Select Committee on European Union Twenty-Third Report

CHAPTER 2: A year of changes at the top

4.  The Commission's Annual Policy Strategy for 2009, published on 18 February 2008, looks ahead to a year which will see a new European Parliament elected in June and a new college of Commissioners appointed in November.[2] The election means that the majority of legislative business should ideally be concluded by May 2009. The Commission will have tabled most of its major outstanding legislative initiatives by the end of 2008, meaning that a considerable lull in the presentation of legislative proposals is foreseen for next year. During 2009, the Commission indicates that it will focus on reaching agreement on these initiatives, on implementation of the acquis, and on effective financial management.[3]

5.  At the time of publication, the Commission also looked forward to the Lisbon Treaty's entry into force at the beginning of 2009, if it had been ratified by all 27 Member States. Preparations were being made to ensure the smooth implementation of the Treaty's changes to the European institutions when it was announced that Ireland had voted "no" to the Treaty in its referendum of 12 June 2008. The picture has therefore changed since the Annual Policy Strategy was published and since the Commission wrote that "[w]ith a stable institutional framework in place, the Union will be able to concentrate on addressing the concrete challenges ahead".[4]

6.  The Commission Vice-President in charge of institutional relations and communication, Margot Wallström, said that the referendum result would have "no direct consequences" on the schedule for both the European Parliament elections and the Commission change-over in 2009. The Annual Policy Strategy "took a prudent approach" to the Lisbon Treaty and did not list all the consequences of its entry into force or the initiatives flowing from it. The Commissioner said that "[t]he nature and timing of such initiatives will clearly be subject to ongoing review" (p 14). She indicated that a number of implementation measures were on hold, and said that at present "everybody prefers not to engage in some kind of alternative plan but focus on ratification and solving the problems that we see right now" (Q 43). She did not say that the priorities in the Annual Policy Strategy would be substantially affected, although the details of policy proposals in areas that would have been significantly altered by the Lisbon Treaty's implementation, such as the area of freedom, security and justice, may well change. Much may depend on what the Taoiseach tells the European Council in October about the Lisbon Treaty's future.

7.  Because of the disruption caused by the arrival of a new European Parliament and a new Commission in 2009, the majority of the initiatives included in the Annual Policy Strategy are either non-legislative or implement legislation that has already been adopted. The "key actions" for 2009 listed in the Annual Policy Strategy's annex include stocktakings, communications, green papers, follow-ups, progress reports and action plans.[5] We welcome the Commission's agenda of consolidation for 2009 as pragmatic.

8.  We think that the legislative lull in 2009 provides an excellent opportunity for the Commission to focus on the even-handed implementation of EU legislation across the Member States. That some of the 850 Commission posts to be newly created or redeployed in 2009 will be allocated to supporting the implementation of the acquis also reflects a welcome degree of commitment to this agenda.

2   Annual Policy Strategy p 3 Back

3   Annual Policy Strategy p 3 Back

4   Annual Policy Strategy p 3 Back

5   Annual Policy Strategy Annex, pp 14-18 Back

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