I have just come from the College where we agreed on our Work Programme for 2018 and I am pleased to be here to present it to you straight away this afternoon.
The Work Programme is the Commission’s commitment to you and to Europeans about what we will do in the coming year – and it is a crucial period because together we have just over eighteen months to show results before our citizens go to the ballot box to re-elect this House.
There are no surprises in what we announce today. The Work Programme reflects fully the ambition, content and tone of Jean-Claude Junker’s State of the Union speech and the Letter of Intent we sent you in parallel.
At the same time our Work Programme has certainly been enriched by, and builds on, the fruitful exchanges we have had in this chamber, with the Conference of Committee Chairs and the Conference of Presidents as well as on our exchanges with the Member States in line with the Inter-institutional Agreement on Better Law-making. We have also discussed with the Council and have had contributions from the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. I would like to thank you for the excellent cooperation we have had and continue to enjoy. We need to build on this in the decisive months to come. And I think we have now established after 3 years quite a routine in doing this, and it’s working well.
The Work Programme sets out an agenda for a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe. It has a two-fold focus.
First, we set out a limited number of new proposals which we will deliver by May 2018 so that the legislative work here and in the Council can be finished before the elections. The Commission has already tabled more than 80% of the proposals needed under the ten priorities set out by President Juncker in 2014.
Now we will focus on getting the remaining proposals on the table and working with you and the Council to see them adopted.
Our focus is on the limited number of proposals needed to complete the strategies we have set out.
To boost jobs, growth and investment, we will pursue work to deliver on the Circular Economy Action Plan, and to complete the Digital Single Market, the Energy Union, the Capital Markets Union and the Banking Union.
We will propose the creation of a dedicated euro area budget line within the EU budget along with other measures to complete the Economic and Monetary Union, including transforming the European Stability Mechanism into a European Monetary Fund.
To create a deeper and fairer internal market with a strengthened industrial base we will present an initiative on fair taxation in the digital economy and a proposal to improve the EU food supply chain.
We are – like you – looking forward to the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights next month. We will follow up with a social fairness package that creates a European Labour Authority to help address labour mobility and social security challenges. We will improve the rules requiring employees to be properly informed about their contracts, and will present an initiative on access to social protection so that everyone who works, whether in traditional or new jobs in the gig economy, can contribute and have access to social protection.
We will also table targeted new measures to complete the Security Union, in particular as concerns the fight against terrorism and ensuring the interoperability of stronger and smarter databases for our border, migration and security needs. We will strengthen the Union Civil Protection Mechanism so that we are better prepared to help in situations such as the tragic and devastating forest fires we have seen recently in Portugal and Spain.
We will continue to work on our comprehensive approach to migration, with an emphasis on returns, protecting our external borders, solidarity with Africa and opening legal pathways and, above all, agreeing on Dublin reform and the Blue Card proposal. We will set out our ideas how to modernise our visa policy.
We will keep up the focus on migration management in our relations with third countries, and we will deliver on the Global Strategy whilst also pursuing a balanced and progressive trade policy to harness globalisation.
The second focus of our Work Programme is more forward-looking and aims to shape the Union until 2025. This vision is based on three principles which must always anchor our Union – freedom, equality, and the rule of law.
A more united Union will require opening the Schengen area fully to Romania and Bulgaria, and to Croatia if it can fulfil the requirements, as well as a credible enlargement perspective for frontrunner candidates in the Western Balkans. To build a stronger Union, we will table a proposal for the future Multi-annual Financial Framework including own resources. We need a budget that helps us to meet citizens’ expectations of an EU that delivers on the things that matter most and that contributes to the long-term sustainability of the Union.
We will also propose more efficient decision-making for the Single Market and certain foreign policy decisions. We will adopt a Reflection Paper on a sustainable European future and a Communication on the future of EU energy and climate policy, and propose an extension of the tasks of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office to also tackle terrorism.
For a more democratic Union, we will make proposals for the creation of a permanent and accountable European Minister of Economy and Finance and an initiative on further enhancing subsidiarity, proportionality and better regulation in the daily work of the European Union. We will also propose an initiative on strengthening the enforcement of the rule of law.
Furthermore since what matters is results on the ground, the Work Programme sets out the Commission’s commitment to step up its work on the enforcement of EU law, working closely with national authorities and the various European networks.
And in parallel with our Work Programme, we are also presenting today a Communication on completing the better regulation agenda. Our work here is grounded on strong stakeholder involvement, including the input of the REFIT Platform.
Given the forthcoming European Parliament elections, we are now firmly in a period where we need to deliver. Priority legislative files need to be adopted and where possible implemented before the end of the Parliament’s mandate.
The Joint Declaration on EU Legislative Priorities, signed by the Presidents of the three Institutions last December, has proved valuable in helping us define shared priorities and stick to them. The Commission looks forward to an agreement later this year on a new Joint Declaration shaping our common work for 2018. And we can then also take stock of what we did on the basis of the Declaration of 2017.
We need to use the current momentum to ensure real progress in order to finish what we have started and to deliver on our positive agenda. Because when you rise for elections in a year and a half’s time, the success of the EU will not be judged on the number of proposals that the Commission has launched. We will be judged collectively on the answers we have delivered and how we have responded to the big challenges – like climate change, globalisation, the security of our citizens, migration, jobs, growth – on which Europeans expect effective European solutions.
To watch the video of the First Vice-President’s remarks in Parliament, pelase click here.