The European Commission presented its 2019 Work Programme at the end of October with the intention of concentrating increasingly on its priorities until the European Parliament elections in May 2019. The main focus will be on finalizing the proposed dossiers.
In 2014, the European Commission under President Juncker had set itself ten priorities. Since taking office, they have been providing the framework for the Commission’s Annual Work Programme. In contrast to the previous Commission under Barroso, the main focus of the Annual Work Programmes since then has been on a limited number of key initiatives, which pursue the objective to verifiably generate added value at EU level.
On the one hand, the 2019 Commission Work Programme pursues the target of achieving a speedy agreement concerning the already presented legislative proposals; on the other hand, only a limited number of new initiatives is to be accepted, whereby the focus will be on initiatives of the future “EU of 27 Member States”. The aim is to create a more stable foundation for a “unified and sovereign Europe”.
The European Commission points out that it already had presented all legislative proposals, which were necessary to implement the ten priorities of the Juncker Commission from 2014. In the meantime, one had succeeded in reaching agreement with the European Parliament and the Council in respect of over 50 percent of the proposals; 20 further dossiers were in an advanced state of resolution.
For the coming weeks, the European Commission had set out to drive forward as many outstanding proposals as possible within the framework of the legislative procedure to enable their finalisation before the European Parliament Elections in May 2019. The list of priority dossiers comprises no fewer than 84 issues, including the dossiers, which are relevant to the Chamber of Labour:
Under the chapter “Deeper and Fairer Single Market”, the Commission mentions the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and emphasises the urgency of an early agreement concerning the dossiers, as it has proposed subsequently. This includes first and foremost the implementation of a European Labour Authority to be able to effectively combat wage and social dumping across Member States’ borders. Apart from that, it cites the proposal on Work Life Balance and the Directive on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions, which shall also be extended to atypical employment. From the point of view of the Chamber of Labour, these dossiers should be vigorously advanced to effectively strengthen Europe’s social dimension at last.
The Commission also hopes to finalise the social provisions for professional drivers in the road transport sector. In particular with regard to watering down the application of the Directive on the posting of workers in the road transport sector (Lex Specialis), but also in respect of making driving times and rest periods as well as cabotage rules more flexible, the Chamber of Labour in principle sees no need to amend the current legal situation. That is why the proposed amendments within the 1st Mobility Package are viewed as extremely critical.
Further priority dossiers include the “New Deal for Consumers”, which shall enable class actions at European level. In view of the weaknesses of cross-border consumer protection in Europe, which were revealed by the Diesel scandal, it is of fundamental importance to strengthen the trust of citizens in a fair Europe.
However, the probably most important block for the Commission is the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027. The Commission presented it in May this year, hoping for its finalisation before the EU Elections in May 2019. However, from the point of view of the Chamber of Labour it requires a number of improvements. The proposal does attach too little importance to the fact that employees and consumers contribute disproportionately to financing the EU budget. A corporate income tax for digital companies and an EU-wide Financial Transaction Tax could result in a fairer expense distribution. At the same time it is important to significantly increase the European Social Fund Plus to be able to adequately meet the challenges in this respect.
Apart from that, the 2019 Commission Work Programme also comprises 15 new initiatives, among other a review of the Investment Initiative for Europe (EFSI, known as "Juncker Fund"). The AK welcomes the launch of public future investments and has demanded for years to exclude it from the deficit calculation (“Golden Investment Rule”). However, it remains very sceptical of the concept of Private-Public Partnerships, as provided for by EFSI, as these are more expensive for the public than investments, which are debt financed.
Particular important for the AK is the presentation of a strategy for endocrine disruptors. These are hazardous substances, which can alter the hormonal system and which are associated with a number of health damages (breast cancer, risk of impaired fertility and many more). Endocrine disruptors are present for example in pesticides or organic solvents.
Furthermore, the presentation of a strategy for the long-term reduction of greenhouse gas emissions has been announced a report on the state of the EU Energy Union. As well a reflection paper was proposed that shall give answers on how a sustainable Europe can be ensured for future generations. The European Commission has taken this initiative in view of completing the Energy Union and combating climate change. Ambitious targets and a holistic approach, which includes all causers of greenhouse gases, would also be welcome by AK.
In view of the by now very short time remaining until the EU Elections in May 2019, it is now longer realistic to envisage the finalisation of all initiatives mentioned above. That is why prioritising the key dossiers, in particular on further developing a social Europe, is of particular importance. All dossiers, which cannot be finalized before the elections, run the risk of being no longer incorporated in the Commission’s next term of office.