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Identifying relevant, credible and proportionate policy options

The principle of proportionality states that any Community action should not go beyond what is necessary to achieve satisfactorily the objectives which have been set. It is closely linked to the principle of subsidiarity. Community action should be as simple as possible and leave as much scope for national decision as possible, and should respect well established national arrangements and legal systems. However, when defining options, you should also take aspects of transposition (such as setting appropriate implementation periods) and potential obstacles to compliance (such as clarity of the requirements) into account.

The following questions should be used to examine the proportionality of the options proposed in an IA. They are not designed to be answered on a yes/no basis but rather should be explained and supported with qualitative and quantitative evidence where possible. Examining the proportionality of a range of options will help you to establish a shortlist of feasible options to be analysed in depth.

Scope of instrument

  • Does the option go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objective satisfactorily?
  • Is the scope of action limited to those aspects that Member States cannot achieve satisfactorily on their own, and where the Union can do better? (boundary test)
  • If the initiative creates a financial or administrative cost for the Union, national governments, regional or local authorities, economic operators or citizens, is this cost minimised and commensurate with the objective to be achieved?
  • Will the Community action leave as much scope for national decision as possible while achieving satisfactorily the objectives set?
  • While respecting Community law, are well-established national arrangements and special circumstances applying in individual Member States respected?

Nature of instrument

  • Is the form of Community action (choice of instrument) as simple as possible, and coherent with satisfactory achievement of the objective and effective enforcement?
  • Is there a solid justification for the choice of instrument – regulation, (framework) directive, or alternative regulatory methods such as co-regulation or self-regulation?

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