What does regulatory impact assessment mean in Europe?
Radaelli, Claudio M.
University of Exeter
AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies
Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) has emerged on the European political agenda. It is an idea whose time has come. Both the member states and the institutions of the European Union (EU) are presently investing in programmes for ‘better regulation’ and ‘good regulatory governance’. RIA is the cornerstone of these programmes. This paper explains how RIA is being diffused in Europe. Is the introduction of RIA in Europe simply the diffusion of an idea, the content of which remains very different in the various national contexts? Or, alternatively, has the diffusion of ideas brought about convergence at the level of how RIA is performed? As shown by Hahn and Litan (2004), European impact assessments are often different from North-American RIAs. This paper shows that the adoption of a common RIA ‘bottle’ has not produced similar European ‘wines’. The language of RIA has produced a community of discourse for policy-makers and has stimulated the introduction of some instruments that are similarly labelled ‘impact assessment’. But RIA practice may exist only on paper, and in some cases the ‘RIA label’ may reveal basic assessments of administrative burdens. The paper explains how ideas can be diffused without convergence of results. The argument here is not the trivial one that ‘context matters’, but how it matters. Hence the paper breaks down ‘context’ into four dimensions, that is, institutions, models of the policy process, actors, and legitimacy. Institutional design, the capacity to deal with distributional problems, heterogeneity in multi-level governance systems, policy styles, and the ‘weights’ given to the preferences of different RIA actors explain the lack of convergence.
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