Keynote speech by Maroš Šefčovic at the launch of the OECD report on ‘Better Regulation Practices across the European Union 2022′

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Dear Deputy Secretary-General Boone, distinguished speakers, ladies and gentlemen,

A warm welcome to this conference jointly organised by the OECD and the European Commission. I am grateful that so many of you have joined us in person in Brussels and online across Europe and beyond.

This event brings together the EU and OECD communities of better regulation practitioners and stakeholders to debate and reflect on how better regulation can contribute to tackling the myriad challenges facing us today.

A worldwide pandemic.

The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

The changing geopolitical situation.

Disruptions to industrial value chains.

Dangerous over-dependencies on imports of fossil fuels and critical raw materials.

Rising inflation and food prices.

The threat posed by climate change, and

The need to master the ever-quickening twin green and digital transitions to name just a few.

In facing these challenges, we have already learned a number of valuable lessons:

  1. We must act as a global actor and positive force for good;
  2. We need to become more agile and team up strategically with trusted partners; and
  3. Challenges bring with them opportunities that we can grasp, if we maintain unity and a spirit of cooperation.

I am thus pleased to see that tackling these challenges, strengthening cooperation and supporting agile and innovative solutions are also key questions at this event.

***

As a multi-level regulatory environment, the EU sees continuous interaction and integration of regulatory policies and practices across jurisdictions from different Member States.

The recent examples of how we reacted to the war in Ukraine and our response to the Covid-19 pandemic have shown the speed and extent of what we can achieve if we act together.

I think this can also be a source of inspiration for increasing international cooperation more generally.

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It is perhaps worth restating at this point that better regulation matters a great deal in times of great change such as these.

The question we must ask ourselves is whether our better regulation policy tools – such as impact assessments, evaluations and stakeholder consultations – have become too slow, burdensome or outdated.

In a world where “fake news” is gaining ever more traction, correct and precise fact and figures no longer seem to have the same resonance.

Personally, I am convinced that our better regulation tools have become more necessary than ever before.

First, better regulation not only ensures the necessary expertise for policy-making, such as through evaluations based on sound evidence.

It also brings all the relevant actors into the policy-making process through stakeholder consultations. Continuous dialogue with consumers, producers, NGOs, international organisations, research and academia is indispensable. Such systematic involvement of key stakeholders increases transparency and engagement. This can help boost trust in public authorities.

Yet, we have for far too long ignored or downplayed the danger of disinformation.  In a world with fake news, this trust, and the timeliness and quality of our evidence base, remains extremely important.

It might thus be wise to also discuss how we can use big data and Artificial Intelligence with a human-centred approach to support our better regulation tools.

Second, evidence-base policy-making is a crucial building block for tackling the complex societal challenges we are currently facing.

Take climate change. Scientific evidence and methods are required as a starting point for developing sound solutions. Without looking at hard facts and the modelling of impacts and applying sound methods, it is simply not possible to propose a credible climate policy. And the impact of climate change does not stop at geographic or sectoral borders.

Third, better regulation can make a crucial contribution to delivering policies at the lowest possible cost for society. Initiatives for burden reduction and simplification are important for Europeans and European businesses, especially at a time of soaring inflation.

In order to fully realise the benefits of the ambitious policy goals we have set ourselves for the green and digital transition, important changes in behaviour from all societal actors are required.

We need to consider the full impacts of our proposals, the synergies we can create and the minimisation of burdens.

Here I would like to flag three initiatives:

Our 2022 Strategic Foresight Report, to be published tomorrow, will look at reinforcing synergies resulting from the twinning of the green and digital transitions.

And let me highlight that we have mainstreamed strategic foresight into our policy-making. By anticipating tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities and taking on board emerging megatrends, we can ensure that our EU policies are fit for the future.

We have also introduced the one-in one-out approach, which will offset new burdens resulting from the Commission’s legislative proposals by reducing existing burdens in the same policy area. This is key to keeping the overall costs of policies under control.

Our upcoming Annual Burden Survey will lay out our first experiences of one-in, one-out during the pilot phase in 2021. What we can observe already is that its introduction required intensive efforts to adjust our working methods and placed a new focus on the quantification of costs.

I should also mention the important role that our Regulatory Scrutiny Board plays in giving feedback on the quality and coherence of the impact assessments and evaluations we carry out as well as on whether proportionality and subsidiarity are respected.

So it is clear to me that better regulation is not outdated, but rather, it is more needed than ever before.

*

Yet, we need to make sure that our better regulation tools and policies remain fit for purpose and are adapted to the ever-increasing speed of policymaking. In this context, the adoption of the OECD Recommendation on Agile Regulatory Governance to Harness Innovation in October 2021 should help governments develop agile and resilient regulatory approaches to stimulate innovation.

Within the Commission, we have been updating our better regulation tools, including our so-called “guidelines and toolbox” in November of last year.

The toolbox comprises of 69 different tools, with a number specifically relevant to the implementation of the OECD recommendation, like our “research and innovation tool” and the “digital-ready policy-making tool”.

The application of the “digital by default” and “do no significant harm” principles further ensures that we will thoroughly consider the digital and green dimensions in our impact assessments, evaluations and consultations.

*

This afternoon, I am glad to welcome the launch of the publication of the 2022 report on “Better Regulation Practices across the European Union”.

I would like to thank the OECD for having prepared the report.   I would additionally like to thank Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Malta and Romania. While not yet members of the OECD, they have provided valuable input to complete the existing OECD database.

This important exercise has allowed us to obtain a full and complete picture of the regulatory policies of the Commission and EU Member States. Later, our OECD colleagues will provide a detailed overview of the key findings of the report.

But it is already possible to draw one major overarching lesson: Better regulation can only be successful when all actors involved work closely together.

And this requires closer cooperation:

  • between EU Member States,
  • between authorities and stakeholders,
  • between the Commission and EU Member States,
  • between the Commission, Council and Parliament,
  • and at global level.

Let me briefly explain how I believe better regulation should be a “collaborative exercise”:

First, there is a clear need for enhanced cooperation and the exchange of best practices.

Some Member States make a comparative analysis of how others implement legislation in order to learn from this in the best and most efficient way. This is the case for the Danish implementation council and we need more such examples.

The Commission is also supporting this exchange in relevant fora, such as the “Fit for Future” Platform, which is our high-level expert group tasked to help us simplify and cut unnecessary burdens of existing laws.

Second, and as mentioned earlier, there is a need for continuous and systematic interaction with the full range of stakeholders to ensure transparency and trust in our policies.

Third, we would all benefit from using each other’s regulatory policy instruments more intensively.

For example, the OECD has ranked the Commission’s stakeholder consultations and evaluations as top of the class. Yet, our results are not fully utilised by Member States in Council negotiations and in the preparation of the transposition of EU law.

We would thus like to ask for your support to improve our outreach.

Fourth, as I have stressed on many occasions, better law-making is a shared endeavour. It should not just be a common objective but also a common effort.

We therefore welcome the increasing awareness that significant amendments to proposals introduced later in the process by the co-legislators should also be subject to an assessment of the additional costs and impacts for key stakeholders.

As outlined in our most recent Communication on Better regulation, we need to join forces to make better laws that are clear, readable and understandable.

Finally, increasingly intense cooperation at the global level is indispensable to tackle the common global challenges we are facing.

I would therefore also like to welcome the recent adoption of the OECD recommendation on “International Regulatory Cooperation to Tackle Global Challenges”. We very much appreciate the OECD’s work in this area and hope that the EU’s experience can provide inspiration for others.

*

Ladies and gentlemen,

Successfully tackling today’s challenges requires a new generation of better regulation:

  • one that transparently strives for robust evidence-based engagement with stakeholders,
  • one that supports agile and innovative solutions, and
  • one that has collaborative efforts at all levels at its heart.

To succeed, the barriers to more cooperation in the different areas will have to be overcome. But together, we can deliver the benefits of such a new generation of better regulation for our citizens and businesses, especially our SMEs.

In this spirit, I would like to invite you all to engage in a collaborative dialogue during the event and to bring your ideas and experience to the table.

Thank you for your attention. I wish you all a very good conference.

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