In the European Quarter, there’s no rest for the wicked

By July 31, 2015EU insight

By Owen Bennett

As July becomes August a brief air of calm has descended across Brussels’ European Quarter. As a time when MEPs and Commission officials jet off for their summer breaks, the “silly season” month has traditionally been a time of respite for the city’s cohort of EU affairs professionals. But with several high-priority policy dossiers expected on the table in the autumn, this year no such rest can be afforded.

The Juncker administration has made much of its supposed role as the “last-chance Commission”. In an effort to live up to that branding, a series of ambitious policy packages promised in the Institution’s work programme will be put through the Union’s lawmaking machine in the coming months.

First up is the bundle of legislative measures that comprise the Commission’s new Digital Single Market strategy. Public consultations on various aspects of the strategy have already been launched, and the Commission is set to unveil proposals for an overhaul of the Union’s copyright framework and an assessment of the role of Internet platforms in the autumn. Besides this, a review of both the E-Privacy Directive and the Audio Visual Media Services Directive is on the cards before the year’s end.

Across various dossiers, the Institutions are still grappling with how best to approach the sharing economy, and regulatory action to address the issues raised by this fledging form of economic activity has been promised in the DSM Strategy and various response papers from the Parliament political groups.

In the Environment sector, the stand-out dossier is undoubtedly the upcoming Circular Economy package. Ostensibly withdrawn by the Commission last year on the basis that the original proposal “lacked ambition” a new package is set to be unveiled in the autumn. With controversial measures to address resource efficiency at all stages of the product lifecycle, the package is already causing consternation within and between the Parliament and Council. Indeed, on that dossier fireworks are to be expected.

The Commission’s focus on resource efficiency is finding further prominence through the Energy Union package, and the first of its legislative proposals will be published in the autumn. Addressing everything from energy security to market regulation, the package has ambitions to realise a major shakeup of European energy policy.

Ultimately, none of the above packages look set to pass smoothly through the EU lawmaking process, and when taken as a collective they constitute a mammoth workload for all interested stakeholders. But this is just a snapshot of what is on the agenda for the coming months – there are also upcoming initiatives on everything from a Capital Markets Union to a new Inter-Institutional Agreement.

So as you drag out the parasols and head for the beach, spare a thought for us as we gear up for a whirlwind second half of 2015. In any event, the autumn looks set to provide much to do and ponder, all in the spirit of the “last chance” Commission.