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European Commission - Statement

Speaking Points of First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Presentation of the 2015 Commission Work Programme to the European Parliament

Strasbourg, 16 December 2014

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In the elections we heard people across the Union tell us they want change. They want Europe to act where it makes a difference. They want it to improve their lives. To focus on the big things that matter: jobs, growth and fairness in our societies.

This House approved the Commission with a mandate for change. To do things differently and do different things. Today is about delivering our commitment to a new start.

The Work Programme we are presenting to you is a manifesto, evidence that we mean business.

This Commission is driving change but delivery has to be a collective effort. Which is why I am grateful for the constructive exchanges we have had over the last month – in the hearings, in bilaterals, in the Conference of Committee Chairs and Conference of Presidents. We have listened carefully to your comments, suggestions and concerns.

What we are presenting today is a limited number of concrete new initiatives, on things that matter for jobs, growth and investment. Every single one of the initiatives is directly derived from ten Political guidelines that President Juncker presented to this Parliament upon his election.

We have 23 measures on our list. We are breaking with the practice of listing everything for fear of being incomplete. And we are only putting forward the things we will actually do in 2015, no more, no less.

This doesn’t mean that preparatory work won’t start for future initiatives to implement the political guidelines to be presented in 2016, or in 2017, like the MFF mid-term review – of course it will, and Parliament will be kept closely informed. But this is about where we will focus our political energy in 2015.

Our first priority is delivering the Investment Plan for Europe. We showed we can act quickly by presenting our strategy within the first month of the mandate. Now we need to implement and deliver, to unlock public and private investments in the real economy of at least €315 billion over the next three years.

We will table an ambitious Digital Single Market package to create the conditions for a vibrant digital economy and society. This will be done by complementing the telecommunications regulatory environment, modernising copyright rules, simplifying rules for consumers making online and digital purchases, enhancing cyber-security and mainstreaming digitalisation.

We will take steps towards a European Energy Union: it’s never been so vital to ensure energy supply security, integrate national energy markets, reduce energy demand in Europe and promote green technology.

Deepening Economic and Monetary Union is important for the stability of the Eurozone, and together with our plans to create a Capital Union, will attract investors to Europe. In parallel we will invest in reinvigorating the social dialogue at all levels.

We want to promote fairness and opportunity in our societies. We will look at new ways to support Member States in getting people – especially the younger and long-term unemployed - into the workplace and making sure they have the skills they need to stay there. We will present a package of measures to promote labour mobility, whilst supporting Member States' efforts to ensure benefits are not abused.

A fairer approach to taxation is something citizens rightly feel strongly about. Our aim should be that companies' profits are taxed in the place they are made, including in the digital economy. We will bring forward an action plan to that end, alongside proposals on transparency of tax rulings and re-launching work on the Common Consolidated Cooperate Tax Base.

We will develop a holistic and balanced European Agenda on Migration: citizens expect us to improve the management of migration into Europe while keeping it an attractive destination for talent.

And we will strengthen our better regulation agenda and follow up our commitment for democratic change. We have already started with important improvements in the transparency of our meetings with interest representatives.

We have looked at what we are planning with a critical eye: Will this initiative contribute to jobs and growth? Will it add value beyond what Member States are able to do? Will it be effective in changing things on the ground without adding unnecessary burdens?

And we have also asked the same questions of the 400 or so pending proposals that are already on the table, applying the principle of political discontinuity that is set out in the Framework Agreement between our two institutions.

At the start of the new legislative cycle, it is time to clear the decks so that time and energy can be invested in those proposals that will have the biggest impact on jobs and growth and which have a good prospect of being adopted in the near future.

So we have looked through every pending proposal across all sectors and decided whether we want to maintain, amend or withdraw them.

We want results on the ground, so where it is clear existing proposals will not be agreed in a way that meets our objectives, we will propose alternative, more effective approaches.

That is the case with the Energy Tax Directive, which we propose to withdraw because the Council has watered it down so it no longer meets our environmental objectives of taxing fuel in a way that reflects real energy content and CO2 emissions.

We are also proposing to withdraw the existing proposal on the circular economy, to make way for a broader and more ambitious approach that can be more effective. We want to look beyond the narrow focus on waste and to 'close the loop' of the circular economy, for example by addressing recycling in product design and creating a market for secondary raw material.

We will present this new, more ambitious proposal to promote the circular economy by the end of 2015. In parallel we will promote investment in this sector through the new European Fund for Strategic Investment as well as the European Structural and Investment Funds.

In the political guidelines we said we would assess the air package, and our conclusions are clear. There are good prospects that the medium-sized combustion plants proposal will be adopted soon, closing the unacceptable gap in our source legislation. The proposal on national emissions ceilings has proved more controversial and there is a gap emerging between what Parliament and Council might view as an acceptable outcome. We will bring forward, in the course of the ongoing negotiations, a modified proposal which we hope can help bridge this gap by better reflecting synergies with the energy and climate package and reducing administrative burden. We are optimistic that the negotiations will be a success and agreement can be reached. We are not compromising on the goals we want to attain. We are looking at the best approach to achieve results.

We have discussed the maternity leave directive a lot. Let me be clear: the Commission deplores the persisting barriers to women's access to and progression in the workplace just as much as you do. Over the past years – perhaps partly because of our proposal - many Member States have improved their maternity leave arrangements. But there are a range of other issues that also need to be addressed to enable more women to participate in the labour market. We are ready to work with you and Council to make one last effort to unblock the directive, but if there is no break-through in six months we will take it off the table and come instead with a new initiative tackling these issues in the round. We believe that would be more useful for everyone to invest their time and effort in such a discussion than in an ongoing institutional stalemate.

This is all part of our better regulation ethos. Our Work Programme also has a strong implementation and simplification dimension. It again includes a set of regulatory fitness (REFIT) initiatives through which the Commission assesses the existing stock of legislation on a rolling basis to ensure that laws remain 'fit for purpose' and deliver on their objectives in the most efficient and effective way.

So what comes next? We will now discuss the withdrawal proposals with you and will only enact them after hearing your views.

On the priority initiatives, we look forward to following up with this House and the Council. We would like to work with you to identify a list of files on which the institutions could make a common commitment to progress swiftly, to bring the benefits to citizens as soon as possible. We look forward to a good and deep structural dialogue with your Committees in the course of next spring and summer. On the basis of this experience I hope we can move to a deeper understanding on Inter-institutional programming in the future.

Our dialogue does not stop with the adoption of the Work Programme. Today is the start – and we need your support to make sure it is the fresh start you mandated us to deliver.  

 

STATEMENT/14/2723

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