Anna-Lena Bohm, chair of the Swedish Better Regulation Council, summarizes the activities of RegWatchEurope in 2023.
RegWatchEurope (RWE) has an annual rotating chairmanship and it has been decided that, to the extent possible, the RWE chairmanship should coincide with the EU equivalent. As Sweden chaired the Council of Ministers for the first half of 2023, the Swedish Better Regulation Council was therefore chair of RWE for the entire year. It has been an eventful year and I am pleased to notice that better regulation issues have been put high on the political agenda.
Meetings with EU institutions
In May, I led the delegation that met with the vice president of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, and members of his cabinet to discuss current issues of the EU legislative process, including political commitments on a growth-enhancing regulatory framework and regulatory burdens for companies.
I, and other representatives from RWE, also participated in two scrutiny conferences organized by the Regulatory Scrutiny Board (RSB) of the European Commission. The first was based on the findings in the RSB annual report for 2022, which focused on cost-benefit analysis, which RSB often deems deficient in the Commission’s impact assessments. The second conference raised challenges in the scrutiny of assessments of impacts on consumers and competitiveness respectively.
I also participated in a panel at a major conference on better regulation, “Regulating Regulatory Decision-making”, which was organized within the framework of the official Swedish EU Presidency programme.
Seminars on innovation, ex post evaluation and EU legislation
We have conducted several seminars during the year. Surveys, carried out by e.g. the OECD, show that many countries, for various reasons, not least political, lack processes for systematic evaluation of existing legislation. Ex post evaluation was the theme for the first of five seminars organized by RWE in 2023. Among the conclusions can be mentioned the need for a stronger connection between impact assessment ex ante and evaluation ex post, as well as the importance of oversight bodies to ensure high quality.
An innovation-promoting framework for strengthened competitiveness, growth and welfare has become an increasingly important political goal. Rules should promote, or at least not hinder, innovation. The legislative process, on the other hand, is affected by rapid technological – and legislative– innovation, where experimental legislation and regulatory sandboxes are increasingly referred to.
But what do we mean by innovation? By innovation-friendly legislation? By experimental legislation? And how do we assess and scrutinize the impact of regulations on innovation, and vice versa? RWE organized two seminars on the theme of innovation and regulatory policy to probe deeper into these issues.
The fourth seminar dealt with scrutiny, implementation and evaluation of EU legislation. The various mandates and practices of the RWE bodies in different stages of the legislative process were highlighted. RWE has also initiated a joint project which focuses on a specific legal act, the EU data protection regulation (GDPR) and at the workshop detailed arrangements for the implementation of that project were discussed.
At the fifth and last seminar in 2023, the different mandates and practices of regulatory impact assessment support to regulators in different countries were discussed.
In addition to representatives from the RWE bodies, representatives from other countries’ oversight functions, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the OECD also participated in the majority of conferences.
During the year, RWE adopted a joint opinion on the Commission Communication on EU long term Competitiveness. The opinion focuses on the section on how to achieve a better regulatory framework and concerns reflections on the competitiveness check, methodology for assessing cumulative impacts, the principle of “one in, one out”, reduced reporting obligations, evaluation clauses, implementation of EU legislation in Member States as well as key indicators to measure how objectives have been achieved.
RWE also adopted a joint opinion on the Commission Annual Burden Survey 2022 in which we stress the importance of continuing the efforts of reducing regulatory burdens and to include all compliance costs in the “one in, one out” principle.
Plans for 2024
During 2023, all board and secretariat meetings were held in Stockholm. Next year, when I hand over the gavel to my Dutch colleague and chair of the Advisory Board on Regulatory Burden, ATR, Marijke van Hees, these will be held in The Netherlands. My colleagues and I look forward to continuing the good cooperation in RegWatchEurope, which at its last board meeting on 12 December adopted an ambitious work program for 2024.
Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
— Anna-Lena Bohm, chair of the Swedish Better Regulation Council and RegWatchEurope 2023