The European Commission on Tuesday published its Work Programme for 2019, a guide to what it will propose and what it hopes to complete in the coming year.
The document includes plans to move to qualified majority voting on some taxation issues as well as on energy and climate policies in 2019, to strengthen “the international role of the euro” and to reinforce the blocs toolbox for enforcing the rule of law.
Overall, the Commission says it will propose only 15 new initiatives — all non-legislative except for Brexit preparedness items — next year, a sharp slowdown of the policymaking machine in what will be an EU election year. However, the Commission has in the past claimed that it was only going to propose a small number of regulations and those numbers havent been a true reflection of its workload.
The Work Programme “outlines a clear and focused agenda to complete the work we committed to do at the start of this mandate,” the document said. The EUs executive body “will also pay attention to implementing the legislation that has been adopted,” the document said, echoing this Commissions “better regulation” mantra, which is all about doing less but — in theory — better.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker set the tone before he even took office, telling MEPs in September 2014: “I want to be serious about being big on big things and small on small things.” Hes repeated the motto ever since, and made First Vice President Frans Timmermans his enforcer on cutting the Commissions legislative output.
Yet efforts to reduce the number of new regulations have only partly materialized, as numbers crunched by POLITICO show.
Overall, the Juncker Commission has made 370 legislative proposals in its first four years (2014-2018). That compares to 500 proposals in the first four years of the second José Manuel Barroso Commission (2010-2014), and 431 in the first four full years of the first Barroso Commission (2005-2009).
The Juncker Commission creates the impression of reduced output by bundling legislative proposals together and labeling them as a single package rather than a connected series of proposals.
For example, the Commission claimed in September 2016 that “there were 100 initiatives in the Work Programme of 2014. In 2015, the Work Programme counted 23 new priority initiatives and packages. There were also only 23 in 2016.”
Yet European Parliament figures show the Commission made 116 legislative proposals in 2016: five times the figure claimed by the Commission.
Juncker and Timmermans have reduced the amount of legislative output by around a quarter.
What happened to the 370 proposals put forward during the mandate? “Together with the European Parliament and Council, we have found agreement on nearly half of these,” the Commission said in its 2019 Work Programme.
The upshot: Juncker and Timmermans have reduced the amount of legislative output by around a quarter compared to the last Commission, far less than the reduction they have tended to claim.
The Commission has had success in increasing the number of redundant rules it wants to ditch, and simplyfing others. The Commission is also making efforts to hand responsibility for some issues back to national governments, including on one of the blocs most sacred cows, the Common Agricultural Policy. Most recently the Commission proposed daylight saving — also known as summer time — be regulated at national level. Below the radar, state aid control — the regulation of market-distorting subsidies — has been mostly re-delegated to national authorities, who now handle 90 percent of such cases.
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