Euro deputies set to challenge commission EU work programme

Team Juncker vows to be ambitious, but MEPs warn 'implementation is key'.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

08 Jan 2015

The European commission recently presented its work programme for the year ahead, arguing that it "will focus on the 'big things' in line with the ten priorities of [college] president Jean-Claude Juncker's political guidelines". Any proposals that do not match the guidelines will be promised to be scrapped.

Not delivering on the promised objectives would be a blow to the college's credibility, especially as it has repeatedly promised "to do different things and to do things differently" than its predecessors.

The European parliament has reacted cautiously to the work programme, with EPP group vice chair József Szájer warning that "implementation is key".

The work programme says, "what we commit to in this work programme are the things we will deliver in 2015". The commission plans to implement new strategies and review existing legislation, and vowed to cut red tape wherever possible.

It has called upon parliament to change its working methods, and for all three institutions - the commission, parliament and council - to work more closely to speed up decision making. However, it is not clear how exactly this process will be achieved.

"What we commit to in this work programme are the things we will deliver in 2015" - European commission

In an effort to boost job creation, growth and investment, a European fund for strategic investments will be added to the €315bn investment plan.

Brussels is also looking to promote investment and push the use of loans and guarantees rather than grants. And, it will also work on removing regulatory and non-regulatory barriers to investment and strengthening the single market.

There are also plans for a package to be introduced to "help boost integration into the labour market and promote skills", though no specific timeline has been confirmed yet.

Additionally, the commission will work on revised proposals for the circular economy. Prior to the presentation of the work programme, there had been rumours that this would be scrapped.

Juncker's team will also prepare a strategy on building "a secure, trustworthy and dynamic digital single market". There are plans to reinforce cyber security and make online shopping easier.

Ahead of the UN climate change summit that will take place in Paris in December, much of the commission's efforts this year will focus on outlining the EU's position on issues which will be discussed at the conference.

Work will also be done on ensuring that EU citizens have access to affordable and reliable energy and to reduce dependence on third country energy suppliers.

"It is clear that the commission is sharpening its knives to cut a number of important legislative proposals" - Philippe Lamberts

On the other hand, the commission has purportedly ditched plans to legislate on clean air and setting new rules for air quality, which is likely to infuriate MEPs when they debate the proposals in Strasbourg next week.

The commission will present a new strategy to promote competitiveness throughout Europe and believes the Horizon 2020 programme will be key in helping companies innovate.

There are also plans to rework the financial regulatory framework and build a capital markets union, to make it easier for small businesses to access funds and to have a standardised approach to credit.

Following the recent 'LuxLeaks' controversy, the executive has promised to step up its efforts to combat tax fraud and evasion. It will draft an action plan to ensure that the country in which a company generates profits is also the country where that company pays tax.

Brussels will also encourage the adoption of a financial transaction tax. Member states have already agreed upon the implementation of such a tax, which is meant to come into effect next year.

Additionally, the automatic exchange of information between tax authorities on cross-border tax rulings will be introduced.

Negotiations will continue before the signing of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership, and the commission has promised more transparency in the proceedings.

In the area of justice and fundamental rights, the institution will push for the creation of a European public prosecutor's office and will seek EU accession to the European convention on human rights.

Juncker's team is also developing a European agenda on migration, in order to attract skilled workers and combat human trafficking.

It will continue to work to promote democracy around the world, especially with neighbouring countries. This is of particular importance considering the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and tensions with Russia.

"The EU needs to be more ambitious in scrapping burdensome regulation" - Guy Verhofstadt

Lastly, the commission has promised to increase transparency. It has called for an inter-institutional agreement on a mandatory transparency register, so that all the institutions are clear and open about who exactly is influencing the decision making process.

Parliament's socialist group leader in Gianni Pittella said the commission's announcements regarding combating tax evasion and tax fraud were "good and concrete news", but stressed that his group "now wants to see these measures being put into practice".

ALDE group president Guy Verhofstadt was more critical of the commission's work programme, arguing that the EU needs to "be more ambitious in scrapping burdensome regulation".

He called for "sunset clauses to ensure that EU laws automatically dissolve after ten years".

Greens/EFA group co-president Philippe Lamberts was also unimpressed saying, "it is clear that the commission is sharpening its knives to cut a number of important legislative proposals", but added that he was relieved that the circular economy was included in plans for the coming year.

He called on the commission to "[fight] tooth and nail" to ensure laws on air pollution and maternity leave are adopted.

MEPs will vote on a resolution on the commission's work programme next Thursday during the plenary session in Strasbourg.


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