In this report, CONCORD examines the impact assessments that accompanied proposals issued by Directorates-General of the European Commission in 2016, singling out four cases in which there was an adequate, an inadequate or no impact assessment, exploring them in greater depth in an attempt to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the Commission’s current approach to impact assessments and propose recommendations for the future.

Vice-President Timmermans on a mission

At the start of his term in office, President Juncker asked First-Vice President Timmermans to help him ensure the Commission abides by the highest professional and ethical standards and leads the way as a modern, efficient and transparent public administration, open to all input that helps deliver work of a consistently high quality, in full independence and impartiality. Charged with the Better Regulation agenda, he needed to ensure the quality of impact assessments underpinning Commission activities. By addressing negative and promoting positive impacts of non-development policies on developing countries, the EU lives up to its Treaty obligation. It would also make proposals more coherent with the principles of sustainable development, another responsibility of Vice-President Timmermans. Three years later, did he manage to meet these expectations?

But victory is not yet within reach

Well, we are not there yet. In 2016, 24% of the proposals relevant to developing countries were accompanied by an impact assessment that looked in sufficient depth into the impacts on those countries. This score is better than in previous years, but is still far too low. The Regulatory Scrutiny Board afterwards should systematically examine whether or not impact assessments have adequately taken impacts on developing countries into account. But they only considered this in 10% of the cases where they could have done so. Our qualitative assessment shows that impact assessments can be improved by better balancing the economic, social, environmental and governance impacts of proposals, by taking into account the impacts on developing countries from the outset, by ensuring that they are underpinned by high-quality research, by weighing the different policy options carefully and by looking at power imbalances when considering the different interests at play.

The below Special edition of the Snakes and Ladders game reveals which strengths and weaknesses determine the successful completion of the impact assessment path.