Exploring Better Regulation with EIPA’s Experts: Nikolaos Sarris and Miranda Lovell-Prescod

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Meet the two core members of EIPA’s Better Regulation team: Expert Nikolaos Sarris and the Senior Research Officer Miranda Lovell-Prescod.

Nikolaos joined EIPA in 2021. Previously, he worked as an Economic Analyst at the European Commission Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE). Before that, he worked at the Greek Ministry of Transport and the Athens Urban Transport Organisation.

Miranda has also been with EIPA since 2021. She holds a double MSc degree in Public Policy and Human Development as well as a MSc in Economics from UNU-MERIT and Maastricht University respectively.

Together, they develop and deliver trainings, manage projects, contribute to proposals, provide consultancy services and conduct research for the European Commission and other institutions. Since 2022, Nikolaos and Miranda have been offering and managing a full series of better regulation courses.

Let’s delve into the heart of the topic. What does better regulation refer to? Why is it important?

M: Better regulation aims to improve policy making across all policy areas. It is a framework that prescribes a way of working that ensures policies are designed based on evidence, including qualitative inputs such as stakeholder views and citizens’ opinions. It’s about systematically assessing the impacts of public policies on citizens and then reviewing what worked well and what could be improved after implementation. This approach ensures participative, transparent, and evidence-based policymaking at national and EU levels.

N: Building on Miranda’s points, I would say that better regulation concerns the design, assessment, and evaluation of policies to ensure they are effective, efficient, and inclusive. This strategy focuses on involving stakeholders and citizens in the policymaking process, thereby bridging the gap between EU policy decisions and their practical implementation. Moreover, better regulation creates a structural link between national administrations and EU public institutions, enhancing the EU’s democratic legitimacy across member states.

Better regulation aims to improve policy making across all policy areas. It’s about systematically assessing the impacts of public policies on citizens and then reviewing what worked well and what could be improved after implementation.”

What are your tasks and what motivates you most?  

N: Our team coordinates and delivers trainings, primarily to Commission staff and to public servants across the EU focusing on the implementation of the better regulation agenda. In my view, this job appeals to those motivated by public service and, personally, I recognise myself as falling into this cluster. My father’s dedication to civil service influenced me greatly, and working for the public good aligns with my values and aspirations. This motivation drives both of us to work towards improving policymaking in areas such as social protection, security, fundamental rights, and more.

What impact do these trainings have?

N: We hope that these trainings inspire participants not only by promoting good practices in policymaking but also by reinforcing democratic values across the public administration. It’s fulfilling to work on improving policy making and engaging people in the process. Better regulation is a multi-disciplinary domain incorporating knowledge from the fields of governance, political science and economics in impact assessments and evaluations. This diversity of expertise requires flexibility, open mindedness, as well as some basic analytical and quantitative skills. In our trainings, we highlight the importance of evidence-informed policymaking and train participants to understand and implement these methods, which is very rewarding.

We hope that these trainings inspire participants not only by promoting good practices in policymaking but also by reinforcing democratic values across the public administration. It’s fulfilling to work on improving policy making and engaging people in the process. “

Recently, we launched a new course on data and evidence, aiming to train policymakers to balance analytical rigour with qualitative insights related to behavioural aspects, cognitive biases, personal values, etc.

Why is it important for public servants to gain knowledge in this area?

N: Public servants benefit not only by developing their competencies and expertise, but they also understand the importance of integrating the values of transparency and democracy in policymaking. Our trainings teach technical skills and inspire participants by sharing good practices and emphasising the importance of good  governance, especially in times of democratic turbulence.

From your perspective, how can we improve participation and transparency?

N: Over the last 10-20 years, efforts have focused on enhancing participation and transparency. Initially, only stakeholders were involved, but now there’s a push to include citizens through panels and assemblies. This shift towards participative democracy, albeit in a structured way, makes people feel more in control of their lives. This feeling of participation may reduce polarisation and increase receptiveness to new policies.

What excites you about your work?

N: Working in this field is very motivating because it’s all about public service and the public good. The degree of freedom we enjoy in designing and implementing our courses is valuable. Based on the feedback we receive, we can quickly adapt and innovate. Moreover, it is very rewarding when participants mention that the training has been helpful, and the exercises helped to open up their thinking. This makes our work dynamic and impactful.

M: Realising the direct impact of our training on participants is very satisfying. We often see staff genuinely eager to apply what they learn, which reinforces the importance and value of our work. Many participants are keen to ensure they perform their duties well and are deeply engaged with the training, always looking for the best ways to implement what they’ve learned.

What are the challenges ahead and how do you cope with them?   

N: The world is changing very fast. Policymaking has become much more complex than it used to be a few decades ago. Public administrations need to constantly adapt to new developments. Policymakers must develop complementary new skills to tackle complex, global challenges effectively. In our team, we closely follow new developments, reassess the needs of public administrations, and try to respond to new challenges by revisiting our pedagogical approaches, the content, methods, and tools we use in our work.

M: Indeed, to expand on what Nikolaos has just mentioned, one of the key developments we are watching closely is the use of big data (made possible by the EU Strategy for Open Data) as a valuable and often untapped source of evidence in the policymaking process. We can think of sensor data, anonymised data on the movement of individuals using SIM card data, credit card transactions, and mobile apps. Not only can new technologies help us collect data with a lower administrative burden while increasing the accuracy of the data itself, but through the use of AI, we can make sense of this data, opening up possibilities for more efficient, effective, granular, and adaptive policymaking. This is possible through better detection, prediction, and simulation. The implementation of EU policies by the member states is a key element of Better Regulation, and we are interested in expanding our offer in this area. This dimension is interesting from both the Member States’ and the European Commission and Parliament’s perspectives.

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