Written by Etienne Bassot,
This is the first edition of a new EPRS publication designed to identify key issues and policy areas that are likely to feature prominently on the agenda of Members of the European Parliament over the coming year. The ten issues raised in this publication include both internal EU policy areas, and also some stemming from the wider global context. These same issues are broadly reflected in the EU’s legislative priorities for 2017, highlighted in the recent joint declaration by the Presidents of the Council, Parliament and European Commission, and detailed in the Commission’s 2017 work programme, the stated aim of which is to ‘deliver a Europe that protects, empowers and defends’.
2017 marks the mid-point in the EU’s multiannual financial framework for 2014 to 2020, the funding structure underpinning the majority of EU activities. The Commission’s mid-term review generated proposals for revision, which are now with the Council. Furthermore, the Commission’s proposals for the post-2020 framework should be on the table by the end of 2017, and are expected to include new proposals on own resources.
Work will continue in 2017 on strengthening and completing Europe’s economic and monetary union, moving through the three stages defined by the 2015 Five Presidents’ Report. This year should see transition to the second stage; a white paper due early in the year is also likely to include a plan to establish budgetary capacity for the euro area.
The issue of rising inequalities has become one of critical significance. The resultant threat to the cohesion of society makes it more important than ever for the Union to step up its efforts to promote inclusive growth and social innovation. A European pillar for social rights is currently at the consultation phase, and in 2017 should usher in a range of measures to secure fairer labour markets and welfare systems.
Greater clarity about the United Kingdom’s new relationship with the EU may or may not be forthcoming in the course of 2017. Uncertainty abounds regarding the course and outcome of the negotiations that will begin once the UK formally notifies the European Council of its intention to leave, triggering Article 50 TEU.
Uncertainty is also the subtext as the world waits to see whether the new US President, Donald Trump, will follow through with his campaign promise to withdraw from the COP 21 Paris Agreement (as in several other policy areas). Nevertheless, the EU will continue its determined transition to a more environmentally sound economy, implementing its bold energy union strategy, not least by addressing transport-related energy consumption and emissions. Common themes here and in other EU policies, such as on agriculture, are again simplification and modernisation, with a focus on the Juncker Commission’s ten priorities for its five-year term and the sustainable development goals.
The full significance of the US election results is yet to become clear. With the United States potentially undertaking U-turns in many policy areas, the EU may also have to review some key policies. External security in general and the situation in the Ukraine, more specifically, are two areas where this appears most urgent. Meanwhile, the EU will continue to address migration, looking to deal with the root causes and security implications, while also fulfilling its humanitarian duties towards those seeking refuge.
With the world order of global power relationships apparently evolving rapidly, changes at the helm of many Member States and a host of inter-related economic, environmental and social challenges, the demands weighing on the EU’s leadership are likely to be greater than ever. Against this uncertain and unstable backdrop, the key words for 2017 will need to be flexibility and, above all, resilience.
Read the complete in-depth analysis on ‘Ten issues to watch in 2017‘.