A busy agenda

Foreign policy and energy, the budget, consumers and enterprises... the Barroso team at work " "

After the election of Jean-Claude Juncker as the next president of the European Commission, who will take office on 1 November, the EU member states are submitting to Brussels the names of their candidates for the post of commissioner, one for each member country. They will undergo parliamentary hearing in September and voted by the same MEPs during the plenary session at the end of October. But while the process leading to the formation of the Executive due to remain in office for the next five years is going ahead, the College led by José Manuel Barroso continues its work. Diplomacy and concrete decisions. Over the past weeks the Commission was busy bringing forward a set of policies and legislative practices; preparing the adjustments to the financial statements underway and the draft Budget for 2015; defining the “recommendations” to the States on financial matters and budget. The Barroso-team was then called to prepare and follow the European Council on economic issues and foreign policy held in late June, thereby accompanying the start of the new legislature of the European Parliament and the debut of the Italian presidency. Meanwhile, the agenda of the Executive grew loaded with commitments, position statements, “communications” on other fronts, such as allocation of funds, education, the Adriatic-Ionian macro-regional and Alpine strategies, energy security, support to small and medium enterprises, consumer protection. The urgencies at external level (from Ukraine to the Holy Land, not to mention Iraq and Mediterranean migrations, the latest decisions of 28 July envisage renewed humanitarian aid appropriations for the Gaza Strip and the opening of trade partnership with Cameroon) were coupled by internal issues regarding Banking Union, the Youth Guarantee in the realm of employment, preparations for the Open Days in October on regional cohesion… Morover, Estonia’s EU membership request was given a green light, to be followed by concrete steps prepared in the Berlaymont bureaus. Boosting industrial competitiveness. A special initiative directed at reviving innovation in the manufacturing sector was marked by the launch of public-private partnerships especially in the field of research, to which the Horizon 2020 7-year research framework allocated a 7 bln funding package. The Commission has thus earmarked the first billion to specific projects that will be co-financed by the private sector. The general purpose of such partnerships is to “improve the quality of life of citizens and enhance international competitiveness of European industry”, explained José Manuel Barroso. Among the projects supported by the EU budget figure studies on new treatments for diabetes and eye diseases, the introduction of hydrogen-powered road vehicles, innovations in the field of electronics, bio-economy and transport. Barroso remarked: “It is only by bringing together the best intellectual resources of academia, industry, SMEs, research institutes that we will successfully meet the great challenges that lie ahead”. These partnerships will achieve “results that could not be achieved by any single country”. Energy, ongoing emergency. The Commission also presented a comprehensive strategy – currently assessed by EU Council and Parliament – to improve member States’ autonomy in terms of energy supplies. The issue was addressed during the summit of EU heads of government and State past June 26-27, also in response to the turbulent situation at geopolitical level and the tensions in Ukraine, Southern Africa, and the Middle East. For the Executive, “diversifying energy supplier countries, strengthening infrastructure links, completing the internal energy market and increasing energy efficiency in the EU” are the key aspects of true Community strategy. Such line of action proposed by the College highlights “the need to coordinate national energy policy decisions and the importance of speaking with one voice when negotiating with external partners. It builds on the progress already achieved since the gas crisis in 2009”. Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger added: “We want strong and stable partnerships with important suppliers, but must avoid falling victim to political and commercial blackmail. The EU and its Member States have a long list of homework in front of them: Collectively, we need to reinforce our solidarity with more vulnerable Member States. We also need to complete the internal energy market, improve our infrastructure, become more energy efficient and better exploit our own energy resources”. Action proposed to member States involve these areas. Priority is given to gas supplies whereby 39% of EU gas imports by volume come from Russia, 33% from Norway and 22% from North Africa (Algeria, Libya), thus there is an urgent need to seek ties to new partner countries and supply routes, e.g. in the Caspian Basin.

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