Spain has taken over the EU Council Presidency for the coming six months. Under the motto "Europe, closer", Spain is presenting a programme that attempts to find committed European solutions to common problems. Before the approaching elections to the EU Parliament, Spain thus holds the last full EU Council Presidency in this legislative period. This is a strategically important phase to finalise legal acts that are still being negotiated.
In its Presidency Programme, the Spanish Presidency sets four priorities: (1) Reindustrialize the EU and guarantee its open strategic autonomy, (2) Make progress in the green transition and in environmental adaptation, (3) Promote greater social and economic justice, and (4) Strengthen European unity.
Reindustrialization and green transition
Under the priority of reindustrialization (Priority 1), the programme mentions incentives to promote technological development and innovation as well as the reduction of dependencies and the creation of security of supply, especially in the areas of food, energy and health. From Spain’s point of view, important projects include the EU agreements with Latin America and the Caribbean and a deepening of the single market, also in terms of sustainable and inclusive growth. In the context of digitalisation, the aim is to overcome the digital divide and guarantee digital privacy for all. In the area of progress in the green transition (Priority 2), Spain sets itself the goal of combating climate change and its effects, paying attention to the problems of social exclusion and energy poverty. Other goals include the completion of the negotiations on the “Fit-for-55” climate package” and the electricity market reform.
Social justice and European unity
It should be positively emphasised that the Presidency Programme also deals extensively with the social dimension. Under the priority of creating greater social and economic justice (Priority 3), Spain mentions the following points: promoting a social economy, ensuring the right to decent work, including in new economic sectors, strengthening the welfare state, promoting equal treatment and inclusion, as well as progress in the initiatives and goals set forth in the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan. Reference is also made to the Economic Governance Reform, which aims to enable Member States to finance public policies and services. This objective is to be welcomed, as is the endeavour to guarantee tax justice in the EU. The Spanish Presidency will also focus on advocating and defending just peace and maintaining the unity of the Member States in support for Ukraine (Priority 4). Finally, completing the EU Pact Migration and Asylum is mentioned as an essential project, where the aim is to find a humane, compassionate and effective approach.
Important topics from AK’s point of view: Social Europe, economic governance & just transition
As also provided for in the Commission programme, work on important legislative dossiers in the social field will continue under the Spanish Presidency. In case of platform work and carcinogenic substances (lead and hazardous chemicals), the Presidency would like to reach an agreement between the institutions in the trialogue. Three new proposals for legal acts on telework and the right to disconnect, an EU disability card as well as on the revision of the Directive on European Works Councils are also expected in autumn 2023. Spain wants to set its own priorities with Council conclusions on democracy at work and green collective bargaining, mental health and digitalisation in social security. It would be a big step if an agreement on the Due Diligence Directive could also be reached by the end of 2023 and the negotiations on products made by forced labour – unlike previously under the Swedish Presidency – progress quickly.
A mammoth project will be the revision of the Economic Governance framework. Especially with regard to EU fiscal rules, Member States are still far apart. The mid-term revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework is also on the agenda, and progress is also to be made on the topic of new own resources. The deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union is to succeed through work on the digital euro, on sustainable finance, the fight against money laundering and further financial market dossiers, while the rules on public aid are also to be revised. Strategic autonomy is to be achieved with the help of an appropriate industrial policy and the Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI). Finally, there is a focus on trade policy, where supply chains are to be expanded and further trade agreements pushed forward.
AK will deal intensively with this and also with the further development of the negotiations on the electricity market reform, the Critical Raw Materials Act, the new gene technology, the Zero pollution action plan (municipal waste water, air quality) as well as with all dossiers on strengthening the consumers in the green transition or in the circular economy and will actively get involved in the discussion. Politically, it will also be interesting to see how the debate on restoring nature develops. In the recently presented package on greening freight transport, a General Approach should be reached on at least one of the dossiers. In addition, the presentation of the horizontal proposal on passenger rights on the part of the EC is expected. In the non-legislative area, the Spanish Presidency is planning, among other, conclusions on positioning for COP-28 in Dubai.
Programme of Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union
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