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

Monday, 18 September 2017

State of the Union 2017 brochure

In addition to the letter of intent and roadmap(s), the European Commission’s SOTEU web page offers us the State of the Union 2017 brochure, a booklet of 108 pages available only in English at this moment.

Since the handy brochure is at least partly a compilation of documents published separately, some of the content is already available in other EU languages.


SOTEU speech
At least the first real item, president Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union 2017 (SOTEU) address, is available in all the 24 official languages of the European Union: IP/17/3165.  

The speech reminds us of Juncker’s dual approach, in his words (page 7):

First, we should stay the course set out last year. We have still 16 months in which real progress can be made by Parliament, Council and Commission. We must use this time to finish what we started in Bratislava and deliver on our positive agenda.

Secondly, we should chart the direction for the future. As Mark Twain wrote, years from now we will be more disappointed by the things we did not do, than by the ones we did. Now is the time to build a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe for 2025.
Juncker seemed to recall the “business as usual” first scenario, officially called “carrying on”, in the White paper on the future of Europe COM(2017) 2025 final, when he showed that just staying the course means defending more of the strategic interests of EU citizens at the level of the European Union (page 8):

We set out to complete an Energy Union, a Security Union, a Capital Markets Union, a Banking Union and a Digital Single Market. Together, we have already come a long way.

Setting the sails and charting a course for the future, Juncker reminded his listeners about the five scenarios of the White paper, before outlining his own ‘scenario six’ (page 12).  

The values (freedom, equality and the rule of law) are the compass for the European Union (pages 12-13) and the foundation for a more united, stronger and more democratic union, each of which Juncker laid out on the following pages, explaining why they are in the interest of the citizens of the union.


Letter of intent

The  blog post Letter of intent and Roadmap already outlined the second item in the SOTEU 2017 brochure (from page 23), including the draft Commission Work Programme until the end of 2018: #CWP2018.

Listed under the Commission’s ten priorities, there are CWP 2018 proposals 1) to launch or to complete by the end of 2018, and 2) there are initiatives to be launched with a 2025 perspective.

The Commission is going to consult with the European Parliament and the Council (Coreper I and II) before the draft is replaced by the final Commission Work Programme 2018.  

Rest of SOTEU brochure

The rest of the State of the Union 2017 brochure deals with the following themes:

Progress on the European Commission’s 10 Priorities
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

Stay tuned for new presentations.



Ralf Grahn

Sunday, 17 September 2017

State of the Union 2017: Letter of intent and Roadmap

Already, the European Commission’s State of the Union web page has been updated several times, with new language versions and documents relating to the future of Europe debate #FutureOfEurope, president Jean-Claude Juncker’s state of the European Union 2017 #SOTEU speech and the draft Commission Work Programme #CWP2018.

The SOTEU press release IP/17/3164 offers highlights from the speech in 23 official EU languages, the text of the address SPEECH/17/3165 is available even in Gaelic and on the Commission’s SOTEU web page you can watch a video recording of president Juncker’s hour-long trilingual presentation.


Letter of intent  

At the time of writing it seems to exist in English only. The twelve pages of the European Commission’s letter of intent to the president of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani and the prime minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas (for the presidency of the Council of the European Union) begin by striking an upbeat note before setting out the guiding principles (page 3):

Today, we are sending you our intentions for the Commission Work Programme for the next sixteen months up to the end of 2018. As Europe looks to its future, we are presenting you with a Roadmap for a More United, Stronger and More Democratic Union to build on the current momentum. Our Roadmap is constructed in two parts. Firstly, we suggest actions and initiatives to be presented and/or completed over the next sixteen months, in line with scenario 1 of the White Paper and the Bratislava Agenda. Secondly, we suggest actions and initiatives which are more ambitious, more forward-looking and that will shape our Union until 2025; this combines scenarios 3, 4 and/or 5 of the White Paper, making full use of the untapped potential of the Lisbon Treaty.   

Our Roadmap is based on the following important principles: the imperative to respect our common European values, including the rule of law; the continued focus on delivery and enforcement of priority initiatives that have a clear European added value and make Europe a better place for its citizens, in line with our 2014 Political Guidelines and our common belief that our Union should be big on big issues and small on small ones; the need to treat citizens of all EU Member States equally and never to allow, within our Union, the emergence of second-class citizens; and a strong emphasis on efficiency, democracy and transparency in all our common actions.

The Roadmap also anticipates that as of 29 March 2019 the United Kingdom will no longer be a member of our Union, following its notification under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. Up until and beyond this moment, we want to preserve the unity of the EU27 that we have built up over the past months.



Roadmap to end 2018

On progress this far you can consult the EPRS European Parliamentary Research Service reference publication The European Commission at mid-term, presented in the blog post European Commission priorities at mid-term.

On page 4 the letter of intent gets down to brass tacks, with a Roadmap for a More United, Stronger and More Democratic Union (Draft Commission Work Programme up to the end of 2018), advancing one Commission priority at a time:

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

The last text page (11) describes the consultation process leading from the draft to the final CWP 2018.


Timetable

A second Roadmap? It is somewhat bewildering that the two-page brochure offering a short introduction and a timetable for the discussion about the future of Europe is also called a Roadmap, namely Roadmap for a more united, stronger and more democratic union.

For this future of Europe schedule until the European Parliament elections in June 2019, the graphic designers in love with pastel colours have again beaten the friends of readable text, black on white.
The schedule/roadmap has also been posted among other documents under the headline Factsheets on the State of the Union, there available in all the official EU languages.

When I tested half a dozen of the schedule/roadmaps, I noticed that Juncker’s words were in Italian in the Danish version, the headline of the Estonian timetable was in German, and the first page of the Finnish roadmap was in Italian and Danish. Come Monday, a round of quality control could be in order.  


Substantial SOTEU proposals

The Commission’s State of the Union 2017 web page has been updated with references to SOTEU proposals published already between 13 and 15 September 2017, by now the code of conduct for Commissioners, the package on international trade and investment, as well as the so called democracy package.

Now or later you can also search the press release database of the European Commission for these and future updates.


Ralf Grahn

Saturday, 16 September 2017

European Commission priorities at mid-term

In the summer of 2014 Jean-Claude Juncker presented his agenda for jobs, growth, fairness and democratic change, as political guidelines for the then next European Commission. The ten priorities available in the brochure A New Start for Europe are:
  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
  6. A Reasonable and Balanced Free Trade Agreement with the U.S.
  7. An Area of Justice and Fundamental Rights Based on Mutual Trust
  8. Towards a New Policy on Migration
  9. A Stronger Global Actor
  10. A Union of Democratic Change  

Commission mid-term
Two and a half years into the five-year  mandate of the Juncker Commission, the European Parliament published a mid-term review in English and French:
The European Commission at mid-term - State of play of President Juncker’s ten priorities (EPRS European Research Service; July 2017; 38 pages)

La Commission européenne à mi-mandat - État des lieux de dix priorités du président Juncker (EPRS Service de recherche du Parlement européen; Juillet 2017; 45 pages)   

The publication presents a quantitative record and a qualitative assessment of progress on the ten priorities of the Juncker Commission.


EU future

Substantially the systematic treatment provides both comprehensive and detailed views of progress regarding each priority. From long term future to immediate proposals, the briefing serves as a reference tool for a discussion about EU themes, regardless of time perspective.

Thus, the EPRS mid-term analysis offers a point of departure for the debate about the future of Europe #FutureOfEurope, Juncker’s speech about the state of the European Union 2017 #SOTEU and the draft Commission Work Programme #CWP2018.

Detailed documentation and helpful links enhance the usefulness of the EPRS mid-term review, even if it is highly annoying to be thrown to the beginning of the publication when you return from a link.


Ralf Grahn

Friday, 15 September 2017

Political groups on EU reform

Today we use the press release Let’s make the most of the momentum to shape an ambitious future in order to look at how political groups in the European Parliament reacted to president Jean-Claude Juncker’s speech about the state of the European Union (SOTEU) and the future of Europe, especially with regard to EU reform.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) Group, hailed the European way of life in speech and press release, promising to renew the European social model, one of the main themes in Juncker’s speech. Weber highlighted the fight against illegal immigration and terrorism, called for an end to membership negotiations with Turkey and the establishment of a European Defence Union. With regard to terrorism, we note the press release from the EPP Group yesterday about the first meeting of the European Parliament’s new special committee on counter-terrorism (TERR).

For the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group, the leader Gianni Pittella greeted Juncker’s proposals and packed six minutes with demands for more resolute action by the European Union. Pittella offered clear responses on some key issues concerning a more democratic and capable EU:

We welcome Juncker’s acknowledgment of the equality between the EU member states – a multispeed Europe is not a sustainable option! Let's provide the eurozone with a real Finance minister, accountable to the European Parliament, with an appropriate fiscal capacity to be used for growth and development. Europe certainly doesn't need of a kind of watchdog along the lines of the Troika.

-----

People want to see democracy and the rule of law respected and not threatened by the governments in Hungary and Poland. We welcome Juncker’s words on this and call the Commission to act on it if needed. ECJ judgements must be respected and applied.

Last but not least the revision of EU governance. The real problem is the overwhelming weight of the Council and the detrimental use of the unanimity vote system. Let’s break the taboo. We must revise the dominant role of the Council and increase the use of the majority vote system. Only by a real democratisation of the institutional balance, with an enhanced role for the Parliament, can we finally ensure Europe is capable of meeting the challenges ahead.

In the same way, a joint president for the Commission and the European Council – selected by the Parliament through the ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ system – could help make the EU more democratic and transparent.

Syed Kamall for the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group chose to focus on globalisation, free trade and entrepreneurship, against protectionism and regulation. A day earlier the group vice-president Hans-Olaf Henkel had opposed EU-wide lists in the elections to the European Parliament.   

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group leader Guy Verhofstadt welcomed the vision and ambition of Juncker’s SOTEU address. People want a reformed European Union, asking for more European action. Good institutions make good policies. We need European level democracy, transnational lists:

That’s why I’m fighting for transnational lists, for a real European constituency. So that we lift our democracy to a continental scale. Europe is more than just the sum of 27 national democracies. Our European executive needs to be matched by a powerful parliament.

Our European executive needs to be matched by a powerful parliament that defends our European principles and values against governments in Poland and Hungary. “Alt-right governments”, who believe Trump is the example, Trump with his white supremacy. Or Putin or Erdogan who jail their democratic opponents.

Let’s make Europe the counterweight of all this. A beacon of openness, of freedom, of hope for the 21st century.

After a sombre portrait of EU from the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Group, the MEP  Patrick Le Hyaric wanted to turn Europe around to focus on social and environmental progress.
The leader Philippe Lamberts for the The Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) Group managed to paint a picture of Europe almost as dark as the one offered by the Left, before he arrived at reducing inequality and our ecological impact.  
Here are links to the speeches for the anti-EU groups, Nigel Farage for the EFDD and Harald Vilimsky on behalf of the ENF.



Ralf Grahn