Tuesday 19 September 2017

Progress on the European Commission’s ten priorities

After our customary pit stop on the European Commission’s State of the Union 2017 web page,  the Commission State of the Union 2017 brochure (108 pages) continues on page 35 with a section Progress on the European Commission’s 10 priorities.

Starting from the 2014 political guidelines for the Commission - with the ten priorities presented in detail in the booklet A New Start for Europe - the SOTEU 2017 brochure dedicates two pages or more to each priority in a readable mix for an educated  general reader (or participant at a citizens’ dialogue) about statistical fact, legislative progress, individual examples, next steps and potential benefits.

This means that on more than twenty pages in all (pages 35 to 59, to be exact), there is more context and detail (and support for arguments) than the Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was able to highlight during his hour-long state of the union address.

Since I am not going into each Commission priority in this blog post, here is a reminder of what they are at headline level:

1. A new boost for jobs, growth and investment
2. A connected digital single market
3. A resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate change policy
4. A deeper and fairer internal market with a strengthened industrial base
5. A deeper and fairer economic and monetary union (EMU)
6. A balanced and progressive trade policy to harness globalisation [renamed and updated]
7. An area of justice and fundamental rights based on mutual trust
8. Towards a new policy on migration
9. Europe as a stronger global actor
10. A union of democratic change

Trade and investment   

Circumstances have changed for the sixth priority, leading to a new title and revised content. The headline A Reasonable and Balanced Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. reflected the expectations of a groundbreaking Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Since the TTIP negotiations are on hold during the new US administration, this has liberated Commission resources to pursue and initiate (separate) free and fair trade deals and investment agreements with other important trading partners, while conducting negotiations in a more transparent manner. Besides, the Commission has moved towards a more protective (or protectionist) mould for trade policy, labeled as ‘not naïve’. The latest proposals were published the day after the SOTEU address. See IP/17/3182 and  IP/17/3183, the launch of trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, as well as other links in the press releases.    

Worthwhile summary

The SOTEU brochure section Progress on the European Commission’s 10 priorities is a worthwhile summary of progress in various areas for an educated public interested in EU affairs.

For professionals interested in more exact references to legislative processes, I would recommend the EPRS publication presented in the blog post European Commission priorities at mid-term. Even more detailed, if we consult the background documentation (print versions), is the European Parliament’s Legislative train schedule, last updated to the end of June 2017.

Naturally, outside perspectives and independent views are necessary in order to evaluate gaps between wishes and realities, between gloss and gaps. In a 16 September 2017 post, The State of the Union [What Think Tanks Are Thinking], the European Parliamentary Research Service Blog has compiled titles and links to more than fifty papers from research institutes and organisations since April 2017.

After the state of the union speech, we can expect more activity with a specific SOTEU focus from think tanks, organisations and individual writers. Thus, a new and hopefully thematic compilation from the EPRS soon would be welcome.

SOTEU brochure in progress  
Having come this far, we might as well remind ourselves what the remaining part of the State of the Union 2017 brochure promises to deal with:

Better Regulation
Delivering on What the EU Promised: Enforcing More Effectively Our Joint Decisions
The State of Public Opinion in the EU
Progress in the Economic Situation
Policy Implementation Report
The European Solidarity Corps: One Year on
Visits to national Parliaments
Citizens’ Dialogues
Letter on the Roadmap for a More United, Stronger and a More Democratic Union   

We continue the presentations in future blog posts.

Ralf Grahn

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