Better Regulation: Commission sets out way forward to strengthen subsidiarity and proportionality in EU policy-making

Source: European Commission (EC) i, published on Tuesday, October 23 2018.


With the European elections approaching and in the context of the future of Europe debate, the European Commission has today set out the changes it intends to introduce to the EU policymaking process in order to focus its limited resources on a smaller number of activities and deliver on its political priorities more efficiently. Today's Communication on how to strengthen the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity in EU decision-making also seeks to address the recommendations of the 'Task Force on subsidiarity, proportionality and doing less, more efficiently'.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "I welcome the Task Force's conclusion that the EU adds value in all areas where it currently acts. At some point, however, we will have to confront the fact that we cannot continue to do more to tackle growing challenges with the resources currently available. In the future, the Commission will have to prioritise its activities and resources even more."

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for Better Regulation and Chair of the Task Force, added: "We have done a lot to create a world-class system for making better regulation. But we can still improve. The Task Force has initiated important changes within the Commission and we are embedding these in our institutional DNA. However, the Commission is not the only player in the policymaking process. We need everybody to take their own responsibilities, starting at the conference organised by the Austrian EU Presidency next month in Bregenz."

The Commission is today setting out how the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality will guide our future work and how we can further strengthen their role in EU policy-making. The Commission will, for example, integrate the 'subsidiarity grid' proposed by the Task Force into all its Impact Assessments and explanatory memoranda; the grid is a tool to guide the analysis of subsidiarity and proportionality in a structured way. We will also make it easier for national Parliaments to respect the timelines for submitting their opinions on draft proposals, and will examine how to better collect and report on local and regional authorities' views in its public consultations. The REFIT Platform, which assesses the regulatory burden of existing EU laws, should also be reshaped to increase the presence of local and regional authorities and should widen its focus to look at subsidiarity and proportionality in addition to its current focus on regulatory burden. In particular, the Commission will ensure that relevant delegated and implementing acts are addressed systematically in its evaluations.

The Austrian Presidency conference in Bregenz in November will be the moment for other institutions to make their own commitments to implement the Task Force's recommendations. The proposals made by the European Commission for Bregenz include the following elements:

  • All relevant institutions should clarify whether they will use the 'subsidiarity grid';
  • The European Parliament and Council should agree to examine the impact on subsidiarity and proportionality of their amendments to Commission proposals;
  • Following repeated requests by national parliaments, the European Parliament and Council should agree to discount the recess period over Christmas and New Year from the 8-week period for submitting opinions on draft EU legislation;
  • The European Parliament and Council should improve the transparency of their proceedings (for example trilogues) to step up the involvement of local and regional authorities; they should also consider involving local and regional authorities during the legislative procedure;
  • The Committee of the Regions should raise awareness amongst their members of the opportunities to contribute to EU policymaking, and should establish a hub to channel this input more effectively into the institutional process;
  • National authorities should examine how to involve local and regional authorities more effectively during the legislative procedure.


Subsidiarity is about identifying the best level to make and implement policies. The EU should only act where it is necessary and where it delivers clear benefits over and above measures taken at national, regional or local levels. Proportionality focuses on the financial and administrative impact of proposed legislation. Any such impact must be minimised and must be commensurate with the policy objectives. For the Commission this means delivering our ambitious policies in the simplest, least costly way, and avoiding unnecessary red-tape.

The Juncker Commission has put evidence-based policymaking and better regulation at the heart of what we do. We have proposed lean annual work programmes and focused on ten political priorities. As part of the Future of Europe debate launched by President Juncker's White Paper in March 2017, we have looked closely at the issue of subsidiarity and proportionality. President Juncker created a dedicated Task Force on subsidiarity, proportionality and doing less, more efficiently to take a critical look at all policy areas to make sure that the EU only acts where it adds value.

The Task Force comprised members from the Committee of the Regions and national Parliaments. It looked at the role of subsidiarity and proportionality in the work of the EU institutions, the role of local and regional authorities in EU policymaking and whether responsibility for policy areas or competences could be returned to Member States. In just over six months, the Task Force compiled a comprehensive and focused response to these questions, under the chairmanship of Frans Timmermans, drawing on the contributions of many stakeholders.

The Commission has endorsed the analysis put forward by the Task Force on the need to strengthen the application of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles, as part of the wider better regulation agenda. The Commission is currently conducting a stock-taking exercise of its better regulation policies, and the conclusions of this exercise will be presented in the first half of 2019.

For more information

Communication - The Principles of subsidiarity and proportionality: Strengthening their role in EU policymaking

Report of the Task Force on 'Doing less, more efficiently'

Factsheet on the Recommendations of the Task Force

White Paper on the Future of Europe



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