No time for “business as usual”: Commission’s 2016 work programme
The European Commission’s plans for 2016, incorporating suggestions made by Parliament on 16 September, were presented by its First Vice-President Frans Timmermans on Tuesday afternoon.
The ten priorities presented by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker a year ago, "our mission statement on which we have been appointed by you", form the foundations of 23 new Commission initiatives, said Mr Timmermans.
"The motto of our work programme this year is 'no time for business as usual’", he said, adding that “all the actions we propose are underpinned by our Better Regulation Agenda. We will make sure that when the EU intervenes, it delivers results". Mr Timmermans listed five priorities: the migration and refugee crisis, a growth, jobs and investments agenda, energy, fair taxation and the labour market.
"2016 will be a year of real social progress", he said, promising a series of initiatives, to include a new skills agenda ("to help people to get jobs, especially in the digital area") and a proposal on labour mobility (because "free mobility can't be a threat to the social model").
József Szájer (HU) voiced the EPP’s support for checking red tape and the Commission’s focus on implementation and simplification following impact assessments. The Commission should strive to increase labour market mobility and flexibility, including better skills and jobs for young people, and to complete the energy and digital single market, he said.
For the S&D group, Maria João Rodrigues (PT) called for more ambitious EU strategies on the circular economy, digital solutions and a revision of budgetary instruments, plus further efforts to tackle tax evasion, so as to turn the EU into an area of prosperity and stop the member states’ "race to the bottom" on social standards.
For Vicky Ford (ECR, UK), the only question which matters is whether the EU will make life easier or harder for businesses. She warned the Commission not to get "hoodwinked by the left into proposals that would leave Europe no place for businesses, as usual". Social issues are better dealt with by member states, she added.
While agreeing on most of the programme, Sophia In't Veld (ALDE, NL) called for a detailed evaluation of measures to fight terrorism and better enforcement of EU fundamental rights and rule of law. Furthermore, more transparency is urgently needed in the "better law making" process, she added.
Martina Michels (GUE/NGL, DE) viewed the work programme as a missed opportunity to reform the EU and to eradicate social inequalities which fuel the rejection of European solutions by citizens and even, in the worst case, racism.
Philippe Lamberts (Greens/EFA, BE) praised the ambition and promptness of Commission action in 2015, but felt that it lacked the same sense of urgency when it came to social dumping, fiscal competition or environmental standards involving "taboo" sectors such as the automotive industry.
David Borrelli (EFDD, IT) called for an EU dynamic which would halt the growth of poverty, for example in Greece, provide micro-credits to citizens and businesses and match the diversity of local and regional challenges while Matteo Salvini (ENF, IT) advocated tackling ISIS, Chinese imports and refugee flows.
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