The first step is to think large and to draw up an extensive list of possible options that are likely to be able to achieve the proposed objectives. This initial list of options can then be reduced by a first screening of their likely impacts to arrive at a shorter list of options that is then analysed in depth. During this process you should bear the following points in mind:
- all of your options should be realistic – you should avoid the trap of considering only the ‘no new action option’, the ‘preferred option’, and an ‘extreme option’ which is not credible
- remember to keep an open mind. Even if a particular option seems to be a clear front-runner, other promising options should not be excluded outright. You should also consider how the impacts of this ‘front runner’ will vary if key parameters change, e.g. allowing more time for objectives to be met or aiming for more or less ambitious objectives. You can use ‘sensitivity analysis’ for this
- the option of ‘no EU action’ must always be considered as a viable option, except in cases where the Treaties lay down a specific obligation to act
- where legislation is already in place, better enforcement and implementation should always be considered, perhaps with improved guidance
- less can be more: again where legislation is already in place, a ‘doing less’ option could be considered. If existing measures do not produce the desired effects, creating a new instrument may not be the best remedy. Streamlining, simplifying or even repealing the existing legislation might produce better results
- always consider alternative approaches to ‘classical’ forms of regulation. Consider the full range of alternative actions available to the Commission. Is self-regulation a feasible option? Could the objectives be met through a voluntary agreement? Is an information and education campaign sufficient? Could the objectives be met by introducing a new or amending an existing European Standard?
- take account of existing EU policies, including those which Member States are still transposing and, if possible, relevant proposals which are still being discussed in the European Parliament and Council if you have not included them in the baseline. You should also take account of existing or planned Member State policies or international agreements that might affect the impact of an option
- do not just look at the different legal (implementation) options, but also at the content. The choice between Directives, Regulations, Recommendations etc. should be clearly driven by what needs to be done to achieve the objectives
- examine closely options that can count on considerable support, but be aware that public and/or political support alone cannot be the sole determining factor in defining and analysing alternative options. You should be careful about discarding too quickly options which do not have considerable support from a certain sector
- options should be ‘complete’ and sufficiently well developed to allow you to differentiate them on the basis of their performance against the criteria of effectiveness, efficiency and coherence with overarching EU objectives. You should also avoid 'bundling' individual elements/sub-options of different options into a 'preferred' option after the analysis, as this makes it difficult to assess the impact of the preferred option as a whole against the baseline. Where you do adopt this approach, you should carry out an analysis of this preferred option.
The aim of all interventions is of course to provide benefits that exceed any possible negative impacts. In the terminology of cost-benefit analysis this means that you should select options that promise the greatest net benefits.