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Government agencies’ information and consultation in EU matters. An in-depth analysis of 12 agencies’ participation work (2019:11)

On behalf of the Government, Statskontoret (The Swedish Agency for Public Management) has conducted an in-depth analysis of 12 agencies' work with issues concerning participation in the EU. In the commission assigned to Statskontoret, participation is a question of information and consultation directed at civil society and other relevant actors. The purpose of this analysis is to contribute to the development of the agencies' participation work.

There are major variations in the agencies' work

Statskontoret's survey indicates that many agencies provide basic information about their EU work. Most agencies also initiate some form of consultation with special interest groups or non-profit associations in order to obtain their viewpoints. The most common method of consultation for the agencies in the survey is through informal contacts with trade associations.

The work with consultation and information in the EU work varies between and within the agencies. The variation is partly due to the differences in the agencies' EU work. Agencies that are frequently involved in legislative work or other processes within the EU that lead to binding decisions often work with information and consultation in a more ambitious and developed way. However, the differences are also due to the agencies having different levels of ambition in their participation work. The interested parties believe that there are no reasons for the differences in the agencies' working methods, and they find the contact with agencies to often be haphazard and dependent on individuals.

The responsibilities and roles in the EU work are not always clear to external interested parties

The ministries and agencies that we have investigated find it reasonably clear which of them are to provide information and which are responsible for consultation with the various interested parties. However, the special interest groups and non-profit associations we have talked to do not find it to be as clear what the respective responsibilities of the agencies and the Government Offices actually are in the processes. This may entail that the interested parties miss the opportunity to provide feedback on a proposal.

The agencies can do more to increase participation

The Government believes it is important to promote participation in the EU's decision-making processes in order to achieve more strategic and coherent action in the EU work. A goal of democracy policy is a living democracy characterised by participation.

Statskontoret's survey shows that there are several good examples of the agencies implementing information initiatives and pursuing consultation. However, the general picture is that the agencies can develop their work to increase participation. All agencies in our survey could to varying degrees learn something from the way other agencies work.

Statskontoret proposes that the agencies enhance the publishing of more basic information on their EU work on their websites. This basic information is a prerequisite for participation. We also propose that the level of ambition in the participation work should be higher among the agencies that regularly participate in processes that lead to binding decisions. Participation dialogues, clearer internal guidelines for the EU work, and a network for exchanging experiences are some proposals for concrete ways of working that would simply and effectively develop the participation work.

In this report we discuss various tools that the Government and the Government offices can use to help the agencies implement our proposals. Operations-adapted governance and dialogue should be one of the points of departure, as the agencies' EU work and ways of working differ from each other. We have seen that the agencies that engage in ongoing discussion on participation issues with their ministry generally are involved in more active and well-considered participation work. A second departure point should be for the Government and the Government Offices to more clearly express the expectations they have for th