Better Law Making Comes to REACH

Every so often you get a call that makes you praise the day and thank that common sense is sometimes listened to inside the Commission.

Today was one of those days.

Someone very high up in the Commission has forced the Commission Services to change their position on REACH and Better Regulation.

Substance bans in the EU introduced by REACH are by way of delegated legislation. After a substance has gone through the ECHA process there is, if nominated for a substance ban or restriction, very little you as a user or producer can do. For a long time, the Commission Services dealing with REACH have resisted REACH being brought under the Better Regulation rules.

It seems after reading this public consultation – here – and the 4 week review –  the days of rubber stamped bans are gone.

The  public consultation documents are well reading. The Commission mentions that they have socio-economic impact assessments for the bans they  want  introduced. I wonder if people impacted by the ban will put forward a FoI request for the assessment.

Many people may not like the more political and less technical Commission of today. But, sometimes it takes the political grown ups to step in, ignore the bureaucratic and political inertia, and force the sunlight of open law making to shine in. When they do, delegated laws that ignore common sense, like the withdrawn roaming charge rules, are snatched back.  This new ethos will force Cabinets to take control of even delegated legislation, and help them make sure the bans they intend to introduce do not have deeply harming unintended (or intended) impacts.


How to Measure Success for a lobbyist

I am coming up to 20 years working on influencing EU legislation.

I have sat around the legislative table from many sides. I have watched the process of law making from the EP, Commission, lobbyist for NGOs and for industry, and as an academic. The UK leaving the EU means the chances of seeing things from the Member State side is fading fast.

Did it all make a difference?

A simple question keeps coming up. “How can you measure if you have influenced the law being adopted”. Here things the answers get foggy. A lot of people talk about amendments tabled as a good indicator of success. It is certainly a good measure of how busy you have been, but I am not sure it is a reliable indicator of success or influence. For really reasons never really clear to me, some talk about mentions in the press and even the amount of tweets issued/re-tweeted.


A simple and accurate tracking system

So, coming up to 20 years in sunny Brussels, I return to my gut instinct. There is a very simple. Did your preferred outcome get adopted in the final Directive/Regulation.  It is a simple “measure of success.” It is also an accurate measure.

It has a simple benefit for any donor or interest.  You can track if your investments are working by tracking the follow:
  1.  inclusion in the Commission’s proposal (particularly important for comitology votes),
  2. adoption by the EP,
  3.  adoption by the Council, and
  4. inclusion in the final law.
You can make it all very simple and just see if your preferred option is included in the final law (option 4). After all, nothing much else matters.
Other measures, like the tabling of amendments, and to be honest, options 1, 2 and 3, are just steps in the way to step 4.
Don’t use this measure – even if it should be the only important thing
Philanthropists may want to add a measure of seeing the law implemented and the desired outcome of the law come into effect. Did fish stocks recover, did air pollution decline, or did death rates decline.
For the policy entrepreneur this is alluring but very dangerous. Don’t have a success fee based on this. Why? The EU has such a poor record on the adoption and implementation of much of our environmental and conservation law, and certainly its fisheries conservation laws, making the jump from “good laws in place” to “good outcomes in practice” is  a very big jump. To be held to account from getting the right laws in place – which is hard enough – to seeing them be implemented and deliver on their policy intentions, is (sadly) too much. Having your renumeration tied to that, shows you are made of sterner stuff.
How you can track
 Fortunately, this is all quite easy to track today. Vote Watch Europe let’s you track how much support your issue is  getting. You can see how many votes you get in the full Parliament. Votes in the Committee and Council are often harder to track. You can see if your desired policy outcome is adopted when the final draft law is published in the Official Journal. That is the final measure of success.