This paper is part of a series of three on EU Agencies, EU Added Value and the EU’s Better Regulation policy. Together they give insight into the state of the EU’s efforts to strengthen evidence based policy making in the EU, indicating that the Commission's Better Regulation policy has come far indeed, but also that issues have remained as regards fact-based policymaking on a day-to-day basis.
The European Commission is a recognised leading organisation when it comes to shaping EU laws and policies, and to setting the standard of good governance (to be understood here especially as ‘better regulation’– BR). As concluded earlier, the mechanisms developed in the Commission to ensure regulatory quality have, already for some time, been among the highest in the world. By any standards, its ability to deliver integrated policy assessments is a remarkable achievement. Considering that in the 1990s the Commission apparatus was highly fragmented and political, this world-leading standard when it comes to impact assessments is particularly impressive and the Commission is constantly looking for ways to improve its BR policy. The past decades have seen continuous efforts by the Commission to complement political decision-making with independent, accessible and scientifically sound assessments of policies throughout the policy cycle.
The third policy brief in this series by authors Adriaan Schout and Christian Schwieter points to the paradox that on the one hand the Commission is, and is also regarded as, a politicised body (also e.g. when it comes to its independent macroeconomic supervision of member states5) while on the other hand, the Commission aims at evidence-based policy making (based on ex ante assessments and ex post evaluations). Trying to combine a political as well as an independent role creates, as also appeared in interviews with policy experts outside the Commission and with politicians, a credibility problem for the EU Commission, which ultimately leads to questions regarding the available system of checks and balances: if the Commission is partly political how can we ensure the credibility of fact-based policymaking? If only for reasons of credibility, a decision has to be made about separating political and analytical tasks.