Article by Denis Meynent, rapporteur of opinion on a «A future proof legislation»
The Slovak Presidency has asked the EESC to give its opinion on a "future proof legislation" that promotes better regulation while at the same time improving the competitiveness of European economy. Three important questions emerge from the request addressed to the EESC:
- How can a proper balance be maintained between adaptability to scientific and technological progress on the one hand, and predictability and legal certainty on the other?
- How can regulatory costs be minimised while respecting the Treaty's objectives?
- How can the institutional framework evolve to guarantee a future proof legislation?
This new concept of a "future proof legislation" is linked to other initiatives that aim to improve legislation, in particular the "better regulation" action and the REFIT programme on which the EESC recently expressed its opinion.
European legislation is an essential factor in integration, not a burden or cost to be reduced. When proportionate it is an important guarantee of protection, promotion and legal certainty for all European stakeholders and citizens.
The EESC acknowledges that in the current international context where the EU and its Member States are faced with constant developments in the scientific, technical and technological field, regulation must be future proof, i.e. able to adapt to circumstances and to deal with the changes that these developments bring to EU legislation. In this framework, the "innovation principle", which entails taking into account the impact on research and innovation in the process of developing and reviewing regulation, can be useful when preparing a legislative initiative but must be used carefully, particularly with regard to employment, social protection, the environment and consumer protection.
Regulations are also necessary if the political objectives of the treaties are to be met. The European Union is a social market economy and some rules therefore entail costs for businesses, such as in the field of health and safety at work. Social peace in Europe is safeguarded by striking a balance between economic and social objectives. Future proof legislation must respect this balance and promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, as well as solidarity among Member States.
The EESC supports and emphasises the need to strengthen the legitimacy of European legislation through better regulation, but it stresses that understanding what is future proof must not lead to a depoliticisation of the legislative process. It believes that all legislation must be the outcome of political discussions. In this regard, the major role of civil society and the social partners within the social dialogue must be taken into account.
European legislation is future proof if it is proactive, provides legal clarity and certainty, and if citizens see it as legitimate. It must be founded in representation, consensus and participation and be able to bring outcomes or solutions to collective problems.
The EESC believes that the European legislative process should be reviewed within the framework of the Treaty of Lisbon and, if necessary, as part of a new treaty. It is indeed precisely this aspect of future proof legislation that the EESC wishes to highlight, namely its quality, legitimacy, transparency and inclusiveness.
The EESC notes that it is not only the content of legislation but the legislative process itself that must be future proof, so as to meet the needs of citizens. In other words, it boils down to the question of democracy at European level. This is why the EESC is making several forward looking proposals for future proof legislation that are to be found in part 3 of the opinion.