On Tuesday 23 October, the European Commission unveiled the details of the annual Work Programme for 2019, thereby outlining its policy plans for the upcoming year. The Work Programme follows up on Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union of 12 September 2018. But what to expect from the EU’s executive arm in a year that will be marked by the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU and the European elections?
Business as usual? Not entirely. The Work Programme is entitled: “delivering what we promised and preparing for the future”. As such, the approach is twofold. Amidst the hustle and bustle of political campaigns and the subsequent power shuffle in the EU institutions, the daily work of the Juncker Commission continues until autumn next year. Therefore, expect the Commission to tie up loose ends on the pending legislative files. Only 15 new, non-legislative, initiatives have been tabled. A further 10 files will go through the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) to ensure their effectiveness. Moreover, President Juncker urges the co-legislators to speed up negotiations on the pending 45 proposals.
Besides finishing the legislative cycle, the Commission aims to look beyond 2019. This future will be given a boost during a key milestone event next year: the EU leaders’ Summit in Sibiu on 9 May 2019, shortly after Brexit day and just before the European elections. During this Summit, Member States will discuss the future of the Union. The Commission will contribute to this by providing the necessary input in order to set the agenda.
Consequently, the Work Programme for 2019 feeds into this Summit. It gives us a sneak peek in what to expect next year in Sibiu and ultimately, the next Commission 2019-2024. Most of the new initiatives in the Work Programme will focus on the EU’s commitment to climate change and engagement with the Paris Agreement. In the runup to the Katowice Climate Change Conference (COP24) this December and following the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Commission will issue a strategy for long-term EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Expect this strategy to set the scene for upcoming legislation during the next mandate.
Similarly, a progress report on the state of the Energy Union will identify which challenges still need to be addressed in the coming years to complete the EU’s 2030 energy and climate framework. These long-term frameworks set the scene for specific policy areas. Expect the next Commission to further roll-out how all transport modalities will have to deliver their parts to ensure a low-carbon and sustainable future in order to achieve the targets as set in the Paris Agreement.
Moreover, work will continue to strengthen the Digital Single Market. For next year this means wrapping up the remaining 12 proposals, but also setting out the building blocks for years ahead by presenting a Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence and a Joint Action Plan on the spread of online disinformation.
These strategies and progress reports will provide guidance for the years ahead and will feed into the agenda of the EU Summit in Sibiu. Amidst the heat of Brexit and the EU elections, the 2019 Work Programme is more than merely a wrap-up of the current Commission, and will aim to provide the building blocks for Europe’s years ahead. In order to have an impact on the next Commission priorities, it is imperative to seize this window of opportunity to actively shape the policy priorities for the EU and create a favourable political and regulatory framework. After all, priorities are already being developed. Want to know more? Feel free to contact us.