What will new MEPs find in their in-trays after the elections?
What policies will the EU pursue over the next five years? How will taxpayers' money be used? The answers will depend on the balance of power in the new European Parliament and the choice of a President to lead the next European Commission, both of which will be determined by the European election results in May 2014.
The way out of the crisis, the need to boost Europe's global competitiveness, with special attention to small firms’ needs, and measures to stimulate job creation are set to stay high on the agenda in the coming years. Legislation to further stabilise financial systems, particularly in the euro area, including a separation of banks’ investment and retail arms, is also likely to be a priority.
MEPs will have to decide whether to approve or reject the Transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) deal now being negotiated with the USA. This could boost EU competitiveness and create jobs, but has also given rise to concerns about personal data protection and the protection of European cultural products.
The new intake of MEPs will also have to review the EU’s long-term budget for 2014-2020, including its size, the way it is funded and what it is spent on. Members will also continue their fight for an EU budget funded wholly by own resources, thus reducing the share of EU member states’ budget contributions in the total.
Data protection will take central stage within Europe too, as MEPs decide on a new set of privacy laws which give internet users better control over their own data. These rules also seek to protect citizens' personal data handled by police and judicial bodies.
How will the EU handle migrant flows in the future? Will the staff and resources of the EU border management agency Frontex be strengthened? Or will the EU for the next five years focus on legal migration and integration instead? The answers will depend on the results of the May European elections, but migration issues will certainly remain a key concern.
Energy and climate change
EU-wide targets for cutting CO2 emissions, switching to renewables and promoting energy efficiency will also be high on the agenda as MEPs negotiate the next package of measures to combat climate change and reducing energy-related pollution in 2020 -2030.
The new Parliament will need to help shape a response to Russia’s efforts to dismember Ukraine. These highlighted the EU’s energy dependence and hence the need to ensure that EU citizens have access to safe, stable and diversified energy supplies.
Consumer affairs and safety
MEPs will be asked to take decisions on GMOs, cloning, novel foods and other health and safety issues as well as revamping product safety rules. And a final deal putting an end to “roaming” charges imposed on citizens using their mobile phones or tablets abroad still needs to be agreed with the Council of Ministers.