CHAPTER 3: The Commission's priorities |
9. In this final year of the Barroso Commission,
the four strategic objectives defined in 2005 at the start of
the Commission's five-year termpromoting prosperity, solidarity,
security and freedom, and Europe as a world partnerremain
the "core direction" for the Commission's work.
The Annual Policy Strategy specifies five priority areas for the
Commission in 2009: "Growth and Jobs", "Climate
Change and Sustainable Europe", "Making a Reality of
the Common Immigration Policy", "Putting the Citizen
First", and "Europe as a World Partner".
10. Commissioner Wallström told us that
in 2009 "the Commission will stick to its ambition of delivering
a Europe of results and bringing concrete benefits to citizens"
(Q 34). She explained, "[w]e win democratic legitimacy
by doing the right things that really change the lives of European
citizens" (Q 61). The Government said in its Explanatory
Memorandum on the Annual Policy Strategy that it agreed with the
Commission that "it is important that the EU focuses on delivering
recognisable benefits and tangible policies that matter to its
also p 13). We agree with the Commission's objective of
delivering results on issues that concern citizens, and to communicate
those results. The Commission's priorities should be based on
the question of what makes the European Union relevant to the
people of Europe.
11. The Commission told us that including "Putting
the Citizen First"
as a priority "reflects the fact that one of the main objectives
of this Commission is to put the citizen at the centre of the
European project and to deliver policies which are relevant to
their everyday lives" (p 14). The proposals put forward
under the heading "Putting the Citizen First" cover
the free movement of European citizens, the common area of justice,
security and civil protection, public health, food safety, animal
health and welfare, consumer product safety rules, chemicals regulation,
flexicurity, youth, health and safety at work, gender equality,
anti-discrimination and inclusion. We welcome the priority
on "Putting the Citizen First", but regret the lack
of coherence among the disparate sub-priorities gathered underneath
this heading. The Commission should do more to stress the weight
it places on putting the citizen first throughout its work, thereby
giving more coherence to this list of sub-priorities. Particular
attention should be paid to issues impacting on communities and
12. Asked about the Government's priorities within
those outlined by the Commission, the Minister for Europe, Jim
Murphy MP, highlighted "climate change, not least for the
if Europe either reneges on its commitment
on renewables and other aspects of the climate change package
or gives the impression of being luke warm I think it will
send a signal to other groups of nations across the planet
and would have a negative impact on other world capitals,
not least in Brazil, Russia, Washington and elsewhere" (Q 3).
We welcome the Commission's focus on climate change, as crucial
both to Europe's future and to connecting the EU with its citizens.
Once the EU has agreed its package of energy and climate change
which it has agreed to do by early 2009 at the latest, the EU
must strive for an environmentally and economically sustainable
deal at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen
in December 2009.
13. The emphasis on "Europe as a World
Partner" is also welcome, as the European Union must be in
a position to address the challenges of a changing world in which
China, India, Russia and other major powers and regions are rapidly
playing a more important role.
14. Delivering growth and jobs will also be
fundamental to the role of the European Union in 2009, so we are
glad to see it prioritised.
15. Regarding immigration, the Commissioner,
in her written evidence, cited the European Council's December
2007 conclusion that "further developing this policywhich
complements Member States' policiesremains a fundamental
priority in order to meet the challenges and harness the opportunities
which migration represents in a new era of globalisation".
She added: "A Common Immigration Policy is the best and in
many cases the only way to address a number of very significant
problems such as shrinking EU population and demographic ageing,
labour and skills shortages, insufficient integration of legal
immigrants, continuous pressure of illegal immigration, insufficient
partnership with third countries or insufficient adaptation of
border management and visa policy to the needs of a globalized
world" (p 13). The Commission's prioritisation of
immigration reflects the importance most Member States attach
to this issue and the priorities set by the Council.
We welcome the collective efforts to tackle what is currently
one of the major challenges facing the EU as a whole. We note,
however, that the issue of immigration is far from uncontroversial
for some Member States (particularly the United Kingdom, which
has the right to choose whether to participate (the opt-in) in
this area) and the Commission will need to handle this priority
carefully, giving due regard to the principles of subsidiarity
and proportionality and thereby showing that specific measures
in this field add value.
16. We think that the Commission's efforts on
trade should be more visible in the Commission's Annual Policy
Strategy, given the importance that the Commission attaches to
the World Trade Organisation negotiations and the increasing strength
of emerging economies such as China and India. Given the critical
importance of trade, the hazardous condition of World Trade Organisation
negotiations and the rising protectionist threat in various parts
of the world, the Commission should make sure that trade is a
priority for 2009.
6 Annual Policy Strategy p 3 Back
Annual Policy Strategy pp 4-7 Back
The Government's Explanatory Memoranda on European Union documents
are available at http://europeanmemorandum.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/search.aspx.
The Government's Explanatory Memorandum on the Annual Policy Strategy
for 2009 is available at http://europeanmemorandum.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/memo_details.aspx?memoID=1207.
Annual Policy Strategy pp 5-6 Back
Annual Policy Strategy p 5 Back
Communication from the Commission "20 20 by 2020-Europe's
climate change opportunity" (COM(2008) 30, 23 January 2008.
In addition to the non-legislative Communication, the package
of measures published on the same day included legislative proposals
on the emissions trade scheme (COM(2008) 16), emissions reductions
outside the emissions trading scheme (COM(2008) 17), carbon capture
and storage (COM(2008) 18) and renewable energy (COM(2008) 19). Back
Annual Policy Strategy pp 6-7 Back
Annual Policy Strategy p 4 Back
Annual Policy Strategy p 5 Back