Written by Clare Ferguson,
The 2016 Bratislava declaration, setting out the key priorities for the EU with the UK on its way out, and how to achieve them, naturally focuses on topics which relate to the six most important issues for citizens: the economic situation, unemployment, immigration, terrorism, the state of Member States’ finances and crime.
In line with citizens’ concerns, the EU has acted on border management and migration policy throughout 2016, and this topic remains high on the agenda for 2017, as does combating terrorism, as the likelihood of violent attacks on EU citizens remains very high. EU defence cooperation plans to increase capability to deliver more security for EU citizens in 2017.
Creating a promising economic future for all, especially Europe’s youth, has been a main focus for policy-makers in 2016, with increased funding under the European Fund for Strategic Investments, increased focus on completing the single market, and a proposal to create a Solidarity Corps to alleviate youth unemployment, among other initiatives.
With the value of illicit markets estimated at around €110 billion, citizens are right to be concerned by the considerable social and political costs of organised crime and corruption. Money laundering and wildlife crime are not only damaging to society and the planet, but are also used to finance terrorist activities. The cost of organised crime, were the EU not to intervene, is hard to estimate, but likely to be considerable.
The European Central Bank has pursued its unconventional monetary policy in 2016. Improving Member States’ finances through the creation of extra fiscal space through the Asset Purchase Programme enabled EU countries to save €50 billion in debt interest payments during the year.
In 2017, plans to further tackle EU citizens’ top priorities will have to take into account the vote by the United Kingdom to leave the EU, and the subsequent consequences for the EU budget.