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Identifying impacts and assessing their relative importance

The first step is to identify those impacts, both inside and outside the EU, that are likely to occur as a consequence of implementing the policy. Some of those will be intentional and are indeed the objectives of the policy. However, it is also necessary to try to identify possible unintended impacts and the impact of how different options might interact.
You should also screen options against possible economic, social and environmental impacts. Certain questions also address issues of compatibility with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. These questions are designed to
help you to develop your analysis, and should not be answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no'. You may of course need to identify additional questions which are relevant to your area. This approach should result in a comprehensive picture of the potential effects of the policy option.
You should always identify who is affected by the impacts and when. Options that would be beneficial for society as a whole may have positive and negative impacts that are spread unevenly across society and over time. You should consider two distinct types of distributional impacts:

  • impacts on different social and economic groups: identifying ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ can help you to anticipate obstacles to the proposed action and may point to the need to change its design, or to introduce measures to mitigate the negative impacts. For example, a proposal may be beneficial for consumers, but have costs which fall mainly on enterprises. There may be distributional effects even within a given group (e.g. between SMEs and larger companies, between market entrants and incumbents, between low-income and higher-income households, etc.). Finally, the impacts may differ between Member States or regions.
  • impacts on existing inequalities: you should for instance compare regional, gender impacts and impacts on vulnerable groups of the proposed action to see if it is likely to leave existing inequalities unchanged, aggravate them, or help to reduce them. This is not a simple matter: for example, differences between male and female lifestyles may mean that a proposal which appears to be neutral as regards gender equality will in practice have different impacts on men and women.

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