Romanian Presidency priorities discussed in committees
The priorities of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers are being outlined to parliamentary committees by ministers, in a series of meetings.
Romania is holding the Presidency of the Council until the end of June 2019. Hearings take place from 21 January onwards.
Transport and Tourism: need for EU level action to boost tourism development
“There is a need for renewed efforts to develop an applied strategy for growth in tourism in the EU and the Presidency will aim to draft Council Conclusions on tourism development in Europe”, said Tourism Minister Bogdan Trif. “We need to look at the impact of tourism at local level and promote tourism that is environmentally and economically sustainable and boost use of digital technologies in tourism,” he added.
MEP welcomed the focus on developing tourism and stressed that further efforts are needed to solve problems caused by too much tourism and to ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities are fully addressed. MEPs also highlighted the potential of bicycle tourism, the importance of financing tourism initiatives at EU level and advancing the use of multimodal ticketing.
Agriculture and rural development: CAP, food chain, diseases
Moving forward with the reform of the post-2020 EU farm policy is the Presidency’s main priority, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Petre Daea told MEPs on Wednesday. The Presidency will also seek to finalise the new EU rules against unfair trading practices in the food supply chain and focus on efficient ways to tackle the spread of animal diseases, such as African swine fever, Mr Daea added. MEPs questioned the timetable for reforming the Common agricultural policy (CAP) and raised concerns about trade negotiations with non-EU countries.
Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
Ms Graţiela Leocadia Gavrilescu, Romanian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment, said that the Presidency will focus on concluding inter-institutional negotiations on the CO2 standards for heavy-duty vehicles, and on advancing negotiations on the new LIFE programme. She aims to close negotiations on the main parts of the text, as an agreement between the heads of state and government on the Multiannual Financial Framework is still pending. The Romanian Presidency will also kick off the discussions in Council on the incoming proposal for CO2 emissions reductions in maritime transport, she said.
The priorities she listed also featured the EU biodiversity strategy post-2020, greening the EU semester, the ongoing debate on endocrine disruptors, and sustainable development.
Mr Ioan Deneş, Minister of Waters and Forests, announced that the Presidency will work to advance negotiations on the two legislative files on water management -the Drinking Water directive and the Water Reuse regulation.
M Petre Daea, Romanian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the Romanian Presidency will work on the proposal on the transparency and sustainability of the EU risk-assessment system throughout the food chain (the so-called "general food law"), with the aim of reaching an agreement by mid-February.
Ms Sorina Pintea, Romanian Minister of Health, said that the Council Presidency will move forward with negotiations on the health technology assessment regulation. The Presidency will also, on 1 March, organise a ministerial conference in Bucharest on the next steps towards making the EU a good practice region in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, and will work to increase the coverage of vaccination in the EU.
Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
Brexit, migration and security are the main challenges in the field of home affairs, according to Romanian Minister for Internal Affairs, Carmen Dan. On the reform of the asylum system, Mrs Dan insisted it is key to find a balance between responsibility and solidarity. She acknowledged how difficult it is for member states to reach a common position on the Dublin Regulation and said that her aim is to unblock the negotiations, at least on the files that are most likely to be adopted.
Romanian Justice Minister Tudorel Toader pointed to the fight against cross-border crime and improving police cooperation as key objectives of the Presidency. He highlighted the importance of extending the competencies of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to other serious offences such as terrorist crimes, but not before the agency becomes operational. Toader also faced several questions from MEPs on rule of law and the fight against corruption in Romania.
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader promised close and fruitful cooperation with the Legal Affairs committee until the end of its term. Finalising talks on whistle-blowers, the company law package and cooperation of courts and access to documents are the main priorities for the Romanian presidency.
The Presidency looks forward to opening talks on the Justice and Rights and Values Programmes and pointed out that, similar to the whistle-blower directive, protecting citizens’ rights must be a key component during negotiations. The Romanian minister concluded by underlining that it is vital to educate and inform citizens on matters of law and EU values.
During the hearing, MEP stressed the importance of the Copyright file and urged that it should be unblocked in the Council. They raised their concerns over rule of law and ongoing judicial reforms in Romania and encouraged cooperation with the Venice Commission.
Regional Development: Cohesion, a common European value
Moving the negotiation process forward on the 2021-2027 EU long-term budget will be one of the top priorities during the Romanian Presidency of the Council, according to Minister of European Funds, Rovana Plumb, on Tuesday. The minister also outlined that the main priorities set by the presidency are a “Europe of convergence, a safer Europe, Europe as a strong global actor and Europe of common values”.
MEPs insisted that the Regional Development Committee is ready with all legislative files and wants to have a chance to negotiate with EU member states, seeking a broader approach for cooperation.
Industry, Research and Energy
In the field of energy, the Romanian Presidency will focus on the consumer and on diversifying energy sources, supply and security as well as affordable energy services, Anton Anton, Romanian Minister for Energy announced. The Presidency will formalise political agreements on the reform of the electricity market, part of the Clean Energy package and wants to advance in the negotiations on the common rules for the internal market in natural gas as much as possible.
Alexandru Petrescu, Romanian Minister for Communications and Information Society said that the Romanian Presidency will focus on digitalisation throughout the EU and in all economic sectors. They will move forward and, where feasible, complete negotiations on legislative files, such as re-use of public sector information, Digital Europe Programme, the telecom part of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), privacy of electronic communications (ePrivacy), creating the European Cybersecurity Industrial, Technology and Research Competence Centre and the network of coordinated national centres.
One of the major objectives of the Presidency in the field of research and innovation is to promote European solutions aimed at reducing research and innovation performance gaps between EU member states, Nicolae Hurduc, Romanian Minister for Research and Innovation said. The Romanian Presidency will also endeavour to advance the negotiations on the Horizon Europe file.
Niculae Bădălău, Romanian Minister of Economy (responsible for industry including defence industry) stated that the Romanian Presidency will continue efforts to develop a long-term EU industrial policy strategy for 2030 and push for Council conclusions on this issue. Artificial intelligence was also mentioned as crucial for European industry.
Promoting connectivity, digitalization and the use of technology in order to increase the competitiveness of the European transport industry are the highest priorities for the Romanian EU Council Presidency, said Rovana Plumb, Interim Minister for Transport.
The Presidency will focus on proposals on managing road safety infrastructure, rules for hiring trucks from another member state and aerodynamic truck cabs. They also aim to make progress on the Eurovignette proposal, rail passenger rights and clean vehicles directive, the Connecting Europe Facility regulation, as well as training of seafarers and the Maritime Single Window. It is ready to discuss the mobility package and it will address ending seasonal clock changes in the second half of the Presidency.
MEPs welcomed the ambitious plans, but remarked that negotiations between the Council and Parliament will need to be concluded well ahead of the elections in the Parliament. MEPs greeted the focus on developing the TEN-T network and finalising the renewal of the Connecting Europe Facility and rail passenger rights. They expressed hope that Romania can use the presidency period to tackle unfair competition in transport.
Employment and Social Affairs: promoting fair labour mobility across the EU
“Our presidency aims to promote the free mobility of workers as a driver of growth and competitiveness in the internal market, while combating fraud and inequalities”, Minister of Labour and Social Justice Marius-Constantin Budai said on Wednesday 23 January in the Employment committee. The Romanian Presidency priorities include: guaranteeing the European Pillar of Social Rights by being more inclusive of social partners; promoting health and safety in the workplace and fostering equal opportunities for men and women on the labour market, namely by reducing the wage gap.
The minister underlined that the Council is confident that it will come to an agreement before the end of the current legislative term on the following files:
- setting up a European Labour Authority;
- the coordination of social security systems;
- transparent and predictable working conditions;
- the third proposal on the protection of workers from carcinogens and mutagens (CMD3) and
- the work-life balance directive.
Promoting the EU enlargement policy with the Western Balkans, strengthening ties with the neighbourhood countries and consolidating the EU's global strategy are amongst the priorities of the Romanian Presidency. As Romania’s Foreign Affairs Minister Teodor Meleșcanu put it, “cohesion will be the motor of our presidency”. The Presidency will aim to keep all communication channels with Turkey open, bearing in mind that Turkey is a strategic EU partner in many areas.
The Romanian presidency of the Council comes at a historical moment for the EU, with Brexit around the corner and the upcoming European elections. Together with bolstering the EU’s external action, the presidency will focus on countering disinformation and developing a European mechanism to share best practices to fight misinformation.
Women’s rights and gender equality: work-life balance, women on boards and Istanbul Convention
“We will strive to close negotiations and reach a deal on the work-life balance Directive during a final trilogue on Wednesday”, the Romanian Labour and Social Justice Minister Marius-Constantin Budai said on Tuesday. Other priorities of the Presidency are to move forward with the negotiations on the Directive on improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges (the so-called Women on Boards Directive), which has been blocked for several years in the Council. Tackling the gender pay gap and fighting all forms of discrimination are also high on the Romanian Presidency’s agenda.
Regarding the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women (known as the Istanbul Convention), Mr. Budai declared that the Romanian Presidency will do its best so that all member states ratify it (to date, eight EU countries still haven’t done so).
Economic and monetary affairs: banking and capital markets union, European Monetary Fund
ECOFIN Chair and Public Finance Minister Eugen Teodorovici said on Monday 21 January that the Presidency would aim to continue deepening economic and monetary union, particularly through progress on the banking union and the capital markets union. making progress towards fairer taxation, and improving economic convergence. MEPs were particularly interested in Mr Teodorovici’s views on the European Monetary Fund and stabilisation mechanism proposals, as well as what progress could be made towards a Eurozone budget. They also asked about the next steps on digital taxation, the list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for taxation purposes as well as the review of the EU financial supervisory agencies.
Budgets: invitation to appear declined
Successive Council presidencies have been invited to present their priorities on EU budget-related matters, without ever accepting. The Romanian Presidency has so far refrained from answering, despite the number of important files of common interest being dealt with by that committee: the 2020 budget, the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework, the protection of financial interests in case of rule of law deficiencies, InvestEU and the Reform Support programme, inter alia.
Culture and education: mobility, inclusion, support for artists and fair remuneration for authors
The Presidency will focus on early childhood education and care as well as language teaching and learning, as they can contribute towards increasing mobility and creating an inclusive environment, National Education Minister Ecaterina Andronescu said on Tuesday.
Culture and National Identity Minister Valer Daniel Breaz said they would try to finalise negotiations on the copyright legislation, highlighting the importance of fair remuneration of artists, but also access to content. Access to more opportunities, integrating more easily in the labour market and volunteering for young people will be the main priorities in the field of youth, Youth and Sports Minister Constantin-Bogdan Matei said.
Internal Market: Online platforms, market surveillance, consumer protection rules
Finalising the negotiations on online platforms and market surveillance rules to ensure that products sold in the EU are safe are among the priorities of the Presidency, said Economy Minister Nicolae Bădălău, on Tuesday. The 2021-2027 single market programme, which will depend on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations, is also high on the agenda.
On updating consumer protection rules (the “Omnibus proposal” voted through on Tuesday in the committee, which also deals with dual quality of products), the Presidency will seek to obtain a Council position at the beginning of February, the minister ensured MEPs, so that negotiations with Parliament could start soon.