Refit measures will make sure EU rules bring concrete benefits

EU laws must be aimed at improving the lives of citizens and businesses, says Frans Timmermans.

By Frans Timmermans

07 May 2015

The new European commission is determined to change not only what the EU does, but how it does it. Citizens and businesses, in their day-to-day lives, need to see that we are there to serve their interests and offer solutions to issues that governments are unable to handle alone. 

We must restore their confidence in our ability to deliver and the better regulation agenda is key to that. Better regulation does not aim to deregulate; rather it's about delivering our policy objectives in the most efficient way possible.

This month, the commission will present its new better regulation package, with a set of measures for delivering better rules for better results.


We in the college must constantly scrutinise ourselves and never hesitate to be self-critical. Before putting forward a new proposal, we must ask ourselves questions such as, 'Is this legislation really needed at European level?', 'Will this make a significant contribution to creating jobs and fostering a sustainable economy?' or, 'Will we create more or fewer burdens for small business?'

We will continue as we have begun with our work programme for 2015, focusing on the things that really need to be done through the EU and making sure they are done well.

Applying the principles of better regulation will ensure that measures are well designed and deliver tangible benefits for citizens, business and wider society. A new regulatory scrutiny board, which will include members from outside the commission, will help us get it right by closely examining our impact assessments as well as performing major retrospective analyses.

But the commission is just one part of the institutional triangle, and we must work together with parliament and council to achieve our shared goals of a better law-making system.

That is why we will propose an interinstitutional agreement on precisely this topic. I have had very fruitful conversations with parliament's conference of presidents and with the general affairs council. I see great interest in this ongoing work from all three institutions and I'm very optimistic that we can reach a positive outcome. 

One of the important things we must decide on is how to improve impact assessment s in the legislative process. As I've said to MEPs and stakeholders, it sometimes feels like the commission is trying to design a horse, but by the end of the legislative process it ends up with something that looks more like a camel.

Of course, it is up to the council and parliament to amend legislative proposals.

However, I want to ensure that any major amendments that are being made to legislative texts are properly assessed, so that we can be satisfied that the EU institutions have reached a well-informed decision.

We must also listen more - the commission wants citizens, businesses and civil society across Europe to provide feedback on any aspect of EU law, at any time. We want to know how EU law affects them, and how we can make it work better.

They are the ones who live with our laws, and they are the ones who can tell us where our rules fall short, and I hope also where we do well. With this in mind, we will propose new ways to improve stakeholders' ability to give us their input.

Finally, it is essential that every single measure in the EU's rulebook is fit for purpose - modern, effective, proportionate, operational and as simple as possible. EU policies should be reviewed regularly: we should be honest and accountable about whether we are meeting our policy objectives - about what has worked well and what needs to change.

Our regulatory fitness programme (Refit) has the potential to be a prominent political tool. All commissioners see the importance of reviewing our existing legislative stock, and I hope this opportunity to improve our laws will attract as much political attention from outside the commission as does the introduction of new laws.

Politicians have a natural tendency to focus on new initiatives. However, citizens judge the EU not just on its new political initiatives, but also on whether existing laws are delivering their expected benefits on the ground.