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Euroblog: The lawyer and trainer Ralf Grahn writes about the internal market and the EU



Updated: 2018-03-07T02:30:30.567+02:00

 



EU free trade agreements: implementation and future

2017-11-13T05:31:29.752+02:00

The blog post Reflection paper on globalisation: Opportunity or threat? introduced the European Commission’s reflection paper on harnessing globalisation COM(2017) 240 and the entry Fair, competitive and resilient: EU responds to globalisation indicated paths for rules, firms and societies. Here, as part of the discussion about the future of Europe - #FutureOfEurope on Twitter - we go beyond the reflection paper to look at facts and opinion regarding globalisation - European and world integration - especially international trade.A fresh report about existing EU trade agreements offers us substance on current issues and avenues for the future of international trade. EU trade agreements On Thursday, 9 November 2017, the European Commission published an assessment of existing trade agreements, with suggestions for future improvement IP/17/4486. The press release was accompanied by a three-page factsheet on the implementation report, which groups the 25 agreements in force into four categories depending on their scope and economic and political objectives (page 3):  "First generation agreements", e.g. those concluded in the past with Switzerland, Mediterranean countries, South Africa or Chile, that focussed on increasing EU exports through elimination of customs duties;  Much more recent, "New Generation agreements", like those with Korea, Andean countries and Central America, that extend to new areas and include rules ensuring that trade goes hand in hand with sustainable development;  Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas created to support close economic relations with EU's neighbours, such as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova;  Economic Partnership Agreements focused on development needs of African, Caribbean and Pacific regions.  Increasingly, sustainable development goals (SDGs) are taken into account, as we are going to see later.For those interested, here are the EU trade agreements in force and here is an overview of free trade agreements FTAs and other trade agreements being negotiated, complemented by a blog post Reviewing our trade agreements, by the trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström.The perception of the European Commission being in cahoots with corporations, while keeping the public in dark, used to lead to much suspicion and resistance among Europeans. In addition to more comprehensive and fairer rules, the Juncker Commission has promised more transparent trade negotiations. The Council’s web page on EU trade agreements offers a quick view of the role of the Council and names the ongoing trade agreement negotiations with Japan, Mercosur, Mexico, Chile, Australia and New Zealand.  Implementation of EU free trade agreements More detailed information is on offer in the FTA implementation report, which is already available on Eur-Lex in all the official EU languages, except Irish Gaelic; here the English language version: Report from the Commission on Implementation of Free Trade Agreements 1 January 2016 - 31 December 2016; Brussels, 9.11.2017 COM(2017) 654 final (41 pages) The  Commission staff working document accompanying the FTA implementation report has been published only in English: Country reports and info sheets on implementation of EU Free Trade Agreements; Brussels, 9.11.2017 SWD(2017) 364 final (136 pages) Future of EU trade On Friday, 10 November 2017, the EU trade ministers were informed about the FTA implementation report (page 6) at the Foreign Affairs Council (Trade).    Looking forward to the future of Europe, according to the provisional version of the conclusions, the trade ministers were briefed about the WTO ministerial conference in Buenos Aires, the state of play of negotiations with Mexico and Mercosur, the home stretch of the economic partnership agreement to be concluded with Japan, trade and sustainable development (TSD) chapters in EU trade agreements (including the Commission’s July 2017 TSD non-paper), and trade relations with Colombia and Peru. The European Commission’s announcement about the upcoming EU Trade Policy Day and [...]



Fair, competitive and resilient: EU responds to globalisation

2017-11-12T05:35:05.694+02:00

The blog post Reflection paper on globalisation: Opportunity or threat?, which  introduced the European Commission’s reflection paper on harnessing globalisation COM(2017) 240, left me with a desire to present the reasons of the Commission and how it wants to handle the internal and external pressures of globalisation, as part of the discussion about the future of Europe - #FutureOfEurope on Twitter. Profound changes We may be well or ill prepared, but profound changes await us. As the EU Commission writes about our interconnected future (page 11): We are still in the early phase of the transformation where digitalisation, robots, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, 3D printing will revolutionise how we produce, work, move and consume.The UK and the USA have both upset long traditions of integration, European and global. China increasingly acts like an economic and a military great power, but not based on the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law many of us believed were becoming universal. In the emerging tri-polar (or multipolar?) world, the relative weight of Europe in world affairs continues to decrease, to say nothing about the dwindling relative size of individual EU member states (page 12): In 2025, 61% of the world's 8 billion-population will be in Asia, predominantly in China and India. Europe's relative share of the world population will decline, with the EU27 accounting for 5.5 %. This may bring about a multipolar world order with different political, technological, economic and military powers. But it also means large new markets for European companies.Isolationism and protectionism - closing minds and borders, building physical and mental walls, creating obstacles to trade and investment - may entice individuals, communities, regions and countries feeling left behind, but the relief is shortlived (page 14): Changes associated with globalisation can lead to calls for countries to isolate and insulate themselves from what is happening around them. This is particularly acute in regions that have been left behind. Some want to put up barriers and close borders.  --- However, a majority of European citizens recognise that protectionism does not protect. It may provide short-term relief, but history shows that it never had lasting success, and has often led to disastrous outcomes. --- Protectionism would disrupt production and increase costs and prices for consumers. European exports would become less competitive putting even more jobs at risk. An increase in trade restrictions by 10% is estimated to lead to a 4% loss of national income. We would lose access to new products, services, technologies and ideas. By hitting the poorest hardest with price increases, protectionism would have the opposite of its desired effect. Harnessing globalisation In a nutshell, for the sake of the citizens of Europe and the world, the Commission sketches the road to follow (page 14): To better harness globalisation, we need more global governance and global rules. And we need to support that with domestic policies that boost our competitiveness and resilience at home.Chapter 3 about the EU’s external response is dedicated to promoting a fairer international economic order (pages 15-18). Chapter 4 deals with the internal response of the EU: how to enhance innovation and competitiveness, as well as to bolster the resilience of those who otherwise fall behind (pages 19-23). The thoughts about life-long learning and active labour market and social policies are closely related to the future of Europe reflection paper on the social dimension, the European pillar of social rights to be proclaimed and the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth the coming week, 17 November 2017 in Gothenburg (Sweden). - For more information you can follow #SocialRights and #SocialSummit17 on Twitter. EU level action Individuals and firms make their own choices in a changing world, but the reflection paper is about how the political sphere should tackle globalisation. There are challenges [...]



Reflection paper on globalisation: Opportunity or threat?

2017-11-11T08:12:03.585+02:00

The Commission’s White paper on the future of Europe: Reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025 COM(2017) 2025 invited the citizens of the European Union to discuss our common future ahead of the elections to the European Parliament in 2019. In the White paper, published 1 March 2017, the European Commission promised to contribute to the discussion during the coming months with a series of reflection papers on the following topics: • developing the social dimension of Europe; • deepening the Economic and Monetary Union, on the basis of the Five Presidents' Report of June 2015; • harnessing globalisation; • the future of Europe’s defence; • the future of EU finances. As promised, the European Commission published a paper discussing the economic and societal challenges of rapid integration: Reflection paper on harnessing globalisation; Brussels, 10.5.2017 COM(2017) 240 final (25 pages)   For those who prefer the less readable pastel coloured “printed” versions, with annexes, the European Commission’s web page White paper on the future of Europe and the way forward serves as a convenient channel to the White paper and the five reflection papers, including the one on harnessing globalisation in the official EU languages.Opportunity of threat? One of the difficulties for building coherent policies and action is that people in the EU are divided: 55 per cent see globalisation as an opportunity, while 45 per cent consider globalisation as a threat overall (page 10).  Even worse, fear of globalisation is the main cause for voters to abandon mainstream political parties and to turn to populist parties, especially on the Right, but also on the Left, according to the 2016 study from the Bertelsmann Stiftung Globalisierungsangst oder Wertekonflikt? The lower the level of education, the less the income and the higher the age of people, the more likely they are to perceive globalisation as a threat. Majorities in Austria and France experienced globalisation as a threat, while the proportion of people fearing globalisation was particularly low in Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Public opinion in the Netherlands, Germany and Hungary formed a middle group between the extremes.  However, in May 2017, along with stronger economies in the EU and the euro area, the Bruegel blog found that Europeans rediscover enthusiasm for globalisation, even in France, as Uuriintuya Batsaikhan and Zsolt Darvas wrote. Tri-polar world? A fresh post on the Bruegel blog, European worries about isolationist trends, reasons that despite populist shocks in the UK and US, withdrawing from the world is no solution, but that Europe needs to reassess the future of globalisation. Internal EU reform is long overdue, and Europe’s allies are withdrawing, while European integration and globalisation both build on the idea ‘work together, as a way of doing better’. Maria Demertzis discusses both economic inequality in Europe (the UK and US) and the rise of a China promoting different values than the EU. Can the EU overcome populist and protectionist pressures? Is the European Union going to be able to conclude constructive deals with China? *** Let us return with a blog entry on how the European Commission wants to handle the internal and external pressures of globalisation and at a few expert comments about the reflection paper. Ralf Grahn[...]



Future of Europe: European Parliament’s vision

2017-11-06T10:21:28.524+02:00

It is possible to find overviews in Reader’s Digest style of the most notable Future of Europe initiatives. The annotated version of president Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union 2017 address, with the sub-heading Proposals for the future of Europe that can be implemented on the basis of the Lisbon Treaty, demonstrates how the flexibilities of the EU treaties can be used to improve the effectiveness of European Union action, without embarking on a formal process of treaty reform. European Parliament and Juncker proposals Already at headline level we notice a high degree of similarity with one of the EU reform resolutions from the European Parliament: European Parliament resolution P8_TA(2017)0049 of 16 February 2017 on improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty (2014/2249(INI)) [rapporteurs Elmar Brok and Mercedes Bresso] The European Parliament Think Tank did a bit more, by comparing Juncker’s SOTEU proposals with the resolution by the EP plenary. For our purposes it is enough to recall the general drift of the document The European Council and the 2017 State of the Union proposals, which describes Juncker’s vision for a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe: His vision consists of five proposals which would require a decision by the European Council, as well as one suggestion which would directly impact on the composition and working methods of this EU institution. The five proposals are: 1) using the general passerelle clause to shift from unanimity to qualified majority voting (QMV) in the Council on remaining internal market issues and aspects of taxation policy; 2) moving to QMV in the field of Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP); 3) setting up a European Defence Union; 4) extending the competences of the European Public Prosecutor's Office; 5) agreeing on a new composition for the European Parliament, including transnational lists. The additional suggestion is to merge the positions of President of the European Council and European Commission. In principle, all proposed initiatives could be carried out without a Treaty change. The Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) include a series of clauses enabling the European Council to go beyond the current status quo. In three cases, the European Council would need the consent of the European Parliament before taking its decision. A comparison between President Juncker's proposals and the views of the European Parliament indicates that their opinions overlap regarding four of the ideas, while on one of them, discussions in the Parliament are still ongoing (see Table 1 below). In each case, the Juncker proposal, the treaty basis and the European Parliament view are presented. Since the directly elected European Parliament represents the citizens of the union, and the European Commission promotes the general interest of the EU, their views are often similar. Juncker and Macron The in-house think tank of the European Commission, the European Political Strategy Centre EPSC, published a Juncker-Macron comparison available in English, French and German: Two Visions, One Direction: Plans for the future of Europe as laid out in President Juncker’s State of the Union and President Macron’s Initiative for Europe.The summary of this comparative assessment is telling (page 2):Out of the proposals put forward by President Macron in his speech of 27 September, about 80% are already proposed or foreseen in the European Commission’s work programme, as outlined on 13 September in President Juncker’s Letter of Intent to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and to Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. Naturally, each proposal is compared and commented on. European Parliament vision The EP has presented its view on the need for EU reform in the publication Future of Europe: European Parliament sets out its vision. President Antonio Tajani states the view of th[...]



Future of Europe initiatives

2017-11-05T12:04:27.391+02:00

The European Parliament, the European Commission and its president Jean-Claude Juncker, as well as the French president Emmanuel Macron, have provided substantive initiatives for the ongoing debate about the future of Europe.  This blog post provides the main references for contemplation, discussion and engagement. European Parliament The directly elected European Parliament, which represents the citizens of the union, launched a real discussion, by setting out its vision for the future of Europe in three resolutions:European Parliament resolution P8_TA(2017)0049 of 16 February 2017 on improving the functioning of the European Union building on the potential of the Lisbon Treaty (2014/2249(INI)) [rapporteurs Elmar Brok and Mercedes Bresso] European Parliament resolution P8_TA(2017)0048  of 16 February 2017 on possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union (2014/2248(INI)) [rapporteur Guy Verhofstadt] European Parliament resolution P8_TA(2017)0050 of 16 February 2017 on budgetary capacity for the euro area (2015/2344(INI)) [rapporteurs Reimer Böge and Pervenche Berès]White Paper and reflection papers The European Commission, which promotes the general interest of the union, invited the EU institutions and all EU citizens to a broad debate, by publishing its White Paper on the Future of  Europe and the five reflection papers about the social dimension, globalisation, the economic and monetary union (EMU),European defence and EU finances: White Paper on the future of Europe: Reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025Reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe Reflection paper on harnessing globalisation Reflection paper on the deepening of the economic and monetary union Reflection paper on the future of European defence Reflection pages on the future of EU finances President Jean-Claude Juncker promised to take the ideas in the White Paper and the reflection papers forward in his State of the Union 2017 speech. The Future of Europe debate is open for everyone and it continues until the elections to the European Parliament in June 2019. State of the Union 2017The European Commission’s State of the Union 2017 web page offers us access to the references we need, president Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union (SOTEU) address SPEECH/17/3165 with the letter of intent and the roadmap for a more united, stronger and more democratic union. Commission Work Programme 2018   On 24 October 2017 the SOTEU speech and the Commission’s letter of intent with the roadmap graduated into the Commission Work Programme 2018: An agenda for a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe COM(2017) 650, with five annexes and the related communication on better regulation COM(2017) 651, accompanied by the staff working document SWD(2017) 675. The communications are still available only in English, French and German, but @EurLex kindly informed me that translation work is ongoing, so new language versions may appear. I presented the CWP 2018 in the blog entries Commission Work Programme 2018 and New and REFIT initiatives in Commission Work Programme 2018 plus Many EU priority proposals pending.    President Macron You can find links to the Initiative pour l’Europe by the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, in the original French at the Elysée Palace website, as well as two translations of his full motivational Sorbonne speech in the blog post Macron’s Initiative for Europe in English and German. European Council In the European Union designed by the heads of state or government, they (the European Council EUCO) should provide the union with the necessary impetus for its development and define the general political directions and priorities, according to Article 15(1) TEU.Why have I neglected their role in the debate about the future of Europe until now? After the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, the presidents and prim[...]



Macron’s Initiative for Europe in English and German

2017-11-04T05:37:26.339+02:00

The Elysée website of the French president seems to offer a single language choice: French. It may be an excellent reminder of the importance and glories of the French language, but for a president keen on proselytising in Europe it has some drawbacks. I checked Macron’s Initiative pour l’Europe speech many times for possible translations I could mention to the readers of my blogs, but only found the same English summary of A sovereign, united and democratic Europe with mainly the concrete reform proposals. (In my opinion the strongest part of Macron’s marathon speech was the inspiration he offered Europeans about the Whys? of European sovereignty, unity and democracy. If people understand the strategic choices, the concrete reforms will follow.) It therefore took a long time, before I found out through a French Embassy web page that probably the same “Service de presse” which kept the Elysée page clean from foreign languages, had provided an English translation of the 26 September 2017 Initiative for Europe speech.  Soon after I stumbled across a German version of Rede von Staatspräsident Macron an der Sorbonne: Initiative für Europa, provided by the French Embassy in Berlin.     To the people still interested in Macron’s full speech text in English or German after more than a month, I say s’il vous plaît.  If president Macron and his press service want to draw their own conclusions, go ahead. (I’ll just add that there is a reason for the European Union having 24 official languages.) Ralf Grahn[...]



When opinion polls useful for the Future of Europe?

2017-11-03T11:05:03.493+02:00

In the blog post State of the Union: public opinion I wondered at the usefulness of the latest Standard Eurobarometer 87 (fieldwork in May 2017), and the timing and value of the three reports of the special Eurobarometer 461 opinion poll purportedly dedicated to Designing Europe’s Future  (fieldwork in April 2017).Great if people value the European Union and its policy areas more, but why do the opinion polls not ask the citizens of the EU about the kind of union they want for the future? Do the citizens of the union want an undemocratic state-owned European Union or a democratic EU? Given (an understanding of) the external threats and internal challenges, do they want to give the European Union or Eurozone effective powers, or do they prefer to hide their heads in the sand? Which powers should belong at the European level, which should be left with member states, regions, municipalities and individuals, according to an evidence-based view of value added, proportionality and subsidiarity? Are citizens prepared to trust their directly elected European Parliament, the European Commission promoting the general interest, or the European Council and Council (of ministers), which primarily guard their own turf? What do the citizens of the union think about the reform initiatives of the European Parliament, Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the French president Emmanuel Macron? I decided to phrase these questions in a incisive manner, in order to show the kind of questions and answers a real debate about the future of Europe requires. Parlemeter 2017 The fresh opinion poll commissioned by the European Parliament, Parlemeter 2017: A stronger voice: Citizens’ views of Parliament and the EU, confirms the positive general trends regarding public opinion on the European Union and confirms observations about their views on rights and priority policies. With regard to the questions I posed, the Parlemeter 2017 (page 26) makes two additional observations. The first one is a bit mystifying; it concerns something I must have failed to see in the (“first results” of the) Eurobarometer 87, even if the footnote on the page links to the same survey: According to the European Commission Standard Eurobarometer 87, the European Parliament is the European institution with the highest level of confidence expressed by Europeans: 45% of citizens tend to trust this institution. 41% trust the European Commission, while 37% trust the European Central Bank. Overall, 42% of respondents declare their trust in the European Union. Confidence in the EU and the European Parliament is therefore also higher than the one held for national parliaments (36%) and for national governments (37%).     Even here we see no separate score for the European Council or the Council of the European Union.  The second additional remark shows clearly more positive perceptions of the European Parliament during the last year:     Even though many respondents (42%) keeps a “neutral image” of the European Parliament, the number of people who have a positive view of the institution is undoubtedly on the rise (33% compared to 25% in September 2016). This increase results in a direct decline of respondents who have a negative opinion of this institution, while the share of those who hold a neutral view remains rather stable between 41% and 46% during the past ten years. Useful, or at least interesting fragments, but we are still left with the question: When are the European Commission and the European Parliament going to provide opinion polls useful for the debate about the future of Europe? Or should I have looked elsewhere?  Ralf Grahn[...]



Many EU priority proposals pending

2017-10-30T05:51:19.336+02:00

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[...]



New and REFIT initiatives in Commission Work Programme 2018

2017-10-29T06:52:06.745+02:00

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[...]



Commission Work Programme 2018

2017-10-28T09:30:51.287+02:00

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 pro[...]



Future of Europe: Leaders’ Agenda for Gothenburg

2017-10-23T05:53:56.624+03:00

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[...]



EPRS: keeping tabs on the European Council

2017-10-22T11:52:23.644+03:00

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[...]



European Council: Leaders’ Agenda

2017-10-21T10:13:41.687+03:00

The blog post European Council: United we’re stuck? noted the effort of the EUCO president Donald Tusk to cut the Gordian knots among the heads of state or government (and more generally the governments of the member states), by a structured approach to difficult issues. At the same time, the entry doubted if a schedule for thematic meetings would be more successful now than at the time of Herman Van Rompuy. What if sub-optimal procedures and outcomes for EU citizens and enterprises are inevitable consequences of a basically intergovernmental union the member states have designed to suit themselves? Do we find anything to add to our knowledge about the Leaders’ Agenda after the EUCO meeting? The customary introductory speech by the president of the European Parliament touched on a number of issues. On the future of Europe Antonio Tajani reminded the national leaders: Europe is thinking hard about its own future. We have to find answers to two fundamental questions: what it is that we want to do together in the future, and how we want to do it.As you will remember, Parliament was the first to contribute to this reflection process, through the Brok-Bresso, Böge-Bérès and Verhofstadt reports.President Juncker has presented the Commission White Paper setting out the possible scenarios and, more recently, President Macron put on the table a range of ideas and proposals that warrant in-depth consideration.Parliament, as a democratic and open forum for debate, aims – and has the institutional duty – to be at the centre of the debate.That is why the Conference of Presidents has decided to devote a series of  debates in plenary to the future of Europe, and to invite the Heads of State and Government and leading European figures who wish to speak to outline their vision and debate with us.I have already extended that invitation to some of you in person, and will be sending everyone a written invitation in the next few days.We have noted that one of the items on the Leaders’ Agenda concerns the Spitzenkandidaten. I am sure that your aim is to make that arrangement the norm.Thank you for listening. I look forward to your coming to Parliament to talk about Europe.  The European Council informs us that the Leaders’ Agenda was endorsed. During the coming two years, the national leaders are going to deal with the most contentious issues, such as the Eurozone reform, migration crisis, internal security, trade and the future financing of the EU, according to Tusk. Tusk’s added remarks on the Leaders’ Agenda described the new work method as somewhat more direct and more informal than normally. Naturally, he expressed his satisfaction that the leaders are going to work united, hand-in-hand, with all the member states aboard. According to the EUCO meeting page, the leaders met informally to endorse the Leaders’ Agenda, “a concrete work programme to guide EU’s action in the future”. This seems to explain why there is nothing in the European Council conclusions, but we have Tusk’s remarks (above), plus the downloadable Bratislava implementation report and Leaders’ agenda, as well as the description in the EUCO invitation letter,  mentioned in the previous blog entry. In light of the video recordings of the joint press conference of Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, Tusk repeated his written statement on the Leaders’ Agenda verbatim, but there is no indication that the journalists showed any interest. The European Council has offered an initial response to the Future of Europe debate, with EU reform calls from the European Parliament, the European Commission, the French president Emmanuel Macron, think tanks, civil society organisations and individual EU citizens. Will any[...]



European Council: United we’re stuck?

2017-10-20T10:37:07.139+03:00

After the 18 October 2017 tripartite social summit the president  Donald Tusk offered an optimistic view on the role of the European Council (EUCO) for the future of Europe in general and the deepening of the economic and monetary union (EMU) in particular: From all quarters, there is now a new willingness to energise and enrich our work, draw on new ideas, maintain our unity and increase the dynamism of the EU. I will be calling on leaders to work together according to a strict timetable on the issues we have identified as the most pressing, from migration to EMU reform, where we are deadlocked and where the Gordian knot needs to be cut.The day before, Tusk had presented his Leaders’ Agenda, based on how the heads of state had implemented the tasks they had set themselves in Bratislava last autumn and in their Rome declaration in March 2017. On twelve pages the document Implementing the Bratislava Roadmap ticks off various actions without analysis of effectiveness or efficiency, nor does it offer a critical framework for evaluating if the goals and actions are commensurate with the the challenges. On the basis of this implementation report, who would know that due to the member state governments the economic and monetary union (EMU), with a euro area population of 341 million and the second most important reserve currency in the world, still stands on clay feet: feeble, complicated, opaque and undemocratic? As an indirect, but honest admission of the failings of the national governments, Tusk’s Leaders’ Agenda proposed to the European Council that “we should further step up our efforts and re-energise our work, and, to this effect, set out clearly what we intend to deliver.” According to the so called Leaders’ Agenda being discussed by the European Council right now, between now and June 2019, thirteen regular EUCO meetings or summits are supposed to deal with a number of subject headlines, a few EU reform issues for each meeting. For the deadlocked issues - quite a lot of them there are - decision notes are promised along the road. The idea of a longer period of thematic European Council meetings was tried, as proposed by Herman Van Rompuy, the then president of EUCO. Even if I appreciate a systematic and structured approach to strategic issues, I really don’t know if the interests of EU citizens and businesses were better served by these thematic meetings (or the erratic crisis summitry which was the imprint of the Sarkozy era in France).  Let us see if president Tusk’s optimistic description and principles in the EUCO invitation letter are going to make the heads of state or government change their spots more easily than the leopard. Is it going to be easier, or even possible to advance according to Tusk’s unity mantra; he keeps repeating: as long as I am here, I will be the guardian of European unity. It is not only my formal role as the President of the European Council, but - above all - it is my true belief. Because unity is, in fact, our most important strength.It is great that all member states of the European Union are invited to participate and to advance. But does Tusk mean that treaty reform and flexibility are excluded, leaving only enhanced or structured cooperation as a way forward for a group of frustrated member states? (Opaque, ineffective and anti-democratic intergovernmental cooperation is not exactly the future of Europe model I would want to see.)***Tusk’s invitation letter and Leaders Agenda discuss issues as if EUCO were part of the solution. But what should be done if the union of heads of states or government (member state governments) is the cause of poor outcomes for EU citizens and businesses, powers at the Europ[...]



EMU progress references

2017-10-16T05:09:40.463+03:00

After the blog entry Reflection paper on EMU future we take a look at what has happened regarding the  priority ‘a deeper and fairer economic and monetary union’  during the first half of the European Commission’s term in office. In July 2017 the EPRS European Parliamentary Research Service published The European Commission at mid-term: State of play of President Juncker’s ten priorities (35 pages; available also in French), where the text on priority 5, A deeper and fairer economic and monetary union, on pages 17-19, offers a clear summary of developments.  Since then, the European Parliament’s Legislative Train Schedule has been updated until the end of September 2017. It offers a general description of the EMU priority and a table with access to individual EMU proposals, including demands for legislation by the Parliament, explanatory text and further references. There is also a print/pdf version for each priority.We are going to return to these EMU progress references at various times, perhaps you, too. *** On Twitter you can find updates from the general EU reform discussion under the hashtag #FutureOfEurope, with #deepeningEMU dedicated to the creation of a more robust, resilient and democratic economic and monetary union. Ralf Grahn[...]



Reflection paper on EMU future

2017-10-15T10:26:47.492+03:00

Cristo si è fermato a Eboli: Why do I remember Carlo Levi and the saying “Christ stopped short of here, at Eboli”, when facing the conflict between a European level currency and national economic policies, as well as when following the many efforts to correct the design and to advance on the road to a robust, resilient and democratically legitimate euro area? In the blog post A better future for the EMU? we saw how the Five Presidents’ Report outlined the unfinished work and the road ahead. EMU reflection paper Two years after Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union - the Five Presidents’ Report - as part of the ongoing #FutureOfEurope process, the European Commission published an update:  Reflection paper on the deepening of the economic and monetary union; Brussels, 31.5.2017 COM(2017) 291 final (34 pages) The “printed” versions of the White Paper and the thematic reflection papers on the future of Europe (with annexes, but in pastel colours not designed for online reading) can also be downloaded through the Commission web page White paper on the future of Europe and the way forward. In a nutshell the aim of the EMU reflection paper is (page 2): This reflection paper – the third in the series – sets out possible ways forward for deepening and completing the Economic and Monetary Union up until 2025. It does so by setting out concrete steps that could be taken by the time of the European Parliament elections in 2019, as well as a series of options for the following years. Building on the Five Presidents’ Report, it is intended both to stimulate the debate on the EMU and to help reach a shared vision of its future design. --- Our Economic and Monetary Union still falls short on three fronts. First, it is not yet able to reverse sufficiently the social and economic divergences between and within euro area members that emerged from the crisis. Second, these centrifugal forces come with a heavy political price. If they remain unaddressed, they are likely to weaken citizens’ support for the euro and create different perceptions of the challenges, rather than a consensus on a vision for the future. Finally, while the EMU is stronger, it is not yet fully shock-proof. EMU reflection The euro is the currency for 341 million people in 19 Eurozone countries, as well as the second most used (reserve) currency around the world (page 5). It is hardly an exaggeration to say (page 6): The functioning and future of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) is a matter of interest for all European citizens from whichever Member State they come from, including those who will join the euro area in the future. After the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU, the economies of euro area countries will represent 85% of the total GDP of the EU. This highlights the euro’s central role in the future EU at 27. Given its importance for the world, it is just as important to international partners and investors. Euro for all?Relatively speaking, this means that the countries outside the euro area are going to become even more marginal after Brexit. No wonder that the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker used his State of the Union 2017 address for a more united, stronger and more democratic union, SPEECH/17/3165,  to try to entice the stragglers to adopt the euro:If we want the euro to unite rather than divide our continent, then it should be more than the currency of a select group of countries. The euro is meant to be the single currency of the European Union as a whole. All but two of our Member States are required and entitled to join the euro once they fulfil the conditions.Memb[...]



A better future for the EMU?

2017-10-15T05:45:13.359+03:00

The fifth among the ten priorities in the political guidelines for the Juncker Commission is a deeper and fairer economic and monetary union (EMU). The blog post Future of Europe: introducing deepening EMU mentioned the Five Presidents’ Report, officially Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union, from June 2015. On pages 4-5 the presidents set out the basic elements: Progress must happen on four fronts: first, towards a genuine Economic Union that ensures each economy has the structural features to prosper within the Monetary Union. Second, towards a Financial Union that guarantees the integrity of our currency across the Monetary Union and increases risk-sharing with the private sector. This means completing the Banking Union and accelerating the Capital Markets Union. Third, towards a Fiscal Union that delivers both fiscal sustainability and fiscal stabilisation. And finally, towards a Political Union that provides the foundation for all of the above through genuine democratic accountability, legitimacy and institutional strengthening. In other words, the euro area was far from robust and resilient.  Perish the thought that desirable reforms should be should be done at once and in their entirety. The Five Presidents’ Report foresaw a protracted process (page 5): Stage 1 (1 July 2015 - 30 June 2017): In this first stage (‘deepening by doing’), the EU institutions and euro area Member States would build on existing instruments and make the best possible use of the existing Treaties. In a nutshell, this entails boosting competitiveness and structural convergence, completing the Financial Union, achieving and maintaining responsible fiscal policies at national and euro area level, and enhancing democratic accountability. Stage 2: In this second stage (‘completing EMU’), concrete measures of a more far-reaching nature would be agreed to complete EMU’s economic and institutional architecture. Specifically, during this second stage, the convergence process would be made more binding through a set of commonly agreed benchmarks for convergence that could be given a legal nature. Significant progress towards these standards – and continued adherence to them once they are reached – would be among the conditions for each euro area Member State to participate in a shock absorption mechanism for the euro area during this second stage. Final Stage (at the latest by 2025): At the end of Stage 2, and once all the steps are fully in place, a deep and genuine EMU would provide a stable and prosperous place for all citizens of the EU Member States that share the single currency, attractive for other EU Member States to join if they are ready to do so. Despite the laborious progress, outlined in more detail in a roadmap for the first two stages, much should have been done already on the road to the deep and genuine EMU (Eurozone) with democratic legitimacy (Annex 1; pages 20-21). Ralf Grahn[...]



Future of Europe: introducing deepening EMU

2017-10-14T09:39:25.872+03:00

In the blog entry Future of Europe to meet European Council about the winds of change from the European Parliament, the European Commission and president Emmanuel Macron, we saw the: White Paper on the Future of Europe: Reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025; Brussels, 1.3.2017 COM(2017) 2025 final The White Paper promised to deliver further food for thought and debate through five thematic papers, among which (page 18): The European Commission will contribute to that discussion in the months ahead with a series of reflection papers on the following topics: ---  • deepening the Economic and Monetary Union, on the basis of the Five Presidents' Report of June 2015; --- Five President’s Report Published in June 2015, the 23-page Five President’s Report, officially Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union, was authored by the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker “in close cooperation with” the president of the European Council and the euro summit Donald Tusk, the president of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi and the president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.  EMU Reflection paper Two years later came the update in the form of: Reflection paper on the deepening of the economic and monetary union; Brussels, 31.5.2017 COM(2017) 291 final (34 pages) Alternatively, access the White Paper and the reflection papers through the Commission web page White paper on the future of Europe and the way forward. Introductory notes  In Finnish I looked at the deepening of the economic and monetary union (EMU) and the Five Presidents’ Report in the blog post Euroopan tulevaisuus: talous- ja rahaliiton syventäminen and at the EMU reflection paper in the entry Pohdinta-asiakirja talous- ja rahaliiton syventämiseksi. The Swedish blog post Norden i EU-utkanten? described how scattered the Nordic countries are with regard to the defence alliance NATO and the European Union. Iceland and Norway remain outside the EU, and even the EU members Denmark and Sweden continue on the periphery, showing no signs of adopting the euro, while  leaving Finland the sole Nordic participant in the euro area, the core group of 19 countries with a total population of 341 million. In Vitboken om EU:s framtid i Norden I tried to find signs of activity regarding the future of Europe, by the governments or parliaments of the Nordic EU members Denmark, Finland and Sweden, concerning the White Paper from the European Commission. (The article Diskussionsunderlaget om EU:s sociala dimension i Norden moved from the general level to explore the reception of the reflection paper on the social dimension by these three countries. There are also a number of earlier blog posts in Finnish, Swedish or  English about the social market economy, the European social pillar and the EU social dimension. Most of them can be found through the entry Future of Europe: social dimension.)   (The English entries A symbolic opportunity for the European Council and Future of Europe to meet European Council visited the summit level and general EU reform issues in an attempt to lay the groundwork for more specific questions, such as the individual reflection papers, with the creation of a credible EMU next in turn.)   ***Twitter reflects at least parts of the multilingual pan-European public debate about the future of the European Union under the hashtag #FutureOfEurope, while the Commission web page for the priority A deeper and fairer economic and monetary union offers a more specific tag[...]



Future of Europe to meet European Council

2017-10-13T10:05:27.455+03:00

We are approaching the moment of truth. Let us wait for the “Leaders’ Agenda” president Donald Tusk is going to present to the European Council (EUCO), before we definitively state that the EU27 heads of state or government have become impetus takers, instead of impetus providers, as they imagined in Article 15(1) TEU. But the years since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force have revealed the limitations of an intergovernmental EU, while the world has become even more challenging.The novelty is that there is an ongoing future of Europe debate. Clearer views about the need for capability and democracy have reached EU institutions, with reform winds in the European Parliament, the European Commission and even parts of the European Council.  European Parliament In the aftermath of the UK’s Brexit referendum, the European Parliament adopted a 28 June 2016 resolution on the need for a better European Union, based on using the Lisbon Treaty to the full and completed by a revision of the Treaties. On 16 February 2017 the Parliament elaborated on the theme through three resolutions: one on utilising the flexibilities of the Lisbon Treaty, a second on treaty reform proper, and a third one about creating a budgetary capacity for the euro area (EPRS note).The one plus three European Parliament resolutions are P8_TA(2016)0294, followed by P8_TA(2017)0049, P8_TA(2017)0048 and P8_TA(2017)0050.  Juncker Commission The president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker used his State of the Union 2017 (SOTEU) address SPEECH/17/3165 to outline proposals for the near future (draft Commission Work Programme for 2018), as well as more long-term initiatives  to make the EU more capable, by using the flexibilities of the EU treaties. (The State of the Union 2017 web page offers a convenient brochure and other references for those interested.) Well before the SOTEU speech, starting 1 March 2017, the Juncker Commission launched a public debate on the future of Europe. First came the White Paper: White Paper on the Future of Europe: Reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025; Brussels, 1.3.2017 COM(2017) 2025 final The White Paper contained analysis and five imaginary scenarios based on conflicting ambitions for the future of the European project. The White Paper promised to deliver further food for thought and debate (page 18): The European Commission will contribute to that discussion in the months ahead with a series of reflection papers on the following topics: • developing the social dimension of Europe; • deepening the Economic and Monetary Union, on the basis of the Five Presidents' Report of June 2015; • harnessing globalisation; • the future of Europe’s defence; • the future of EU finances. Known as Reflection papers and stimulating public discussion beyond the Rome Declaration from the EU27 leaders, the five documents are: Reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe; Brussels, 26.4.2017 COM(2017) 206 final Reflection paper on harnessing globalisation; Brussels, 10.5.2017 COM(2017) 240 final Reflection paper on the deepening of the economic and monetary union; Brussels, 31.5.2017 COM(2017) 291 final Reflection paper on the future of European defence; Brussels, 7.6.2017 COM(2017) 315 final Reflection paper on the future of EU finances; Brussels, 28.6.2017 COM(2017) 358 final  Because I have used references to the austere but readable Eur-Lex versions, I owe a mention to those who prefer the pastel coloured “printed” versions of the Commission’s White Paper and Reflection papers (including the[...]



A symbolic opportunity for the European Council

2017-10-13T08:51:38.518+03:00

The European Council (EUCO) meets 19 and 20 October 2017 to agree on how to respond to the reform impulses for the future of Europe. The EUCO president Donald Tusk is consulting with the EU27 heads of state or government to present a “Leaders’ Agenda”. President Macron has told the public that France is going to recognise the symbols of the European Union, including the European flag with twelve stars,  at the EUCO meeting next week. This probably means a notification to join the declaration 52 by 16 EU member states annexed to the treaties (page 355): Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Hungary, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic declare that the flag with a circle of twelve golden stars on a blue background, the anthem based on the "Ode to Joy" from the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, the motto "United in diversity", the euro as the currency of the European Union and Europe Day on 9 May will for them continue as symbols to express the sense of community of the people in the European Union and their allegiance to it. This offers an opportunity for ten remaining EU27 members to show engagement for the European Union they have designed, putting themselves at the centre, namely: Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. Ralf Grahn[...]



Future of Europe: social dimension

2017-10-08T09:17:17.602+03:00

In the European Commission’s so called (so called, because it did not contain concrete proposals) White Paper on the Future of Europe: Reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025; Brussels, 1.3.2017 COM(2017) 2025 final, the proto-executive promised to contribute to the discussion by publishing five reflection papers: developing the social dimension of Europe; deepening the Economic and Monetary Union, on the basis of the Five Presidents' Report of June 2015; harnessing globalisation; the future of Europe’s defence; the future of EU finances. You can follow the discussion or participate under the Twitter hashtag #FutureOfEurope. Social dimension: official documents  We turn to the first Reflection paper in the series, accompanied by two short annexes, all available in 23 official EU languages: Reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe; Brussels, 26.4.2017 COM(2017) 206 final (33 pages) Annex to the Reflection paper; Brussels, 26.4.2017 COM(2017) 206 final ANNEX 1 (2 pages) Annex to the Reflection paper; Brussels, 26.4.2017 COM(2017) 206 final ANNEX 2 (2 pages) Social Europe reading In February and March, before the Reflection paper was published,  I wrote a number of blog posts related to the theme and compiled in the entry EU social market economy and social pillar. A few days ago I posted two blog articles in Finnish, Pohdinta-asiakirja Euroopan sosiaalisesta ulottuvuudesta and Euroopan sosiaalisten oikeuksien pilarin perustaminen, followed by two Swedish entries, Europeisk pelare för sociala rättigheter and Proklamation av europeiska pelaren för sociala rättigheter.  My latest posts, in English, have presented the Social Pillar package, also launched on 26 April 2017: Consultation report on European Pillar of Social Rights and Establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights plus Companion to European Pillar of Social Rights.Legal context There is a short overview of UN, ILO and European international conventions in the Commission staff working document, which accompanied the consultation communication: The EU social acquis SWD(2016) 50, page 17. Usually they bind the EU member states, mostly without the union as a party to the conventions. Here, I am just going to offer a reminder of the main EU provisions. One of the main objectives of the European Union is “a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress”, found in Article 3(3) TEU. Among the horizontal provisions (having general application), we have the social clause Article 9 TFEU, flanked by Article 8 on gender equality and Article 10 on combatting discrimination. Article 18 TFEU prohibits discrimination on grounds of nationality. Title X Social Policy (Articles 151-161 TFEU) spells out the more operational EU powers and their considerable limitations.  The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union compiles social rights and principles, applicable to the EU, but to the member states only when they implement union law. Political context   We should bear in mind the United Nations’ 2015 sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the SDG agenda until 2030, not forgetting the mirror effect of the New European Consensus on Development. Under the fifth of the Juncker Commission’s ten priorities, A deeper and fairer economic and monetary union -  #deepeningEMU - we find the policy area a European Pillar of Social Rights - #SocialRights on Twitter. The approaching  Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth on 17 Novem[...]



Companion to European Pillar of Social Rights

2017-10-07T07:12:46.123+03:00

Under the fifth of the Juncker Commission’s ten priorities, A deeper and fairer economic and monetary union -  #deepeningEMU - we find the policy area a European Pillar of Social Rights - #SocialRights on Twitter. With the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth on 17 November 2017 approaching, #SocialSummit17 on Twitter, we already looked at the Consultation Report on European Pillar of Social Rights and Establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights, where I promised to look at the accompanying detailed Commission staff working document. The companion SWD(2017) 201 Although I wondered why the Commission made so little hay out of the guiding principles, namely the social aims of Article 3(3) TEU and Article 9 TFEU, the communication COM(2017) 250 is a lucid summary of the Social Pillar. However, for detail people with a professional interest can turn to the accompanying staff working document SWD(2017) 201.  Even if we have to limit our comments to a few remarks, in this blog post we are going to look at the detailed staff working document, but let us begin by recalling the almost full coordinates of the official document: SWD accompanying the communication Establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights; Brussels, 26.4.2017 SWD(2017) 201 final (77 pages) Twenty principles The SWD(2017) 201 is the companion publication to the communication COM(2017) 250, best read in parallel as a detailed commentary, or used as a reference tool for each of the twenty principles and rights, which constitute the core of the Social Pillar (page 2):This document follows the structure of the three chapters of the European Pillar of Social Rights detailing the contents of each principle or right. Each one of these is presented in three main sections, covering the existing social acquis, an explanation of its content and scope, and suggestions with regard to its implementation.  Here are the principles and rights, and at the same time the main structure of the staff working document, with a few pages dedicated to each principle in a systematic manner: Chapter I Equal opportunities and access to the labour market  Education, training and life-long learning Gender equality Equal opportunities Active support to employment  Chapter II Fair working conditions 5. Secure and adaptable employment 6. Wages 7. Information about employment conditions and protection in case of dismissals 8. Social dialogue and involvement of workers 9. Work-life balance 10. Healthy, safe and well-adapted work environment and data protection Chapter III Social protection and inclusion 11. Childcare and support to children 12. Social protection 13. Unemployment benefits 14. Minimum income 15. Old age income and pensions 16. Health care 17. Inclusion of people with disabilities 18. Long-term care 19. Housing and assistance for the homeless 20. Access to essential services   Comment  In this document the European Commission provides a useful full house of detailed provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), acts and recommendations, plus recent and promised initiatives at an operational level. Where new forms of employment, including self-employment, or groups outside the scope of current provisions appear, the Commission wants to upgrade the EU acquis. The principles also indicate what national authorities and social partners can do, in processes where the member states can learn from each other. The sy[...]



Establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights

2017-10-06T06:07:47.024+03:00

Under the fifth priority of the European Commission, to deepen the economic and monetary union (EMU) - #deepeningEMU on Twitter - it is creating a social pillar #SocialRights, ahead of the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth #SocialSummit17 in Gothenburg 17 November 2017. Social Pillar documents   In April the European Commission published a communication, accompanied by two  staff working documents in 23 official EU languages: Establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights; Brussels, 26.4.2017 COM(2017) 250 final (10 pages) Social Scoreboard; Brussels, 26.4.2017 SWD(2017) 200 final (6 pages) SWD accompanying the communication Establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights; Brussels, 26.4.2017 SWD(2017) 201 final (77 pages) The eminently readable third staff working document, bridging the transition from the test version to the final proposal, and presented in the blog post Consultation report on European Pillar of Social Rights, was published only in English: Report of the public consultation; Brussels, 26.4.2017 SWD(2017) 206 final (53 pages) Social pillar communication The short communication about establishing the Social Pillar COM(2017) 250 contains the Commission’s final proposal for the Pillar.  The Pillar is primarily conceived for the euro area but open to all EU Member States (page 2).Page 3 offers a summary of the communication (including references to the official documents mentioned above): This Communication presents the European Pillar of Social Rights and outlines a way forward for its implementation. The Communication is accompanied by a number of legislative and non-legislative initiatives related to work-life balance, information for workers, access to social protection and working time. In the logic of the Pillar, these proposals, once adopted, will update and complement the EU acquis. The text of the Pillar itself is supported by a staff working document which provides more detailed explanations on each of the principles and rights. Moreover, a social scoreboard has been established to monitor progress on the ground. This will serve to track trends and performances across countries and to inform policy guidance in the context of the European Semester of economic policy coordination. For the EU as a whole, the scoreboard will also serve to assess progress towards its ̔social triple Aʼ.Euro area convergence Even if the Social Pillar is open for willing member states, why does the Commission stress its design for the euro area? After discussing the rapid economic and social changes in our societies, the communication explains (page 5): These challenges take a specific meaning for the completion of Europe's Economic and Monetary Union, as stressed in the Five Presidents' Report of June 2015. This is not just a social necessity, it is also an economic imperative. Employment and social conditions vary widely across the euro area, partly as a result of the crisis but also partly resulting from the imbalances built up in the years before the crisis. As the Report points out, efficient and resilient labour markets that promote a high level of employment and are able to absorb shocks without generating unemployment are essential for the smooth functioning of the Economic and Monetary Union. Over time, they contribute to the convergence of performances between Member States and to more inclusive societies. Beyond labour markets, it is also important to ensure that every citizen has access to[...]



Consultation report on European Pillar of Social Rights

2017-10-05T09:50:12.110+03:00

In February and March I wrote a number of blog posts compiled in the entry EU social market economy and social pillar. It is time to register the progress of the social dimension and the social pillar of the European Union, but let us first return to the public consultation after a reminder of one of the aims of the EU, as laid down in Article 3(3) TEU: a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress. While we are at it, why not recall the horizontal clause (provision having general application) Article 9 TFEU? Like this: Article 9 In defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union shall take into account requirements linked to the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health.Consultation on European Pillar of Social Rights In March 2016 the European Commission launched a public consultation on a European Pillar of Social Rights, presenting four documents for orientation. There was a test version of the Social Pillar  in the annex to the communication: Launching a consultation on a European Pillar of Social Rights; Strasbourg, 8.3.2016 COM(2016) 127 final (11 pages; available in 23 official EU languages) First preliminary outline of a European Pillar of Social Rights; Strasbourg, 8.3.2016 COM(2016) 127 final ANNEX 1 (18 pages; available in 23 official EU languages) The communication was accompanied by two commission staff working documents (SWDs):The EU social acquis; Strasbourg, 8.3.2016 SWD(2016) 50 final (17 pages; only in English) Key economic, employment and social trends behind a European Pillar of Social Rights; Strasbourg, 8.3.2016 SWD(2016) 51 final  (37 pages; only in English)  Consultation report This time I am not going to return to the documents which launched the public consultation lasting until the end of 2016, but head for the summary of the contributions during the consultation process. The Commission staff working document (available only in English) accompanying the Communication Establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights COM(2017) 250 “presents the consultation process and summarises its main findings”: Report of the public consultation; Brussels, 26.4.2017 SWD(2017) 206 final (53 pages) The consultation report, which was published on the same day as the Reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe COM(2017) 206  and the launch of the social pillar (link above), reveals how active and organised the consultation process was.The role of the member states and the EU Council is crucial regarding the establishment of and the Interinstitutional Proclamation on the European Pillar of Social Rights COM(2017) 251, the upcoming Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth 17 November 2017 i Gothenburg - #SocialSummit17 on Twitter - and the chances for practical progress, given the social policy powers vested in the member states. Therefore, it is interesting to see how active the member states were during the public consultation (page 6): Member States engaged actively in the consultation. The Commission received contributions from 21 national governments or their responsible ministries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Roman[...]



Future of Europe: a new narrative?

2017-10-01T10:59:50.312+03:00

Yesterday we looked at the European Union asking EU citizens, without the focus, resources or intent to act on the feedback, either on the fundamental issue of ownership (democracy) or more specific questions of individual policies. I wonder if the democratic conventions proposed by the French president Emmanuel Macron have been designed to be more effective channels of citizens’ political will than the public relations part of the Commission’s Future of Europe project, including the Citizens’ Dialogues. A new narrative for Europe? In April 2013, the sadness of being unloved made the president of the European Commission José Manuel Durão Barroso launch a culturally tinged project for a new narrative for Europe. Its most visible legacy was the declaration The mind and body of Europe, calling for a European “New Renaissance”. In The New York Review of Books, Anne Applebaum turns to books by Heinrich Geiselberger, James Kirchick, Ivan Krastev, Giles Merritt, Anton Shekhovtsov and Loukas Tsoukalis with the question: A New European Narrative? The books “disagree about the endgame: where Europe is going, what it should become, and what it should do in order to get there.” Democratic reform and effective powers require a level of of political energy that, according to  Applebaum, always seems to be missing at the European level. She asks if there is a potential “game changer” on the horizon, to test the proposition that what people really hate about Europe isn’t that it usurps power, but that it seems powerless.  A new Commission effort was the project leading to the publication 12 ideas for the Future of Europe - New narrative for Europe communications campaign (manuscript finished June 2017; 64 pages), which is worth reading for the detailed findings about aspirations and  concerns of young people - employment, education, environmental protection and citizen participation being the main policy areas (page 16). With regard to democratic impact, they wanted to be better informed to vote in European elections, with hints of turning the European Union into a democratic “nation” (unified) state (pages 15 and 27-32 plus 40-41). Necessary impetus After the three resolutions on EU reform from the European Parliament, the analysis contained in the European Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe and the five reflection papers plus the roadmap offered by president Jean-Claude Juncker on the State of the Union 2017 web page, as well as the eloquent Initiative pour l’Europe pep talk given by the French president Emmanuel Macron, the citizens of the European Union have enough access to the Whys? of the European project to provide the union of heads of state or government with necessary impetus for a new narrative based on democratic government and powers commensurate to the challenges. Ralf Grahn[...]