2011 Priorities: Recovery & Jobs

The European Commission has announced that economic recovery and jobs are among its top priorities for 2011, along with security and justice issues, a modernised budget, and the EU’s role internationally.

As it does every autumn, the Commission has published its annual work programme for the coming year. The document is as much a political statement as anything else, highlighting what the Commission would like the public to see as being its priorities. But it is also a useful guide to what concrete policy initiatives can be expected.

The 2011 programme recapitulates the priorities identified by Commission President Barroso in his “State of the Union” speech earlier this year:
• Dealing with the economic crisis and increasing the pace of the recovery
• Increasing the number of jobs through the EU’s “2020 Strategy”
• Building an area of security, justice and freedom
• The EU on the international scene
• Starting talks about a modern EU budget
Specifically the Commission will present proposals within the following policy areas:

Economic Policy and the "2020 Strategy"

Improving economic governance and starting the European Semester
• Against the backdrop of all macroeconomic changes the EU has secured over last couple of years (for example the new economic regulatory institutions that were decided upon earlier this year and the new rules for hedge funds), the Commission will adopt its first Annual Growth Strategy in order to allow the EU to commence its first European Semester. It will analyse the economic situation in the EU and look at the where the EU stands in relation to the EU2020 targets. This is done so that EU’s progress in achieving the goals set out in the EU2020 strategy can be benchmarked.

Finalising financial regulatory reform

The Commission will present the last legislative proposals needed to complete the reforms of the financial sector. These include:
• Improvements to bank capital rules (based on the outcome of the work carried out by the Basel Committee on Banking Standards).
• Revising the Market in Financial Instruments Directive and the Market abuse Directive so as to enhance transparency and safer derivatives markets.
• A new regulatory body to oversee credit rating agencies as part of the EU’s effort to tighten supervision of the financial system.
• Creating a system for bank crisis management and resolution (which would include giving relevant authorities access to such things as resolution funds).
Legislative proposals regarding access to basic banking services and responsible lending and borrowing rules concerning mortgages will be proposed with the aim of protecting small investors and consumers.

Smart growth

Growth related to innovation, technology and information development
• Three of the different priorities outlined in the EU2020 strategy (i.e. Innovation Union, Youth on the Move and the Digital Agenda) will be implemented.
• A package of legislative proposals will be presented with the aim of creating a more integrated standardisation system in relation to, for example, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector.
• The Commission will also be disseminating information about how it thinks the EU can help modernising higher education and to foster innovation and knowledge.

Sustainable growth

Growth related to green technology, energy and resource efficiency
• One of the priorities in the EU2020 strategy focuses on resource efficiency, which will have its vision set out for it in the year ahead. It is a long term project and it is likely to be Potocnik’s priority until the end of his mandate. It has as its main aim to transform the EU’s economy into a low carbon economy. The fulfilment of this is not expected to be materialised until 2050 and specific policies will be implemented for different policy areas such as transport, energy and natural resource management relating to fisheries and agriculture. A particular focus will be given to energy infrastructure and efficiency in 2011.
• An upcoming White Paper on transport will focus on completing the European transport area, which has as its aim to achieve a low carbon transport system.
• In relation to an upcoming revision of the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy, the Commission will promote the sustainable use of natural resources and enhance the innovative potential in regard to companies working within sectors relating to these policy areas.
• The Commission will continue with its efforts to achieve a global deal on climate change and work bilaterally with its partners to share ideas and develop projects concerning such things as renewable energy, clean technologies and carbon trading. 

Inclusive growth

Growth that improves the situation for all people in society:
• In addition to publishing its fifth report on cohesion policy before the end of 2010, the Commission will also propose two new priorities that will be part of the EU2020 – ‘’New Skills and Jobs’’ (i.e. creating the basis for modernising labour markets, increasing employment levels, ensuring the welfare state's sustainability etc.) and ‘’a Platform against Poverty’’ (i.e. helping the poor and excluded and enabling them to actively participate in society).
• A number of proposals to improve inclusive growth will be outlined during 2011.
• Legal proposals to improve the implementation of the Posting of Workers Directive and updating the Working Time Directive will also be put forward.

Using the Single Market to spur growth

• Proposals to modernise public procurement rules and the creation of common rules relating to concession contracts (i.e. contracts under which a contractor is given the right to exploit the works) will be proposed.
• There will be a legislative proposal for a regulation on the management of cross-border debt recovery, targeted specifically to benefit Small and Medium Sized Businesses.
• In order to facilitate the resolution of consumer problems a proposal for an Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism will be presented.
• As concerns taxation, there will be a proposal for a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax base (CCCTB). This aims to make tax rules simpler for companies operating within the EU.
• A Communication on a future VAT strategy will be published. The Communication will aim to modernise and simplify current rules.
• There will be a proposal for an airport package that will have as its aims to improve consumer rights, competition and environmental performance.

Citizens' Agenda

• A legal instrument concerning European Contract Law will be proposed with the aim of strengthening citizens’ rights in 2011.• As regards criminal law, a legislative proposal will be made for a Directive on the rights of victims of crime. This will be done in order to ensure victims access to legal assistance, protection and justice.
• Legal proposals for minimum standards for criminal proceedings will be made so as to strengthen trust between citizens and juridical authorities.
• Proposals for a Registered Travellers Programme and an Entry/Exit System for nationals of states outside the EU with the objective of countering illegal immigration and organised crime while at the same time keeping the EU open, will be put forward in 2011.
• A legislative proposal for a new law concerning a framework on the confiscation and recovery of illicit assets will be commensurately launched with communications regarding a comprehensive policy against corruption and an anti-fraud strategy.
• A revision of civil protection legislation will be carried out to enhance the EU’s possibilities to respond to disasters afflicting the civil population.

The EU on the International Scene

Trade policy

• The Commission will work to close the different deals it is currently engaged in with several of its trading partners while at the same time aiming to reach a new WTO agreement on international trade.
• A proposal for an EU instrument that will improve access to public procurement in important economies outside of the EU will be proposed.
• A measure will also be proposed to support SMEs operating outside the EU.
• To ensure that the EU’s trade policy promotes the integration of developing countries into the world economy the Commission will propose a new regulation on the Generalised System of Preferences (i.e. a trade arrangement through which the EU provides preferential access for developing countries to the EU market).

Development, humanitarian aid, enlargement and neighbourhood policies

• A review of the EU’s neighbourhood policy will be carried out in order to strengthen the EU’s relationship with its neighbours. This will lead to concrete proposals in 2011 concerning its future development.
• The Commission makes clear that a new generation of programmes to support development needs to be designed. This will be based upon the follow-up to the Green Paper on the future of the EU development policy, which is set to be published later in 2010.
• A revision of the Council regulation concerning humanitarian aid will be proposed so as to strengthen life-saving efforts in humanitarian catastrophes.

The EU Budget and "Smart Regulation"

"A modern budget"

• Proposals relating to the next Multiannual Financial Framework will be set out in June 2011. These proposals will concern both expenditures (i.e. relating to how the Commission should use the budget to achieve its policies in the most effective manner) and financing (i.e. new own resources decision).
• A number of communications and reports will also be published in regard to different EU Policy areas (such as the Common Agriculture Policy and Common Fisheries Policy) which will work as a policy basis for the budgetary proposals of the Multiannual Financial Framework.
• Specific legal proposals will be made in regard to the instruments and programmes that will help to implement the Multiannual Financial Framework. Presenting these proposals will start in the middle of the year and continuing to its end.

"Smart regulation"

• The Commission will replace ‘better regulation’ with ‘smart regulation’. The different focus introduced by ‘smart regulation’ will be more holistic in the sense that, unlike ‘better regulation’s focus on improving the design of legislative proposals, it will include the whole policy cycle (i.e. including the application, evaluation and revision stages). Smart regulation will also, amongst other things, ensure that the consultation period with stakeholders will be extended from 8 to 12 weeks (starting in 2012).