On the need for impact assessments ex ante - some reflections after my Inquiry on the Nuclear Ban treaty
In the text below from ny 2015 book on EU and Security, I refer to the standard practice in the EU to look ahead to the implementation of key proposals before they are made into law. For one thing this requires an assessment of financial and other concrete implications.
This remains a far from obvious practice, however, in particular when one approaches proposals of deep political or normative significance, sometimes also in moral and ethical terms.
This is something others have experienced in a traumatic way with in the Brexit battle and I have experienced it when performing the official Swedish inquiry into the Nuclear Ban.
Still t is not uncommon some years after a seemingly urgent and obvious proposal has been adopted that people have come back to it perhaps in investigative journalism to put difficult questions about how such a decision could be taken without full analysis of the consequences ahead.
My assumption has been in my own work that this is what will happen also as regards nuclear disarmament. There is an urgent need to find a way forward which really will make a difference.
Evolution of the Key Objective: Screen Proposed Initiatives Before the Decision
Ex ante impact assessment has been a standard requirement in Community programme projects for a number of years – projects must be carefully examined before they are put into motion.
This has led to the development of a methodology that puts the burden of proof on the Commissioner or DG proposing a certain initiative. In recent years, in particular the Secretary-General of the Commission has been instructed by the Commission President to be quite tough in the scrutiny of all initiatives in order to counter proposals for unnecessary or inefficient regulation.
For higher-level actors the impact assessment procedure is an important tool to ensure that the level of risk-taking is appropriate, that the best initiatives go ahead, etc.
The process of impact assessment also, of course, promotes more careful thinking and consideration of options that otherwise might fall under the table. The support for such an approach will increase if the impact assessment procedure truly poses the right questions and provides more than a bureaucratic methodology to answer them.
After the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the impact assessment procedure was, however, not systematically applied to joint communications elaborated by the High Representative and the Commission.
This led to less attention for instance to financial implications and staffing requirements for implementation. The discrepancy between goals and resources was not sufficiently addressed.
A case in point was the Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council: The EU's Comprehensive Approach To External Conflict And Crises. The recommendations were not fully operationalized and did not include calculations of the financial impact of implementation.
Security objectives almost by definition include a higher risk-taking level where a real cost benefit analysis needs to be carried out, going beyond criteria for sound financial management. Sometimes the risk of later criticism of bad implementation or unsuccessful implementation must be accepted.
 There are, as extensively discussed in the case of the intergovernmental CSDP rule of law operation in Kosovo EULEX, clear consequences of a hasty deployment decision. The Court of auditors of the EU noted that some of the most important problems related to corruption in Kosovo had not been properly factored in when setting up the programme, which in the end cost over 650 million euros. See http://www.eca.europa.eu/Lists/ECADocuments/SR12_18/SR12_18_EN.PDF.
In the excerpts below from the 2015 book the assumption that the EU cannot respond to crisis is challenged. The fact that European leaders were ready to guarantee the euro on an enormous level (500 billion euros) is a case in point. But there are also areas where the perception of joint interest has been much weaker. In the last years seven legislative proposals related to migration have been prepared by the European Commission. But none of them have passed the Council and the EU Parliament. A very serious question for the future is whether in the next decade a crisis will occur which will lead to the mobilisation of unprecedented joint resources also for defence - far beyond what the EDF (the European Defence Fund) may contain.
Swift EU reaction to crisis
European action after 9/11 challenged the view that the EU is a slow-reacting bureaucracy, unable to respond to new requirements.
As was also proven later, during the financial crisis from 2008, the European Council swiftly adopted a cross-institutional terrorism action plan comprising 69 points. The European institutions were closely examined to see what was already going on and what could be brought forward as potential European contributions to the fight against terrorism.
One can therefore expect that if there is another major attack in the EU area or seriously affecting the Union, the attention to these issues will rise to the top of the agenda and questions will be asked about how the 9/11, Madrid and London attacks were followed up on the EU level.
This development on the one hand illustrates the importance of crisis to catalyse European integration.
On the other hand it continues to illustrate that, very soon after or even during a crisis, senses are dulled and resistance to change starts to build up.
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Crisis as a catalyst for new forms of EU cooperation
Crises may break new ground in terms of perceived needs for cooperation on the EU level.
Some of these forms of cooperation are very sensitive, touching on the domestic political debate about subsidiarity. A case in point is consular cooperation.
The consequences of globalization are likely to stretch the limits of what is perceived to be acceptable in this regard, notably in areas such as health security related to pandemics, etc.
 European Commission, ‘EU Plan of Action on Combating Terrorism (revised)’, 10010/3/04, 2004, ; J Wouters, & F Naert, ‘Of Arrest Warrants, Terrorist Offences and Extradition Deals
An Appraisal of the EU’s Main Criminal Law Measures against Terrorism after ‘11 September’’, 2004, ; de Vries, G ‘The European Union’s role in the fight against terrorism’, Irish studies in international affairs 16, no. 1, 2005, pp. 3-9; Bossong, R ‘The action plan on combating terrorism: a flawed instrument of EU security governance’, JCMS: journal of common market studies 46, no. 1, 2008, pp. 27-48.
 see EEAS, ‘EEAS Review’, 2013,
 Lundin, L-E ‘From A European Security Strategy to a European Global Strategy Strategy:Ten Content-Related Issues’, UI Occasional Papers 11, 2012, ; Lundin, L-E ‘From a European Security Strategy to a European Global Strategy: Take II: Policy options’, UI Occasional Papers 13, 2013,
 Views expressed by several respondents during interviews in EEAS 2012-2013
When the text below was written around 2014 for my book on EU and security some of the most sobering experiences for EU Member States were still ahead of them, notably the migration and Brexit crises. So some of these thoughts need to be put on the table, most likely with even more humility and self criticism than before. Because some of them were actually taught EU Member States by some of the colleagues convinced of their foresight, including the Brits during their EU Presidency in 2005.
E and R: Evaluation and Re-evaluationLessons learned must be an inbuilt process in each endeavour, be it a project or a CSDP mission. It needs to take the overall measures of success into account and should be combined with evaluations over the longer term of Community programmes and ad hoc Council decisions.
There is no joined up approach to this in the EU that can provide decision makers with relevant evaluations before important decisions are made. On the Community side, evaluations are often so voluminous and cover such a long period (a decade of assistance or more) that they are difficult to digest for those who need to read and digest them. At the other end, political evaluations of a string of Council decisions in the CFSP area are not often made or are partly confidential.
Still, those responsible for these policies need to face the fact that outside evaluations are often critical. They need to evaluate the amount of effort deployed, including money and risk to staff, without sufficiently careful consideration beforehand.
Re-evaluation is a different process altogether. In science, as documented by Thomas Kuhn, it is a process often leading to new discovery through agonizing reappraisals. In the EU, it is an effort typically required in crisis and difficult to animate in the normal situation. However, as discussed in the context of the Arab Spring, re-evaluation is key, as a part of the continuous political dialogue within and outside the EU.
 Kuhn, TS, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd edn., University of Chicago Press, 1970. See also for a discussion of Kuhn’s critique of the positivist school: Buzan, B, & L Hansen, The Evolution of International Security Studies, 1 edn., Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Lessons learned Europe and security
Link: Briefings on lessons learned
Link: EU external Evaluations
Link: Intelligence and reporting
Link: Lessons learned Europe and security
Link: Traumatic issues
Link: Global existential risks
Link: Lessons learned: information retrieval , analysis and outreach
Never too late to learn for anyone - more obvious than ever after 9/11, Iraq, Fukushima, the Arab Spring, the financial crisis, Ukraine, not to mention Brexit..