The REFIT platform was set up in May 2015, by a Commission decision accompanying the Commission Communication: Better Regulation for Better Results. The REFIT platform was created to further support the process of simplifying existing EU law and reducing regulatory burdens, for the benefit of civil society, business and public authorities.
The REFIT platform introduces a bottom-up approach to the REFIT programme: the platform presents recommendations on better regulation to the Commission, taking into account suggestions made by citizens and stakeholders. The Commission analyses these recommendations and makes known how it intends to follow them up. The platform thus contributes to making European legislation more efficient and effective, while reducing administrative burden without undermining the policy objectives of the European legislation.
In short, the REFIT Platform is not about having a political discussion on policy objectives of EU legislation but rather about analysing and exploring possibilities for improvement of current EU legislation so that the already politically established policy objectives of EU legislation are achieved efficiently and effectively and without unnecessary administrative burdens.
Structure of the Platform
The platform is chaired by the Commission First Vice-President Timmermans and is made up of two groups:
- A Stakeholder group, that exists of 18 representatives of businesses, civil organisations, and individuals with practical expertise in Union policy areas. Also, two representatives of the European Social and Economic Committee and the Committee of the Regions take part.
- A Government group, in which the member states of the EU are represented.
The interests of social partners, small and large businesses, and consumer, health and environmental organisations, including non-governmental organisations are represented in the platform. Both platform groups are presided by the chair of the Regulatory Scrutiny Board. The mandate of the REFIT platform under the Juncker Commission applies until October 31st 2019, and could in principle be renewed by the next European Commission.
The submission of suggestions for the Platform
The role of the REFIT Platform is to invite and collect suggestions from all available sources on regulatory and administrative burden reduction, arising from Union legislation and its implementation in Member States. Suggestions to the Platform can be submitted by anyone online via ‘Lighten the Load’ website, introduced by individual Platform members, or are presented through other means (e.g. letters addressed to the Commission). All submitted suggestions can be found on the website of the REFIT Platform. The secretariat screens the submitted suggestions based on criteria set by the Platform. These criteria state that the suggestions should be clear, specific, reasoned and evidence-based. Selecting the suggestions on these criteria make sure the suggestions are screened on their potential to reduce regulatory and administrative burdens without endangering the achievement of the objectives of the legislation.
The Commission services add a policy context to each submission. This policy context serves as a sort of preliminary response from the Commission to the submission and can include previous efforts of the Commission to improve or simplify the relevant legislation. The secretariat groups the suggestions in policy areas and forwards them to the Stakeholder group. All relevant suggestions can be found on this webpage. The Stakeholder group members jointly establish a 6-month rolling work programme with priority policy areas. In a prioritised policy area, the reporter establishes a priority ranking and submits it to the other members of the Stakeholder group. The Government group is informed about the 6-month rolling plan of the Stakeholder group. Information about the meetings of both groups, such as the draft agenda and minutes, can be found on this webpage. Those who have submitted suggestions, which are not being taken up by either of the groups are informed by the secretariat, on behalf of the Platform.
Exclusion criteria of the REFIT Platform
The REFIT platform cannot take up a submission, if:
- the suggestion is about European legislation that is still in the EU legislative process;
- the suggestion is about European legislation that has not been in force for a sufficient period of time;
- the suggestion is about European legislation that is currently, or will be shortly subjected to the Social Dialogue ;
- the suggestion is about the policy objective of the legislation.
Adoption of a REFIT-platform opinion
Each policy area has a lead reporter who collects input from Platform members and their extended networks. On the basis of the received input, the reporter prepares a draft opinion and presents it to the Stakeholder group. External experts and relevant Commission services may be invited to participate in a discussion of the issues. The Government group is also invited to contribute to the opinion. When members from both groups agree on an opinion, it is adopted by the Platform as a whole. An adopted opinion is presented to the Commission as a recommendation from the REFIT Platform.
The recommendations of the rapporteur opinion do not have to be endorsed by all members, it is possible that divergent views are included separately in an opinion. Furthermore, it is also possible that one of the Platform groups adopts an opinion without agreement of the other group. However, a unanimously adopted opinion by both groups sends a much stronger signal to the Commission that the issue that is addressed in the opinion requires follow-up action from the Commission.
Results and follow-up of the REFIT platform
The adopted REFIT platform opinions are published on the website of the REFIT platform. As stated in the Better Regulation Communication, the Commission is committed to respond to all REFIT opinions. In their response, the Commission will indicate whether it considers some form of action is appropriate, the type of action envisaged as well as the foreseen timing. Detailed information on the Platform opinions and Commission’s follow-up actions are set out under the relevant items in the Commission Work Programme and the annexed REFIT Scoreboard.
The Commission response to the first set of 22 opinions adopted in June and September 2016 can be found in the Commission Working Programme 2017. Amongst these key documents are the REFIT Scoreboard and the detailed follow-up. The follow-up of an additional 36 opinions that have been adopted till then can be found in the Commission Working Programme 2018.