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.
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..