivers the intended objective at a minimum cost. The Fitness Check is an evaluation of several pieces of legislation.

the stakeholder consultation strategy during the Evaluation or Fitness Check. After an Evaluation Roadmap is published a four week open consultation period will start. This will enable stakeholders to make known to the European Commission their concerns, remarks or suggestions regarding this planned evaluation and EU legislation in question.

During the conduction of an Evaluation or Fitness Checks, the Commission is likely to consult stakeholders to assess well-informed how an EU legislation has performed.


After the evaluation

When an Evaluation or Fitness Check has been conducted, a possible next step could be that the European Commission considers amending or replacing the EU legislation in question during the Evaluation or Fitness Checks. This would entail the start of the formulation stage of the EU policy-making cycle and its subsequent components such as Roadmaps and Impact Assessments. This sequence of stages of the EU policy-making cycle is also laid down in the Better Regulation Guideline as the Evaluate First Principle.

However, this does not mean that an Evaluation or Fitness Checks is immediately followed by a new legislative initiative. If that is the case, stakeholders could again make use of the REFIT Platform submit their issues and proposals via the Lighten the Load website. New legislative proposals can immediately follow evaluations; this is called the back-to-back procedure.

Ideally, an evaluation of legislation is immediately followed by an impact assessment for new legislation.. This back-to-back approach requires a lot of planning, which is why the Better Regulation Toolbox outlines a special approach. This approach means that, if a back-to-back evaluation and impact assessment is planned, only one roadmap/IIA has to be published.