Skip to main content

A balanced appraisal? Impact Assessment of European Commission proposals

Susan Owens

elni Review 2007, Issue 1,  pp. 2-8. https://doi.org/10.46850/elni.2007.001

Decision makers need to be informed about the likely consequences of projects, plans, policies and regulations. This principle has been embodied for many years in procedures like environmental impact assessment and risk assessment. More recently, theory and practice in the field of impact assessment have been influenced by three important trends (the need for a more strategic approach, ‘better regulation’ and more integrated forms of assessment), all of which are evident within (though not restricted to) the European Union. As these developments gain momentum, it is an opportune moment to reflect upon the purpose, practice and effectiveness of impact assessment. We have much to learn from the substantial achievements of well-established procedures such as EIA. But as new approaches, methodologies and guidelines proliferate we may be in danger of losing touch with the fundamentals. How, for example, should we conceptualise the role of impact assessment in policy- and decision-making? 
Questions like this one are relevant for assessment at all levels of governance, but they are explored here primarily with reference to integrated impact assessments of European Commission proposals (henceforth referred to as ‘IA’). 
The paper sets out the policy background to this system, and considers the guidelines developed by the Commission for the conduct of such assessments. The paper then turns to experience with IA to date, particularly in relation to the questions identified above. It also proposes a set of principles, which should form a basis for impact assessment if it is to fulfil its role as an element of good governance.

Access full article

References

  1. Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) (2004). Sustainable Development in the European Commission’s Integrated Impact Assessments for 2003: Final Report, London, IEEP.
  2. European Commission (2001). Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Assessment of the Effects of Certain Plans and Programmes on the Environment, Luxembourg, 27 June 2001, (PE-CONS 3619/3/01 REV 3).
  3. Radaelli, C. M. (2005). Diffusion without convergence: how political context shapes the adoption of regulatory impact assessment, Journal of European Public Policy 12 (5) 924-943. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13501760500161621.
  4. CEC (2002). Communication from the Commission on Impact Assessment, 276 final, Brussels, 5th June.
  5. Owens, S., Rayner, T. and Bina, O. (2004). New agendas for appraisal: reflections on theory, practice and research. Environment and Planning A 36, 11, 1943-1959. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1068%2Fa36281.
  6. EEAC (2003) European Governance for the Environment, First EEAC Statement on Governance, EEAC October.
  7. Owens, S. and Cowell, R. (2002). Land and Limits: Interpreting Sustainability in the Planning Process, Routledge: London.
  8. CEC (2002) Impact Assessment in the Commission: Internal Guidelines on the New Impact Assessment Procedure developed for the Commission Services.
  9. CEC, A Handbook for Impact Assessment in the Commission – How to do an Impact Assessment, Brussels.
  10. Presidency Conclusions, Gothenburg European Council, 15-16 June 2001, no. 24.
  11. Commission of the European Communities, Communication from the Comission, 2002, Action plan: ‘Simplifying and improving the regulatory environment’, COM(2002) 278.
  12. Commission of the European Communities, Communication from the Commission on Impact Assessment, COM(2002) 276 final.
  13. CEC (2004) Impact Assessment: Next Steps, Commission Staff Working Paper SEC (2004) 1377, 21st October.
  14. European Commission (2005). Impact Assessment Guidelines. SEC(2005) 791, from 15.6.2005. with Annexes.
  15. CEC (2001) A Sustainable Europe for a Better World: a European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development, Commission’s Proposal to the Gothenburg Council, COM (2001) 264 final, 15th May.
  16. Russel, D. and Jordan, A. (2007) ‘Gearing up governance for sustainable development: patterns of policy appraisal in UK Central Government’, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 50 (1) 1-21. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09640560601048267.
  17. UK National Audit Office (2006) Regulatory Impact Assessments and Sustainable Development, Briefing for the Environmental Audit Committee, 22 May.
  18. House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (2007) Regulatory Impact Assessments and Policy Appraisal, Third Report of Session 2006-07, HC 353: London, The Stationery Office.
  19. CEC (2005) Commission Staff Working Paper, Impact Assessment of Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution.
  20. Commission of the European Communities, 2005, Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe, COM(2005) 447 final.
  21. Wurzel, R. K. W. (2002). Environmental policy-making in Britain, Germany and the European Union. Manchester. Manchester University Press.
  22. Jordan, A., Wurzel, R. K. W., Zito, A. R. (Hrsg.) (2003a): “New” Instruments of Environmental Governance? National Experiences and Prospects, London: Frank Cass. Environmental Politics, Special Issue 12 (1) 1-24.
  23. Regulation (EC) no 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), establishing a European Chemicals Agency, amending Directive 1999/45/EC and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 793/93 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 1488/94 as well as Council Directive 76/769/EEC and Commission Directives 91/155/EEC, 93/67/EEC, 93/105/EC and 2000/21/EC, OJ 2006 L 396/1.
  24. Hey, C., Jacob, K., Volkery, A. (2006) ‘Better regulation by new governance hybrids? Governance models and the reform of European chemicals policy, Journal of Cleaner Production. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2006.11.001.
  25. Hey, C. (2000): Zukunftsfähigkeit und Komplexität: institutionelle Innovationen in der Europäischen Union. In: von Prittwitz, V.: Institutionelle Arrangement in der Umweltpolitik, Zukunftsfähigkeit durch innvoatve Verfahrenskombinationen? Opladen: Leske+Budrich, p. 85. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-663-10367-7_4.
  26. Owens, S. and Cowell, R. (2002) Land and Limits: Interpreting Sustainability in the Planning Process, London: Routledge, chapter 4.
  27. Jacob, K., Volkery, A. (2005). Europäische Rechtsetzung: Die Auseinandersetzungen zur Europäischen Chemikalienpolitik REACH und die Rolle nationaler Regierungen und Akteure im Policy-Prozess. Technikfolgenabschätzung - Theorie und Praxis 14 (1), S. 69-77. DOI: https://doi.org/10.14512/tatup.14.1.69.
  28. CEC (2001) Strategy for a Future Chemicals Policy, COM (2001) 88 final, Brussels, 27th February.
  29. Witmond, Bart et al. (2004). The impact of REACH. Overview of 36 studies on the impact of the new EU chemicals policy (REACH) on society and business. Studie für den Workshop “REACH Impact Assessment”, 25.-27. Oktober 2004, Den Haag, Niederlande.
  30. Risk & Policy Analysis, Statistics Sweden (2002) Assessment of the Business Impact of the New Regulations in the Chemicals Sector. Final Report prepared for European Commission Enterprise Directorate. London: RPA.
  31. SRU (2003). Zur Wirtschaftsverträglichkeit der Reform der Europäischen Chemikalienpolitik. Berlin.
  32. KPMG Business Advisory Services (2005): REACH – further work on impact assessment. A case study approach. Executive Summary.
  33. European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and World Wide Fund DetoX Campaign (2005). Assessing EU Environmental Policy Impacts. A Critical Evaluation of Impact Assessments carried out for Europe’s chemical policy reform. Brussels: EEB.
  34. Sabatier, P A. (1987) 'Knowledge, policy-oriented learning and policy change: an advocacy coalition framework', Knowledge: Creation, Diffusion, Utilisation, 8 (4) 649-692. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0164025987008004005.
  35. Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and the Council on Services in the Single Market, OJ 2006 L376/36.
  36. CEC (2004) Extended Impact Assessment of proposal for a Directive on Services in the Internal Market (COM [2004] 2 final), Commission Staff Working Paper, SEC (2004) 21, Brussels, 13th January.
  37. CEC (2005) Biomass Action Plan, Communication from the Commission COM (2005) 628 final Brussels, 7th December, SEC (2005) 1573.
  38. European Commission, 2006, Communication from the Commission. An EU Strategy for Biofuels, COM(2006) 34 final.
  39. European Environment Agency (EEA) (2005): How much biomass can Europe use without harming the environment? Copenhagen. EEABriefing 02/2005.
  40. SRU (Rat von Sachverständigen für Umweltfragen) (2005): Umwelt und Straßenverkehr. Hohe Mobilität - Umweltverträglicher Verkehr. Sondergutachten. Baden-Baden: Nomos. Tz. 355 m.w.N.
  41. EEAC Working Group on Governance (2006) Impact Assessment of European Commission Policies: Achievements and Prospects, Statement (May 06) and Background paper (April 06).