Impact assessment of policy options

Public initiatives such as legislative proposals, financial programmes and strategic documents can have important economic, social, environmental and other impacts. The EU systematically carries out impact assessments for proposals and acts it adopts; these reports identify, assess and compare the significant impacts on proposed options to be taken and provide a justification for policy action.
The institutions frequently require external support to conduct the research and analysis required to prepare a good quality impact assessment. This typically includes quantitative and qualitative data collection, stakeholder consultation as well as the development and implementation of specific methodologies for understanding and assessing the economic, social, environmental and other impacts of proposed measures and options. Impact assessment studies may also consider the political and legal context, including the EU’s right to act or legal basis; and issues concerning subsidiary, proportionality and EU added value.

To facilitate access to this work, Milieu leads or is part of a consortium holding framework contracts covering services related to impact assessments for DGs CLIMA, ENV, EMPL, GROW, JUSTICE, HOME, TAXUD as well as the European Parliament.

Some examples of Milieu’s work in this area are:


The EU is a party to the 1998 Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention). A key element of this Convention is ensuring that citizens have access to justice in environmental matters. Parties to the Convention must ensure that citizens and organisations have access to administrative or judicial procedures to challenge acts that contravene environmental law. Following a complaint from an individual and several NGOs concerning the consistency of access to justice at EU level with the Aarhus Convention, the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee found that the EU fails to comply with the access to justice provisions of the Convention. The EU agreed to explore ways and means to comply with the Convention in a way that is compatible with the Union legal order, and to report on this by 2021.

The study carried out by Milieu maps the legal provisions that require EU bodies to take acts or decision that may impact the environment, as well as actual challenges of those acts since 2006, including through administrative and judicial review mechanisms. Based on this mapping, as well as additional evidence from desk research and stakeholder consultation, the study evaluates the functioning of the current set of mechanisms, to understand the effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, coherence and EU added value of the system. The Milieu team then developed policy options and assessed the legal feasibility as well as the economic, social, environmental and fundamental rights impacts of the options. The published study will support the EU determine its way forward in implementation of the Aarhus Convention at EU level.

The 2015 EU Digital Single Market Strategy aims to create new digital single market opportunities for people and business; access for consumers to online goods and services across Europe is a key pillar. In support of this, the European Commission sought to harmonise EU consumer rules for the supply of digital content and online sales of goods. The European Parliament supported this and proposed to consider extending its scope to offline scales, in order to prevent legal fragmentation and simplify the framework. The research paper prepared by Milieu assessed the potential impact of amendments to the Commission’s legislative proposal that would achieve this purpose, looking at impacts on consumer protection (costs and benefits); the impact on business (SMEs in particular); the impact on the coherence of the overall legislative framework on consumer protection; and the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. The study supported the European Parliament to successfully negotiate the extension of the scope of the legislation from online to include also offline sales; Directive (EU) 2019/771 introduces a high and uniform level of protection for consumers.

The aim of the study was to conduct an ex-ante impact assessment of seven substantive amendments to the Commission’s proposal for a Directive on provisional legal aid for suspects and accused persons deprived of liberty and for legal aid in European Arrest Warrant Proceedings. Based on the draft Commission Directive and the existing impact assessment, the study prepared by Milieu assessed the socio-economic impact as well as the impact on fundamental rights of the proposed amendments which related primarily to the scope of the legal aid offered. The analysis covered all 28 EU Member States, with in-depth qualitative assessment covering 10 Member States. The study supported the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament in the development of its position and negotiations surrounding this Directive.