In English

Evaluation in democracy

Introduction speech in the seminar on evaluation in the European Parliament 10.4.2013

Evaluation is a critical function in the EU system. The basic objective is to find out if the initial goals and objectives at the start of certain interventions have been achieved in practice and whether they correspond to actual needs. This includes the assessment of any negative, even uncoated effects. Second, these effects can be achieved without committing excessive resources. A third more general purpose is to learn from experience and to improve the quality of any future activity and to empower the stakeholders to increase their own capabilities in formulating and implementing policies.

Evaluation is a widespread activity inside the EU. Legislation is evaluated, regional policies are evaluated, and technologies are assessed. Activities are carried out in all the DGs under the council and in the Parliament. No one has a real overview of neither the costs of these processes nor of the actual use of the results. However the commission has recently evaluated its evaluation costs. Each year since 2000 around a hundred evaluations are carried out each year, the peak was in 2008 with 138.

The average cost is estimated to range between 170 000-200 000 euros, averaging a yearly cost of around 18 million euros. I do not doubt that more evaluation will be carried out in the future, and also the processes of making impact assessments will become more complicated.

And I am not saying this is too much. On the contrary, I am saying that we need the information, the feedback the learning. What I would like to address is the use of these evaluations. Particularly, using them to diminish the gap between the EU institutions and the citizens.

This is the year of the citizens. In the midst of the crisis the EU leaders are calling on the citizens that are becoming more and more critical and pessimistic about the value added of European cooperation. In the evaluations we have a tool that can empower the citizens; increase learning and understanding of the need for interventions, and in the end fundamentally reduce the democratic deficit in the EU. So the question is, do we use this in the optimal way seen from the stakeholders and the citizens' perspective?

Could we improve the transparency and accountability of EU policies and legislation by improving our evaluation practices?

Is the EU evaluation system accountable enough? Accountability is especially critical at the time of economic crises. Especially now when there is an increased division between the north and the south. Especially now when some countries are paying the debts of others, especially now when all member countries want to reduce the budget, but none wants to give in on achieved benefits.

Evaluation is an arena for learning. Are we using this arena properly? Sometimes I have the feeling that the EU evaluation system is more about monitoring indicators than about creating a change. We have indicators for the participation of female entrepreneurs but do we really understand why they choose not to participate in EU programs? The EU now arranges hearings you give a voice to SMEs, but is this enough?

Finally, there is the role of the evaluators. Who are they? The emerging goal is that the evaluators should offer conceptual and methodological guidelines for future interventions. I am in favour, but of course it is a very ambitious goal. This implies a complete reorganisation of the evaluation process and the way the gained knowledge is used.


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