Stanley's blog

Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced on 31 March the Commission’s 2010 Programme, with 34 strategic priorities, under four main elements:

1. Tackling the economic crisis and sustaining Europe’s social market economy.
2. Building a citizens’ agenda which puts people at the heart of European action.
3. Developing an ambitious and coherent external agenda
with global outreach.
4. Modernising EU instruments and ways of working.

The annual Commission work programme sets out its priorities and intentions, but it is not legally binding and can be modified.

This programme is part of the implementation of the “Europe 2020 Agenda” launched in March 2010. The objective of the Agenda strategy is to prepare the EU economy for the next decade. The Commission identified three key drivers for growth, to be implemented through concrete actions at EU and national levels: smart growth (fostering knowledge, innovation, education and digital society), sustainable growth (making our production more resource efficient while boosting our competitiveness) and inclusive growth (raising participation in the labour market, the acquisition of skills and the fight against poverty).

This battle for growth and jobs requires ownership at top political level and mobilisation from all actors across Europe. Five targets are set which define where the EU should be by 2020 and against which progress can be tracked.

President Barroso said, “Europe 2020 is about what we need to do today and tomorrow to get the EU economy back on track. The crisis has exposed fundamental issues and unsustainable trends that we can not ignore any longer. Europe has a growth deficit which is putting our future at risk. We must decisively tackle our weaknesses and exploit our many strengths. We need to build a new economic model based on knowledge, low-carbon economy and high employment levels. This battle requires mobilisation of all actors across Europe.”

The initiatives contained in the 2010 Programme are likely to become law within the mandate of the present Commission, which runs until October 2014. It usually takes 18-24 months for a Commission proposal to be agreed by the Council (on behalf of the 27 Member States) and the European Parliament.

What are its priorities? Should China pay any attention to them?
The overriding priority is to continue to tackle the economic crisis

The first element naturally provokes the largest number of initiatives. Considerable attention is paid to regulating the financial system in the light of the recent crisis. Strategic priorities also include patents, transport and energy. It is desirable that there be global agreement on financial regulation. This is still unlikely in the light of Washington’s current position, but maybe the accusation by the Security & Exchange Commission of fraud by Goldman Sachs will increase the recognition of the need for strict regulation. The Commission plans to improve the transparency of derivatives trading, as well as addressing bank funds, short selling and credit default swaps, bank deposit guarantees, market abuses and capital requirements. Finally, there will be a Communication on crisis management.

China should welcome these efforts to improve financial regulation and follow closely the measures being proposed. Beijing’s influence at the forthcoming G20 meeting and elsewhere should affect the extent to which global financial regulation is possible.

The second element focuses on citizens’ rights, ensuring an open and secure Europe and addressing long-term societal changes. Included are justice, liberty, security, data-protection and other legal rights and protections. While not of direct concern, these issues resonate in China and it could be of interest that their development be monitored.

The third element is of the greatest interest to China. In the second half of 2010, The Commission will issue a Communication on a trade strategy for Europe 2020, and an earlier one on the EU’s contribution to the UN’s Millenium Development goals. Trade tensions have increased between the two polities. China has just launched a one-year anti-dumping investigation into European-made potato flour, prior to which the EU announced an anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese-made coated paper. The Communication will need to address the granting of market economy status to China.

The fourth element addresses the budget, common agricultural policy and economic, social and territorial cohesion.

The 2010 Commission Programme demonstrates that, despite all its difficulties, the European Union still manages to legislate for 27 countries in 23 languages.

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