Intervju med Marijke van Hees, ordförande ATR

Marijke van Hees

I januari tog ATR (Adviescollege Toetsing Regeldruk) över ordförandeskapet i RegWatchEurope (RWE) från Regelrådet. RWE är ett nätverk bestående av oberoende granskningsorgan och har ett årligt roterande ordförandeskap. Vi bad Marijke van Hees, ATR-ordförande och RWE-ordförande 2024, att berätta om ATR och vad som är på gång.

Marijke, many independent scrutiny bodies in Europe have had ATR as an inspiration in their establishment. Could you please describe the ATR, its tasks and composition?

 The Netherlands was very early to take up the systematic reduction of regulatory burdens for business, and a bit later for citizens as well. There may be a whiff of preaching to the choir here, but we really think that independent scrutiny was (and is) an essential ingredient in this. The predecessor of ATR was called ACTAL, and was founded in 2000. We still notice in our contacts abroad that ATR is considered as somewhat of a torchbearer for the drive to reduce regulatory burdens. This is in part because the now near-universal Standard Cost Model is also a Dutch invention, with which ACTAL was indirectly involved. This view ‘from without’ that the Netherlands generally has its policies on a firm evidential footing can be somewhat estranging when viewed from within. In the field of Better Regulation, which is much broader than regulatory burdens alone, we have a lot to pick up from our counterparts in RegWatchEurope (RWE) and at EU-level. And the notion of regulatory burdens itself still proves to have plenty of critical potential, in that many Dutch laws and regulations are still found lacking through our scrutiny.

ATR consists of three Council Members and a Secretariat. I have been the Chair since ACTAL was renamed into ATR in 2017. The other Council Members are Eric Janse de Jonge and Hayke Veldman. The Secretariat, which currently counts 18 staff members, is led by Rudy van Zijp. ATR is tasked with reviewing all regulation coming from the central government. We not only look at the degree and quality of quantification, but also at notions such as whether the goals of the regulation are clearly stated and attainable, whether alternatives have been considered, and whether businesses/citizens will not be put under too much of a mental strain in making sense of the obligations imposed on them. We call the latter ‘workability’, and it encapsulates more subjective elements of regulatory burdens. It is important to note that we intervene in a very early stage of the legislative procedure, namely at the time that public consultations take place. Apart from this core task, our mandate has also come to involve the analysis of problems with regulatory burden in existing legislation.

 We understand that there are also some planned changes to the mandate of the ATR in order to reinforce its role further. What are the main changes?
As a result of an increased political attention to the necessity of regulatory burden-reduction, our mandate will undergo some changes, that at the moment are still pending in the Tweede Kamer (the Dutch Lower House). Firstly, the Secretariat has been able to expand considerably, due to increased funding in anticipation of these changes. Secondly, ATR will for the first time become a permanent advisory body, instead of a temporary one that has to demonstrate its usefulness at regular intervals. Thirdly, the major substantive change in our mandate will be the obligation to scrutinise legislative proposals by the European Commission. This will take place within an existing procedure by which the government informs parliament on new proposals, and states its preliminary position with a view to the subsequent negotiations. The scope of our scrutiny will be somewhat more limited here, as it is meant to exclusively deal with the degree and quality of quantification. We are currently in a pilot phase to explore this new field of scrutiny together with the ministries. As to the obligation to quantify what a European proposal will mean for Dutch businesses and citizens, we can already observe that there is a very long way to go. Despite the eminent reputation that the European system of Better Regulation has, we find in practice that the trouble often starts in the European Impact Assessment. Hopefully our involvement can make a difference on both sides of the ‘divide’: in disciplining the ministries through our national mandate, and in pointing out persistent weaknesses in the European edifice through RWE.

These are apparently busy times for the ATR. On top of that, ATR is also chairing RegWatchEurope in 2024. What are your RWE priorities?

We are very happy to be chairing RWE this year. The Swedish reign was a fair and prosperous one, but we have been able to make a few new emphases. Together with RWE we have drawn up an ambitious work programme and have a number of projects in the works. We try to shift the emphasis somewhat towards substantive files like the CSRD and the CS3D, without abandoning RWE’s core concern with Better Regulation policy. At the time of writing, we have a successful Workshop and Directors Meeting to look back on. In the remainder of the year, we will give attention to a methodological issue like measuring cumulative costs, and to the links between Better Regulation policy and scientific endeavours. And we have taken up a major project on the GDPR, which will draw conclusions as to the functioning of the ‘distributed’ EU/Member State system of Better Regulation through the analysis of this concrete – and eminently important – dossier. Lastly, we are intensifying the cooperation on specific files that come up in our national work but which turn out to have a substantial European dimension. The primary example at this moment is (the Regulation on) organic production and labelling.

 Apart from new initiatives, there are also items on the RWE agenda that are a going concern. First and foremost among these are the coming elections for the European Parliament that will lead to a new College of Commissioners. RWE is currently drafting a letter towards the formation of the new Commission. We express the hope that there will be even more attention paid to the Better Regulation aspects of European legislation and especially the connection with implementation at the national level. We can learn a lot from the exchange of experiences on specific files that we as members of RWE experience. For this reason we think that more cooperation on this with European Institutions would open the possibility for further improvement of the interplay between the European and national dimensions of Better Regulation, including the practical usefulness of European Impact Assessments in national scrutiny.

Thank you Marijke for your time. We are looking forward to follow your work and developments, both on national and international level.

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