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On 20th March 2020, the Commission proposed to affect the general escape clause within the scope of the Stability and Growth Pact; three days later the Council of Finance Ministers confirmed the proposal. This means that, for the time being, the EU Member States are no longer bound to the strict EU budget criteria when dealing with the looming economic crisis.

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The ambitous plans of the European Commission on the European Green Deal are not least also raising social issues. In order to create a fair path towards a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, the Commission had published a proposal on setting up a Just Transition Fund already in January. The Chamber of Labour has scrutinized the proposal within the scope of its current Position Paper on the Green Deal.

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On 12th March 2020, the European Commission revealed another component of its plan to make Europe energy neutral by 2050: the circular economy action plan shall ensure that the European economy becomes more resource efficient. This does not only concern improved recycling and the reuse of raw materials, but also facilitating repairs and providing better information for consumers.

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On Wednesday, March 4th, 2020, the EU Commission presented the eagerly anticipated climate law. This proposal, which had been announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for the first 100 days of her term in office, is regarded as the centrepiece of the European Green Deal. However, it received a mixed reaction.  

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To ensure that both European Green Deal and Digital Strategy can succeed, the European industrial policy shall also be revamped. The Industrial Strategy, presented on March 10th 2020, outlines how, according to the Commission, the European economy will be able to meet the challenges – whilst acting successfully and autonomously in the complicated structure of a global economy.

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In June 2019, the Commission’s new president Ursula von der Leyen proclaimed her intent to refocus the European Semester into an instrument that integrates the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Together with the Green Deal – with “just transition” as an important condition – and announcements for a strong Social Europe, there seems to be a window of opportunity to refocus the European governance framework on the sustainable development of well-being.

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Georg Feigl

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Led by AK Lower Austria (NÖ) President Markus Wieser and WK Lower Austria President Sonja Zwazl, Lower Austria’s social partners came to Brussels on 19th and 20th February 2020 to jointly highlight central issues and problem areas before high level representatives of the most important EU institutions and to illustrate the need for action at European level.

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The EU Commission commissioned a study on due diligence requirements in supply chains at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL). The long-awaited results were published on 24th February 2020.

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On 26 February 2020, the European Commission published its country reports within the framework of the European Semester. For Austria, it appears that important progress has been made in some areas and that there is still a need to catch up in others.

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The EU Member States remain unable to agree a budget; the special summit to discuss the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) on 20 February remained unsuccessful. The negotiations failed not least because of the tough attitude of the “Frugal Four” on the one hand and the “Friends of Cohesion” on the other.