The RSB is a semi-independent advisory body of the EC composed of three full time external experts, three internal members, and chaired by a Commission director-general. It provides central quality control and support for Commission impact assessments and evaluations. Under the latest Commission’s Better Regulation agenda, the activity of the Board has been extended to strategic foresight and the one-in-one-out approach.
The RSB publishes an annual report presenting what the Board has done to deliver on its mission. The same report reflects on current trends and practices in better regulation policy.
The sixth year of operation of the RSB is described as the busiest ever. Indeed, the Board managed to scrutinise 98 impact assessments and evaluations: an 81% increase from the previous year's workload.
Compared to 2020, the report is more concise. It only focuses on the historically crucial topics of the document, i.e., board activity in the previous year (chapter 1) and impact assessments and evaluations trends and challenges (chapter 2).
In the first chapter, the Board reminds us of its role in the Commission and the nature of its tasks: not questioning the political objectives presented in impact assessments, but considering the quality of evidence, analysis and the logic of the drafted interventions. Besides, it focuses on the RSB procedures and tools (pp. 4-6).
The same chapter mentions the increase in workload and scrutiny and new nominations on the Board (pp. 6-9). The key theme highlighted by the Board is the need for coherence between often overlapping initiatives from different Commission departments (p. 10).
In the second chapter, the goal of “coherence” is recognized as one of the relevant goals of the Better Regulation agenda, and the Board is a key actor in this. To be added to the other performance standards, such as effectiveness, efficiency, and proportionality.
The aim is to reduce regulatory duplications. Indeed, it is highlighted as similar issues might be present at different levels and a risk in interlinked packages of initiatives or comprehensive fitness check evaluations (e.g., the case of the ‘Fit for 55’ climate policy package – pp. 13-14).
Besides the coherence matter, the RSB focuses on the proportionality principle. Indeed, it is stressed as all impact assessments (IAs) should include a proportional analysis of the nature and magnitude of the expected impacts and the type of initiative.
The issues of coherence and proportionality do also appear to be linked. In particular, the Board noted that some cases did not present coherent arguments for the scope of the initiatives. Indeed, there was a need for a more critical proportionality reflection and better justification of the preferred option compared to the other ones (p. 15-16).
In the same chapter, the board analyses the critical trends.
On impact assessments, it is highlighted as the quality improved compared to 2020, potentially because of less time pressure. However, the definition of the options was the weakest point, also by failing to integrate the main policy choices that needed to be discussed in light of the given impact assessment (p. 17). Moreover, the clarity improved, but a critical trend is the lack of using the results of the consultations. The latter has interesting remarks on their quality in almost 60 % of the first opinions (p. 18).
The “one-in-one-out” approach is not analyzed nor mentioned in the report. That is probably since the pilot phase was only introduced in the second half of 2021. On evaluations, the Board found that the “evaluation first” principle declined to 72 % in 2021; however, the quality improved: only 205 received negative opinions (mainly regarding evaluations’ design elements) – pp. 23-26.
As per the conclusion, the report summarizes the findings and anticipates as 2022 will probably be an even busier year for the Board’s workload (pp. 28 - end).
The table of contents is as follows:
FOREWORD BY THE CHAIR
CHAPTER 1. ACTIVITIES OF THE BOARD
1.1. How the Board performed in 2021
1.2. Big surge in scrutiny work
1.3. Advice on better regulation policy and guidance
1.4. Internal and External outreach
CHAPTER 2. IMPACT ASSESSMENTS AND EVALUATIONS: TRENDS AND CHALLENGES
2.1 Special feature: Coherence
2.2. Special feature: Proportionality
2.3. Trends: impact assessments
2.4. Trends: Evaluations
CONCLUSIONS AND RSB TEAM
3.2. RSB Team
ANNEX: IMPACT ASSESSMENTS AND EVALUATIONS 2021
4.1. Impact assessments