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Human Geography

Ann-Katrin Bäcklund

Universitetslektor, docent

Human Geography

An institutional analysis of Impact Assessment in Europe


  • Ann-Katrin Bäcklund
  • Frantizek Zemek

Summary, in English

Executive summary

The general aim of this report is to establish the state of the art of Impact Assessment (IA) in the EC and some selected European countries, while comparing the formal political advances with impact assessment work in practice. Two of the selected countries belong to the group that is identified as forerunners in IA development, Sweden and UK. France is an example of a country where development of ex ante evaluation has come to a stand still. Czech Republic has the formally most advanced state regulation about IA and is also an interesting example of a transition economy with great upheavals within the agricultural sector.

Another aim of the report is to make the applied “assessment cultures” of different institutions visible in order to feed this information into the SEAMLESS “modelling culture” to make the system suitable for policy evaluators at different levels.

There is a growing interest for impact assessment activities in European policy making. The development is part of the European strategy for Better Regulation with the goal to reduce obsolete and “unnecessary” rules and instead increase the knowledge-base for law making. In the Commission it is generally seen that the way to achieve a better knowledge base for new regulations is to submit policy proposals to Impact Assessment.

Impact Assessments are gradually becoming institutionalised at the EC level but also in an increasing number of member states. The institutionalised IA system at EC level has an aim that is wider than providing a mere knowledge base for political decision making. It is also a tool for communication with stakeholders, where member states and lobby interests are invited to be active in the policy processes, sometimes in a genuinely encompassing dialogue, more commonly in a dialogue that only meets the EU minimum standard for communication. Modelling tools will therefore be utilised as much in a political process as a scientific.

Comparative studies show that IA work at the moment is primarily a phenomenon at EU level although it is developing at a rather fast pace in several states like UK, NL and DK. The pattern of IA regulation on the national level is scattered. There is no apparent divide between West/East European or old/new member states as far as formal IA regulations and institutional capacity are concerned. Among international organisations, the OECD has substantial experience with assessments, especially in relation to developing economies.

Although IA is by now an established system in the EC the quality of the Commissions assessments is regarded to be low, by both outside and inside critique, which means that the introduction of a tool that can ensure reasonably good quality of quantitative measures will greatly improve the present standard. Transparency is a key word. As officials have to explain the assessment results to the public and to political actors and make understandable how results support different policy options they want simplicity and transparency in the modelling process. Although it might be difficult to unite simplicity and scientific reliability, it is important to balance these demands against each other. If the SEAMLESS-IF can produce reliable results that are understandable for a non scientific audience, it does not have to be exceptionally sophisticated to be a success.


  • Institutionen för kulturgeografi och ekonomisk geografi








[Publisher information missing]


  • Human Geography




  • System for Environmental and Agricultural Modelling; Linking European Science and Society

Report number