Monday 30 October 2017

Many EU priority proposals pending

After the blog post Commission Work Programme 2018 looked at the CWP 2018 communication, the entry New and REFIT initiatives in Commission Work Programme 2018 glanced at the first two annexes, with ordinary legislative and political initiatives plus future of Europe proposals in the first annex, and REFIT   proposals in the second annex, but widening through a new communication on better regulation, an accompanying SWD(2017) 675 and a fresh REFIT Scoreboard.

Here we look at the priority proposals still pending.

Priority pending proposals

There was the Joint Declaration on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2017 conferring priority status on 58 proposals, but slow progress caused my choice of headline 22 September 2017 to State of the Union: legislative worries. I am not less worried now.

A month later we get this 14-page compilations of 66 pending proposal packages, all told:

Annex to the CWP 2018 communication; Strasbourg, 24.10.2017 COM(2017) 650 final ANNEX 3

If brevity is the soul of wit, the Annex III infographic should be commended for condensing the 66 pending proposal packages into just two pages.

Withdrawals and repeals

Withdrawal from the EU seems to be  the only process and Article 50 TEU the only provision in the EU treaties of interest among English mass circulation tabloids (and consequently, of what many people in Europe and America read about the European Union nowadays). Any other EU stories in these tabloids seem to support the purpose of creating horror images of the European Union in order to keep Leavers happy, despite their foolish decision and the government’s disastrous handling of Brexit.

However, we encounter the term ‘withdrawals’ in another context. The fourth annex of the Commission Work Programme for 2018 is:    
Annex to the CWP 2018 communication; Strasbourg, 24.10.2017 COM(2017) 650 final ANNEX 4

On five pages 15 planned withdrawals are presented, many of the proposals obsolete.  
The fifth annex adds a list of three superfluous proposals to be repealed:
Annex to the CWP 2018 communication; Strasbourg, 24.10.2017 COM(2017) 650 final ANNEX 5

Via the legal portal Eur-Lex with COM(2017) 650 as your reference, or the web page 2018 Commission work programme - key documents, you can look out for possible new language versions of the CWP 2018 documents. The #FutureOfEurope hashtag on Twitter yields an occasional gem for interested EU citizens.

Ralf Grahn

Sunday 29 October 2017

New and REFIT initiatives in Commission Work Programme 2018

The Juncker Commission has been strategic and steadfast in its work, matter of fact in its communication. In the blog post Commission Work Programme 2018 we looked at the CWP 2018 communication, which offers a State of the Union 2017 (SOTEU) update, useful references and an overview of the coming initiatives:

Commission Work Programme 2018: An agenda for a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe; Strasbourg, 24.10.2017 COM(2017) 650 final

However, for this EU “Navigation App” for 2018 to serve practical purposes and offer detail, we have to make use of one or more of the five “add ons”, namely the annexes that followed the communication.

You can find all the documents through the web page 2018 Commission work programme - key documents, but mostly still only in English, French and German, the internal working languages of the European Commission.

I mention the Commission’s press release IP/17/4002 and the fact sheet MEMO/17/4003 because, for substance and terminology, they are the only documents already published in all the official EU languages.  

This blog post offers alternative links to the annexes in English through the legal portal Eur-Lex, as well as a short presentation of each annex.

New initiatives

The first CWP 2018 annex presents the planned new initiatives, neatly ordered according to the ten priorities of the Juncker Commission:

Annex to the CWP 2018 communication; Strasbourg, 24.10.2017 COM(2017) 650 final ANNEX 1
There is something under each priority. On six pages in all, the Commission presents 26 packages with future legislative proposals (mentioning the legal base) or non-legislative initiatives, indicating the planned quarter for publication.

Graphically, the ordinary legislative and political initiatives are presented on white, whereas grey matter offers the background for the future of Europe initiatives, to be launched “with a 2025 perspective”. The same colour scheme prevails in the Annex I infographic, which reduces the 26 packages to a one page view.

REFIT initiatives

If Annex 1 was about delivering on the Commission’s ten priorities, or thinking ahead to a better union by 2025 (future of Europe), the Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) programme is part of the Commission’s better regulation agenda. The proclaimed REFIT aim is for EU legislation to deliver results for citizens and businesses effectively, efficiently and at minimum cost. REFIT aims to “keep”  (make?) EU law simple, remove unnecessary burdens and adapt existing legislation without compromising on legislative objectives.

Thus, the four pages of REFIT proposals under the twelve headlines in the second CWP 2018 annex are complementary to the ones in the first annex:  

Annex to the CWP 2018 communication; Strasbourg, 24.10.2017 COM(2017) 650 final ANNEX 2

The Commission’s CWP 2018 web page offers links to an impressive amount of additional material about better regulation efforts, much of it from the same day the CWP 2018 was published: the fresh REFIT Scoreboard Summary 24 October 2017 (36 pages), the REFIT scoreboard web page with first vice-president Frans Timmermans, the new communication Completing the Better Regulation Agenda: Better solutions for better results COM(2017) 651 (14 pages) and the accompanying Commission Staff Working Document Overview of the Union's Efforts to Simplify and to Reduce Regulatory Burdens SWD(2017) 675 (45 pages).

As part of its better regulation agenda the Commission invites citizens and stakeholders to share their views: Have your say. The CWP 2018 web page offers a link to the ongoing evaluations and impact assessments on the Published initiatives page.  
We look at the remaining annexes in a later blog post.

Ralf Grahn

Saturday 28 October 2017

Commission Work Programme 2018

The web page for the Commission Work Programme 2018 (CWP 2018) offers access to the communication, the five official annexes and additional documents, but at this stage mainly in the three internal working languages of the Commission (English, French and German).

At this point in time, the language choice is no wider if we access the official documents through the legal portal Eur-Lex. However, let us fetch the exact reference there:

Commission Work Programme 2018: An agenda for a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe; Strasbourg, 24.10.2017 COM(2017) 650 final  

2018 and Future of Europe

There are legislative proposals in the ordinary manner, as well as initiatives with a Future of Europe perspective aiming at 2025. This CWP 2018 presentation in a nutshell (pages 2-3) is worth reading:

The focus of the work programme for 2018 is two-fold. First, the work programme sets out a limited number of targeted legislative actions to complete our work in priority policy areas over the next months. The Commission will table all legislative proposals no later than May 2018. This will allow the European Parliament and Council the time and space to complete the legislative work before Europeans give their democratic verdict in the European elections of June 2019 on what we have achieved together.

Secondly, the work programme also presents a number of initiatives that have a more forward-looking perspective, as the new Union of 27 shapes its own future for 2025. These initiatives reflect the debate kick-started by the Commission's White Paper on the Future of Europe and the State of the Union address. They can all be achieved by making full use of the untapped potential of the Lisbon Treaty. We will deliver all of these initiatives by the end of the mandate.

Better regulation

Better regulation is the third main aspect of the CWP 2018 (page 3):

As in previous years, the work programme also proposes a number of proposals that follow on from regulatory fitness and performance (REFIT) reviews of current laws, taking into account the opinions of the REFIT platform. To allow the co-legislators to focus on delivering the proposals that really matter, this work programme contains a significant number of pending proposals that we suggest to withdraw given that there is no foreseeable agreement in the European Parliament and the Council or they no longer serve their purpose or are technically outdated. This work programme also continues the process of repealing pieces of legislation that have become obsolete. In parallel, we are publishing an overview of the Commission's better regulation agenda and its results together with the REFIT Scoreboard, which sets out in detail how we are following-up on REFIT platform opinions and on-going efforts to evaluate and review existing laws.

Ten priorities

The Juncker Commission has been strategic and steadfast in its work, matter of fact in its communication. In Section II (pages 3-10), the situation regarding each of the Commission’s ten priorities is presented briefly (with further references), before the planned initiatives are mentioned. Since the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) publication The European Commission at mid-term was mentioned in the CWP 2018 communication, and can be used as a reference for assessing progress in more detail, let us utilise it also to lift the Commission’s ten priorities here as a reminder (from page 3):

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. Originally, A reasonable and balanced free trade agreement with the United States, nowadays A balanced and progressive trade policy to harness globalisation
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.

Unity, strength and democracy

We move into Future of Europe territory through Section III Delivering by 2025: A more united, stronger and more democratic union (pages 10-13). The Commission optimistically presents that its State of the Union 2017 (SOTEU) roadmap for a More United, Stronger and More Democratic Union is now reflected in the Leaders' Agenda, endorsed by the European Council 19-20 October.

Concrete results for a new EU27, which meets the expectations of EU citizens and delivers on things that matter most to them, should ensue from a special summit in Sibiu, Romania, on Europe Day, 9 May 2019. This is just a few weeks before the probable time of the elections to the European Parliament.  

The European Commission promises to use “the still untapped potential of the current Treaties which allows us to move forward with ambition and speed” (page 10), meaning flexibilities including passerelle clauses. The Commission is going to work with the other EU institutions and with national parliaments, but also invites all the citizens of the European Union to contribute to the discussion about the future of Europe.

Section IV is dedicated to better regulation, implementation and enforcement, in a spirit of  evidence-based policy-making (pages 13-14), before the last section V with conclusions.

Last December the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union agreed on the legislative priorities for the coming year in a Joint Declaration. The Commission hopes that the three institutions will reach a similar agreement this time around.
The 15 pages of the communication Commission Work Programme 2018 COM(2017) 650 are worth reading as a reminder and update of the State of the Union 2017 materials, as well as a provider of a number of useful document references.

However, for detail we have to turn to the annexes.

Ralf Grahn

Monday 23 October 2017

Future of Europe: Leaders’ Agenda for Gothenburg

Our discussion about the European Council (EUCO) and the new Leaders’ Agenda for thematic meetings continued with a look at the briefings from the  European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) and the EUCO conclusions of 19 October and EU27 conclusions 20 October 2017 (Article 50 TEU), in EPRS: keeping tabs on the European Council.
The Leaders’ Agenda timetable was described by president Tusk as a living document, apt to change over time, but let us take a look at the near future. Less than four weeks from now, the heads of state or government are going to convene in Gothenburg (Sweden).          

Gothenburg Social Summit

Sweden’s prime minister Stefan Löfven and the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker have invited the leaders to a Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg, 17 November 2017. The Social Summit website already offers some information and  the #SocialSummit17 hashtag on Twitter provides occasional updates ahead of the gathering.

As a background, most of my spring and autumn 2017 blog posts about the social market economy, the social pillar and the reflection paper on the social dimension of the European Union can be found through the blog post Future of Europe: social dimension, except three later ones in Swedish, which look at the Nordic EU-members in the discussion about the future of Europe: the general orientation in Norden i EU-utkanten?, then the introductory entry about the Commission’s White Paper  Vitboken om EU:s framtid i Norden and the article about the reflection paper on the social dimension  Diskussionsunderlaget om EU:s sociala dimension i Norden.

Ahead of the Social Summit, readers interested in the labour markets in the EU and related social pillar and dimension matters, can find a handy compilation on the EPRS Blog about what think tanks have produced lately.
The other issue on the Leaders’ Agenda for this meeting is described as Education and Culture (30th anniversary of Erasmus).

The European Parliament and the European Commission already celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus Programme in Strasbourg, 13 June 2017. The Council of the European Union provides an overview of ongoing issues in the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council configuration (EYCS) during the Estonian Council presidency, as well as the main results of the previous EYCS Council meeting 22-23 May 2017. The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council configuration (EPSCO) is another potential source of issues for the European Council in Gothenburg under the headline Education and Culture (30th anniversary of Erasmus).

In the context of the Social Summit, perhaps the European Council wants to deal with the Youth Employment Initiative (EYI), supporting the Youth Guarantee efforts in distressed regions with high youth unemployment, or show interest in matters rarely seen on its agenda, but let us leave guessing and look at possible EUCO value added later, when there is something more concrete to work with.

Ralf Grahn

Sunday 22 October 2017

EPRS: keeping tabs on the European Council

The blog posts European Council: United we’re stuck? and European Council: Leaders’ Agenda presented facts and expressed doubts regarding the efforts of the EUCO president Donald Tusk to overcome paralysis or stagnation among the heads of state or government.

It remains to be seen, if the Bratislava implementation report, the description in the invitation letter and the timetable downloadable from EUCO’s Leaders’ Agenda web page, are going to turn the European Council into the impetus provider they imagined in Article 15(1) TEU, or remain an impetus taker and the main obstacle among the EU institutions and others in the quest for a better future of Europe.

The first meeting on Tusk’s list was the October 2017 European Council.

October 2017 European Council

The European Parliament is not only an initiator of EU reform, but the institution representing the citizens of the union keeps tabs on what the European Commission (promoting the general interest) and the intergovernmental institutions - the Council of the European Union and the European Council - do. Instrumental is the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS), which publishes studies, evaluations, fact sheets and briefings.

Ahead of the October 2017 European Council and with a view to the proposed Leaders’ Agenda, the European Parliamentary Research Service Blog published a background post on what makes it to the EUCO agenda and why, as well as an outlook for the European Council meeting 19-20 October 2017 (including the Article 50 TEU, i.e. Brexit part), also in a more easy to read briefing form (pdf), plus links to three other publications: an updated check-list of European Council conclusions, a briefing on the European Council and the 2017 State of the Union proposals, and a list of the current members of the European Council.

They are all relevant references beyond the EUCO meeting, although here I single out the Pre-European Council briefing (outlook), which can be read as a background note to the European Council conclusions 19 October 2017 EUCO 14/17 and 20 October 2017 (Article 50) EUCO XT 20014/17, regarding migration, digital Europe (in the aftermath of the Tallinn Digital Summit, the jewel in the crown of the Estonian presidency of the EU Council), security and defence with a view to launching a Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) before the end of the year, and external relations, which were discussed during the first day.

The briefing note (outlook) point 7 and the EU27 conclusions regarding the Article 50 TEU UK withdrawal (Brexit) negotiations can also be read in parallel. However, for this blog the EPRS briefing point 6, regarding the Future of Europe (discussed informally by EUCO), is of special interest, although by now we have the Leaders’ Agenda.

Ralf Grahn