Definitions, Concepts and Examples

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Key definitions in the 2003 Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-making

Self-regulation and co-regulation share the common objective of simplifying legislative texts in order to free up legislative channels. The resulting measures are not legislative mechanisms but agreements between operators and organised civil society.

Self-Regulation

The 2003 Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-making defines self-regulation as "the possibility for economic operators, the social partners, non-governmental organisations or associations to adopt amongst themselves and for themselves common guidelines at European level (particularly codes of practice or sectoral agreements)".

Thus, when socio-occupational sectors are faced with specific situations on the ground not covered by a Community law solution, they can regulate themselves.
As in the case of contracts, the solution concerns only the signatory parties: an inter partes self-regulation measure. The Commission may use these agreements as the basis for a proposal to other institutions to confer general application upon these agreements within the EU through a vote on the proposal.

Co-Regulation

The 2003 Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-making defines co-regulation as "the mechanism whereby a Community legislative act entrusts the attainment of the objectives defined by the legislative authority to parties which are recognised in the field (such as economic operators, the social partners, non-governmental organisations, or associations)".

In order to simplify Community documents and free up legislative channels, Community institutions can restrict themselves to the basic requirements of a rule. As partners who share responsibility, the interested parties in the field contribute to fulfilling objectives, and refining the details of Community texts.
Their contribution goes beyond mere consultation. Nevertheless, agreements between recognised interested parties have an inter partes (between signatory parties) and not an erga omnes (general application) character.

Complementary concepts

  • According to the 2002 Report from the Commission on European Governance, self-regulation "does not involve a legislative act".
  • According to the EESC opinion on Simplification (OJ C 48, 21.02.2002, p. 130), Self-regulation "does not equate to self-enforcement; it must be in conformity with, and backed by, the law; it must be founded in a community of interest between Business and the Public".
  • According to the 2001 White Paper on European Governance "Co-regulation implies that a framework of overall objectives, basic rights, enforcement and appeal mechanisms, and conditions for monitoring compliance is set in the legislation. It should only be used where it clearly adds value and serves the general interest. It is only suited to cases where fundamental rights or major political choices are not called into question. It should not be used in situations where rules need to apply in a uniform way in every Member State".
  • According to the 2002 Report from the Commission on European Governance, co-regulation "makes it possible to implement the objectives defined by the legislator through measures carried out by active and recognised parties in the field concerned".
  • According to the EESC opinion on Simplification "Co-regulation combines the elements of legislation, more especially in its predictable and binding nature, with the more flexible regime of self-regulation. It implies taking self-regulation one step further in a cooperative approach to governance. Rather than mere co-existence of self-regulation and regulation, it involves the sharing of responsibilities between public and private partners".

Illustrations

Self-regulation in the advertising sector

On 25 June 2004, representatives from the advertising industry met to sign the Self-Regulation Charter, which formalised the advertising industry's commitment to developing self-regulation in the sector across Europe.

For further information see the Web site of European Advertising Standards Alliance.

Self-regulation and co-regulation