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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Presentation of the 2016 Commission Work Programme to the European Parliament Plenary by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans

Strasbourg, 27 October 2015

The motto of our Work Programme for this year is 'no time for business as usual'. And anybody in this room who has followed this morning's debate will agree that this is no time for business as usual.

This is why today the Commission commits to making bold, focused and pragmatic proposals to allow us to overcome our common challenges and emerge stronger in a spirit of European solidarity and responsibility.

President Juncker's ten priorities – which are both our mission statement and the basis on which we were appointed to office by you – remain the right ones.

Last year we said we would do different things and do things differently. We are concentrating on the big things. We have set out our vision and the concrete measures necessary in various areas: the Investment Plan, the Digital Single Market, the Energy Union, the European Agenda on Security, the European Agenda on Migration, the Capital Markets Union, the Action Plan for Fair and Efficient Corporate Taxation, the new Trade Strategy, the deepened and strengthened Economic and Monetary Union. Tomorrow we will present the Single Market Strategy.

Still this year, we will complete the picture with our plans for a sustainable Circular Economy, Labour Mobility and better management of our external borders.

The Work Programme the Commission adopted today – and its 23 key initiatives – is focussed on implementing these strategies. It represents a substantive legislative agenda. There will be a lot of work on the table for this Parliament.

You have all received a copy of the Work Programme hot off the press. That is why I would like to point to five important issues, which I want to stress in particular:

First, we will continue to prioritise the refugee and migration challenge. The European Agenda on Migration provides a comprehensive response. Immediate actions have been taken, and I am grateful, very grateful, to this House for the speed with which you have acted and the leadership you have consistently shown. We now propose new measures to improve migration management, both to overhaul the Dublin system for asylum and to set out a new approach to legal migration. This will complement the strengthened border management proposals we will table by the end of the year, including a European Border and Coast Guard.

Secondly, we have to keep our sights firmly on creating jobs, growth and investment. The Investment Fund is now operational, thanks again to the commitment of this House and the speed with which it has worked, and is delivering high quality investments to further boost the European economy, including in research. We will now focus on improving the investment environment and deepening the Single Market so that it delivers better outcomes, fewer barriers, and the right environment for innovation, especially among SMEs and start-ups. We will present a range of concrete proposals to implement the Digital Single Market Strategy. We will also present sectoral strategies on space and defence.

Thirdly, the EU being a lead player in the Paris climate talks, we will follow up with three important packages under the Energy Union. We will deliver a circular economy package to maximise resource efficiency throughout the whole value chain. And we will set out a new approach to ensure Europe's economic, social and environmental sustainability, taking into account the Europe 2020 review and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Fourthly, we want to make 2016 a year of real social progress. We will present a New Skills Agenda aimed at helping people get quality jobs in particular in the digital era. We will set out legislative and non-legislative action to give a new start to work-life balance for parents, including to support women in the work place. The Labour Mobility proposals we will present still this year will help people use the opportunities of free movement whilst addressing abuses in the benefits system and social dumping. Free movement should not be a threat to social protection. The 2016 European Semester will put a stronger focus on the economic and fiscal situation in the euro area as a whole and on Member States' employment and social performance. This will be complemented by the development of a European pillar of social rights, which will modernise and address the gaps in existing social protection legislation, and identify social benchmarks built on national best practices with a view to upwards convergence, in particular of course in the euro area.

Fifthly, the Commission will also press for further progress towards fair, efficient and growth-friendly corporate taxation, based on the principle that companies should pay taxes in the country where profits are generated. We will present a set of measures to enhance transparency of the corporate tax system and fight tax avoidance. We will also present an Action Plan for a more efficient and fraud-proof VAT regime.

I wanted to stress these five points to you today as I cannot list everything here. The Commission will of course also continue to implement the European Security Agenda to tackle terrorism and organised crime, and follow up on the Trade and Investment Strategy, as well as the Five Presidents' Report for a more resilient and prosperous Economic and Monetary Union.

Given all these challenges, it is essential to make the best use of all our resources. The EU budget must be geared to results and the mid-term review of the multi-annual financial framework will look at how to better target funding on priorities such as the refugee crisis, while also putting a stronger focus on achieving results.

Challenges such as migration, access to energy and other resources, and climate change also show the need for an effective external dimension to deliver on major internal policy objectives. Today, more than ever before, you can no longer distinguish between internal and external. I just want to point in particular towards the Sustainable Development Goals; you can no longer distinguish between the two elements. The Commission will make a substantive contribution to the new Global Strategy on foreign and security policy. Also here, internal and external go hand in hand.

Two final points. One: this Commission also said we would do things differently; all the actions we propose are underpinned by our new Better Regulation Agenda. We remain committed to making sure that when the EU intervenes it does so in a way that will deliver results and make a positive difference on the ground. Our Work Programme includes our plans to review key areas of existing legislation – such as health and safety at the workplace – to ensure that they are fit for purpose and continue to deliver on our ambitious policy objectives. We also propose a number of withdrawals of initiatives which have become obsolete or watered down or have no chance to be adopted. The list is considerably shorter than last year which was a moment of political discontinuity. In line with our commitment under the Framework Agreement, we will only enact the withdrawals once we have heard your views.

My second concluding point is that the Work Programme cannot deliver results without sufficient 'ownership' of the co-legislators. Again, here it takes three, strangely enough, to tango. The Commission's Work Programme reflects the Commission's right of initiative and we take full responsibility for the choices we make. But for the EU to be strong it needs to be able to demonstrate that all our Institutions are ready to set Europe's agenda together and can work together swiftly and in agreement to reach our goals.

In preparing our Work Programme, we have taken account of the views you have expressed, including in your Resolution, and I think there is a very broad degree of convergence. I think everyone will agree that our joint working methods for this year's dialogue were much improved (for instance with the new cluster format in the College – Conference of Committee Chairs discussions), and I am grateful for all the input we have received from the Committees and their Chairs as well as the groups and group leaders. I want to thank all the groups for their leadership, I want to thank President Schulz for taking this so seriously and helping us organise the work better, and thank President Buzek for doing the same with the Conference of Committee Chairs. I hope that this will also help us reach a common understanding of the pending and future proposals on which we hope the co-legislators will commit to proceed quickly.

I am looking forward to working closely with you in 2016 as well. And I am glad we have improved our working methods, hopefully to the satisfaction of both our institutions.


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