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Evaluating Integrated Impact Assessments

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Toward EU policies with greater positive impact

Impact assessment (IA), often referred to as regulatory impact assessment (RIA), is a method of analysing the potential impacts of policies before their adoption. EU researchers tackled the problem of integrating IA procedures across EU Member States with the goal of improving the quality of policy outcomes as measured by cost, benefits and sustainability.

Climate Change and Environment

IA typically involves identifying a problem and the policy measures required to solve it, assessing possible effects of policy measures and providing options to efficiently achieve policy objectives. The organs carrying out IAs differ among countries and institutions. In addition, while some countries in the EU have extended impact analyses to include issues such as environmental concerns and sustainability, central quality control is often lacking. Furthermore, an inherent weakness in the process is a division of labour whereby the assessment is completed and results passed on to politicians who conduct the political bargaining to develop the policies themselves. It is not possible to provide a comprehensive tool integrating policy assessment among all Member States, nor is it desirable. It is important that Member States pursue different IA objectives and procedures appropriate to their national goals and internal processes. However, the ‘Evaluating integrated impact assessments’ (EVIA) project set out to improve the overall quality of the policymaking process by moving IA to higher levels of rule-making bodies, introducing central quality control and taking care to improve administrative efficiency by integrating IA and making available general information on cost effectiveness and potential benefits. Project partners intended to publish EVIA results in the ‘Handbook of impact assessment’, providing conceptual foundations and empirical evidence related to research on IA procedures and practices among EU Member States. The handbook is not meant to provide assessment-specific directives, but rather act as a reference for those designing IA procedures. Implementation of an integrated approach should break the barrier between IA and the politicians who rely on the studies, enabling use of the IA throughout the entire cycle of policy development. In conclusion, EVIA project outcomes should facilitate interdepartmental coordination revealing conflict of objectives and identification of win-win solutions for the EU, with consideration of costs and benefits of policies not only from a technical perspective but as related to sustainability as well.

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Climate Change and Environment

18 September 2005