European Commission – Speech
Strasbourg, 07 July 2016
Exactly 10 years ago, 52 people died and many more were wounded in terrible terrible attacks in London. I remember vividly these days and especially the outpouring of solidarity across the world and especially in Europe. At that moment, whatever our position may be on European cooperation, we Europeans had a sense of common destiny. Because whatever else we might do right or wrong, we have a common duty to fight for the security of our citizens, a common duty to ensure that these barbarians, these distorted thinkers, these nihilists are not in a position to wreck havoc in our societies. This goes beyond politics. This is about human dignity, about our common values.
The challenges that Europe faces are huge: on terrorism, on migration, on jobs and growth, on Greece. This is the backdrop against which we are working on our work programme for 2015 and for 2016. Let me say a word about both.
CWP 2015: state of play
Over half of the Work Programme items are fully or mostly fulfilled.
- Thanks to this Parliament, the European Fund for Strategic Investments has been operational since 1st July.
- We have set out strategic agendas including for Investment, Energy Union, the Digital Single Market, Migration, Internal Securityand a fairer corporate tax system. These agendas and action plans announce a considerable legislative workload for this House in the months and year to come. Some of these proposals are already before you, more are coming – starting with the revision of the energy labelling and emissions trading legislation next week.
- In total over 40 proposals for legislation will flow from the strategies we have already presented. That comes on top of the 140 proposals which are pending on the table of the co-legislators. So let’s bust this myth that this Commission is not forthcoming enough. Where legislation is the right response to address the big things, we will be big on legislation.
- We are working on ambitious strategies on Trade and Investment, on the Single Market for goods and for services, on an ambitious package for the Circular Economy. We will present an action plan for developing a real Capital Markets Union in autumn and will accompany it with the first legislative proposals in the most pressing areas. And before the end of the year, we want to put to you a comprehensive — and clearly much needed — ‘EMU Package’.
- The importance of the social dimension – in EMU and more widely – is something President Juncker and I are both very attached to.To speed up the Youth Employment Initiative, we proposed making 1 billion Euros available this year. We are also actively working on aLabour Mobility Package, to be adopted later this year. The College will have a further orientation debate dedicated to social policy immediately after the summer.
- Before looking ahead toward 2016, I would like to stress that it takes in this case three to tango. Delivering results where it matters is a shared responsibility of all three Institutions. That is why we are now negotiating a revised IIA on Better Law Making, and I look forward to the first meeting with Minister Schmit and Guy Verhofstadt.
- Our proposal pays particular attention to reinforcing and consolidating the annual and multiannual planning and programming. While respecting the specific arrangements for close cooperation between Parliament and Commission that are set out in the Framework Agreement, and each of the three Institutions’ role under the Treaties, by working better upstream we believe we can really make sure our combined efforts deliver effective and ambitious results to address the challenges Europe faces.
CWP 2016: preparations
- Let me briefly turn to the preparations for next year.
- A first orientation debate will be held in College a week from now. In September, we will have an opportunity to take stock of the progress made and of challenges ahead during President Juncker’s State of the Union address.
- We intend to adopt the 2016 Work Programme on 27 October.In the run up the Commission will engage actively in dialogue with Parliament, in full accordance with the Framework Agreement. We will also listen to the input of Member States in the General Affairs Council.
- To launch and guide our discussion, a ‘letter of intent’ will be sent in parallel with the State of the Union address here in this House.
- You can expect another targeted and balanced Work Programme, focused on 2016 and only on 2016, grounded on the ten priorities set out by President Juncker and agreed with your Parliament. Our strategic agendas – those already presented and those still to come later this year – will obviously be the main frame and we will keep a clear focus on delivering what we have announced there. 2016 will of course also be the year of the MFF mid-term review.
- Once again there will be a strong emphasis on REFIT, because keeping the acquis up to date and pertinent to today’s challenges requires a permanent effort. And if pending proposals need to be repealed or withdrawn to allow the co-legislators to use their energy on files that have a chance of being adopted, we will flag them. We need to be pragmatic and result oriented. If others need to be prioritising and speeding up, we will flag them.
- I hope to be able to count on Parliament’s continued support, and I think we need to deliver better results for our citizens.
- Aligning our political priorities and planning can help make all the difference to whether Europeans look at Europe as part of the problem or rather part of the solution to the huge challenges they face. I look forward to the resolution that this House will adopt later this week and which will be very useful in guiding the Commission’s ongoing reflection.
- Let’s work together, let’s work hard — there are so many challenges we face, so many results citizens expect from us: let’s do it together.
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Closing remarks after interventions by MEPs
Let me just react to a number of comments that were made. First of all, I have to say there is broad support for working closely together on a Commission Work Programme that is targeted and of course that chooses political priorities after a debate. Political priorities are something you debate and you look for majorities to get them, clearly.
At the same time I also see the willingness in this institution, just as much as I know it exists in the Council and in the Commission to reach an Interinstitutional agreement, hopefully before the end of this year on better law-making And of course better law-making is not the answer to all our problems. Better law-making will not solve the crisis in Greece. Better law-making is not the way to tackle Putin. I accept all these points. But better law-making is a way of trying to answer the plea of an endless amount of SMEs across Europe who are telling us – who are telling me whenever I go to a member state – ‘please help us cut red tape, please help us create more clarity, please help us to understand that it is possible to create clear legislation, not legislation where Member States then have endless possibilities of gold plating so that we’re completely lost.’ These are things that are important. They are important to SMEs, therefore they are important to employment, therefore they are important to to growth.
And yes of course this is not earth shattering, this is not going to change the nature of Europe. But it’s going to make a difference, for hundreds of thousands of people; people who are trying day-by-day very hard to create a living for themselves, their families and the people who work for them. Therefore for me this is an important thing. The way we create legislation is important to hundreds of millions of Europeans. Even if they don’t know it is important it still is. Because the outcome is something they will need to deal with.
And let me be very clear on impact assessment. Let me be very clear on more scrutiny. This doesn’t lead to taking away the power of politicians. We don’t change that. it leads to better informed politicians and I don’t know what would be the problem with better informed politicians. Better scrutiny and better impact assessment means that the politicians, when they decide, are better informed of what they can decide. I would say don’t turn things around. Don’t use the argument that the politicians should be in charge to dismiss impact assessment and scrutiny. The Commission does not want to use impact assessment and scrutiny to disempower politicians. On the contrary, we want them to help politicians to be better informed. And we see it across our Member States, that sometimes scrutiny leads to a conclusion where the experts say it means that this measure is going to be more costly for the following reasons, and then still Parliaments decide that they think something is justified for bigger political goals and they do it anyway. But at least people know what you decide. And I think there is nothing against that.
And by the way on more transparency, I’m all for it. But one of the reasons why we need – we the two institutions – more transparency, is also to show to the recipients of our legislation where we are responsible – Parliament and Commission – and where the Member State is responsible. Because there is still a tremendous amount of gold-plating going on. And again here Member States have the full right to do that. If they want to create stricter legislation it is entirely up to them; but then don’t blame Europe for it, be honest about it, be transparent about it. And I think the proposals we will discuss in our Interinstitutional agreement will help us to become more transparent.
This applies also to delegated acts and implementing acts where I hope we can reach an agreement which will create more transparency. As far as the Commission is concerned we will put all draft delegated acts on the Internet for a period of 4 weeks, so that everybody in the outside world can see what we’re proposing. For the implementing act it’s slightly more difficult, because sometimes, like when you change the price of a product, you can’t give that over for public debate for a long time, but we will try and put the maximum amount of primary and secondary legislation up for public scrutiny so that everybody knows what we’re doing and hopefully we’ll avoid another olive oil can disaster or something like that. And it could help by putting it in the public sphere.
Of course we will need to act on a number of things that are very important and migration is one of them, and I’m sure tomorrow when the debates will be held on the results of the European Council that President Juncker will want to come back to this. But the commission sticks to its proposals. We believe, also after debate with your Parliament, that we’re on the right track with these proposals. And I have to say if you ask me what is the difference between legal and illegal migration, clearly somebody abusing the asylum system because they want a better life in Europe, that’s illegal migration. And asylum policy should be for people who flee because they have to fear for their lives. I think we have less support in Europe for asylum policy because many of our citizens know that the system is being abused and we are not able if we discover people abusing the system to make sure they return to the countries they came from.
If you want a credible migration and asylum policy we have to make sure that the rules are actually applied, so that people who deserve asylum get asylum – unfortunately too often the system fails them – and that people who don’t deserve asylum are sent back to where they’ve come from. And we need to have agreements with third countries to do that. But we also need – and this is simple demographics – we also need possibilities for the European Union to have traditional legal forms of migration. There needs to be a possibility for people to apply for a visa, at an Embassy where they live, to come and live and work in Europe. Not to be at the mercy of smugglers, not to run the risk to drown in the Mediterranean, but to have a fair chance, if Europe needs people like them, to apply and then come to Europe. So in that sense I believe that legal migration is also part of the solution.
Let me conclude Mr President by saying that for me the important thing here is that our two institutions work closely together. Because I don’t think anybody disputes our goal that we should perform better at delivering results for our citizens. And sometimes these are huge and big and very earth-shattering results. But very often these are small results. But a number of small results will create more growth, more jobs, will create better social protection, will create a better future for hundreds of thousands of young Europeans who are still unemployed today. And I think that is a goal worth fighting for.
Thank you very much Mr President.