Select Committee on European Union Twenty-Third Report

CHAPTER 3: The Commission's priorities

9.  In this final year of the Barroso Commission, the four strategic objectives defined in 2005 at the start of the Commission's five-year term—promoting prosperity, solidarity, security and freedom, and Europe as a world partner—remain the "core direction" for the Commission's work.[6] The Annual Policy Strategy specifies five priority areas for the Commission in 2009: "Growth and Jobs", "Climate Change and Sustainable Europe", "Making a Reality of the Common Immigration Policy", "Putting the Citizen First", and "Europe as a World Partner".[7]

10.  Commissioner Wallström told us that in 2009 "the Commission will stick to its ambition of delivering a Europe of results and bringing concrete benefits to citizens" (Q 34). She explained, "[w]e win democratic legitimacy by doing the right things that really change the lives of European citizens" (Q 61). The Government said in its Explanatory Memorandum on the Annual Policy Strategy that it agreed with the Commission that "it is important that the EU focuses on delivering recognisable benefits and tangible policies that matter to its citizens"[8] (see also p 13). We agree with the Commission's objective of delivering results on issues that concern citizens, and to communicate those results. The Commission's priorities should be based on the question of what makes the European Union relevant to the people of Europe.

11.  The Commission told us that including "Putting the Citizen First"[9] as a priority "reflects the fact that one of the main objectives of this Commission is to put the citizen at the centre of the European project and to deliver policies which are relevant to their everyday lives" (p 14). The proposals put forward under the heading "Putting the Citizen First" cover the free movement of European citizens, the common area of justice, security and civil protection, public health, food safety, animal health and welfare, consumer product safety rules, chemicals regulation, flexicurity, youth, health and safety at work, gender equality, anti-discrimination and inclusion. We welcome the priority on "Putting the Citizen First", but regret the lack of coherence among the disparate sub-priorities gathered underneath this heading. The Commission should do more to stress the weight it places on putting the citizen first throughout its work, thereby giving more coherence to this list of sub-priorities. Particular attention should be paid to issues impacting on communities and local projects.

12.  Asked about the Government's priorities within those outlined by the Commission, the Minister for Europe, Jim Murphy MP, highlighted "climate change, not least for the geopolitical reasons … if Europe either reneges on its commitment on renewables and other aspects of the climate change package or gives the impression of being luke warm I think it will send a signal to other groups of nations across the planet and would have a negative impact on other world capitals, not least in Brazil, Russia, Washington and elsewhere" (Q 3). We welcome the Commission's focus on climate change, as crucial both to Europe's future and to connecting the EU with its citizens.[10] Once the EU has agreed its package of energy and climate change measures[11], which it has agreed to do by early 2009 at the latest, the EU must strive for an environmentally and economically sustainable deal at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009.

13.  The emphasis on "Europe as a World Partner" is also welcome, as the European Union must be in a position to address the challenges of a changing world in which China, India, Russia and other major powers and regions are rapidly playing a more important role.[12]

14.  Delivering growth and jobs will also be fundamental to the role of the European Union in 2009, so we are glad to see it prioritised.[13]

15.  Regarding immigration, the Commissioner, in her written evidence, cited the European Council's December 2007 conclusion that "further developing this policy—which complements Member States' policies—remains a fundamental priority in order to meet the challenges and harness the opportunities which migration represents in a new era of globalisation". She added: "A Common Immigration Policy is the best and in many cases the only way to address a number of very significant problems such as shrinking EU population and demographic ageing, labour and skills shortages, insufficient integration of legal immigrants, continuous pressure of illegal immigration, insufficient partnership with third countries or insufficient adaptation of border management and visa policy to the needs of a globalized world" (p 13). The Commission's prioritisation of immigration reflects the importance most Member States attach to this issue and the priorities set by the Council.[14] We welcome the collective efforts to tackle what is currently one of the major challenges facing the EU as a whole. We note, however, that the issue of immigration is far from uncontroversial for some Member States (particularly the United Kingdom, which has the right to choose whether to participate (the opt-in) in this area) and the Commission will need to handle this priority carefully, giving due regard to the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and thereby showing that specific measures in this field add value.

16.  We think that the Commission's efforts on trade should be more visible in the Commission's Annual Policy Strategy, given the importance that the Commission attaches to the World Trade Organisation negotiations and the increasing strength of emerging economies such as China and India. Given the critical importance of trade, the hazardous condition of World Trade Organisation negotiations and the rising protectionist threat in various parts of the world, the Commission should make sure that trade is a priority for 2009.

6   Annual Policy Strategy p 3 Back

7   Annual Policy Strategy pp 4-7 Back

8   The Government's Explanatory Memoranda on European Union documents are available at
The Government's Explanatory Memorandum on the Annual Policy Strategy for 2009 is available at  

9   Annual Policy Strategy pp 5-6 Back

10   Annual Policy Strategy p 5 Back

11   Communication from the Commission "20 20 by 2020-Europe's climate change opportunity" (COM(2008) 30, 23 January 2008. In addition to the non-legislative Communication, the package of measures published on the same day included legislative proposals on the emissions trade scheme (COM(2008) 16), emissions reductions outside the emissions trading scheme (COM(2008) 17), carbon capture and storage (COM(2008) 18) and renewable energy (COM(2008) 19). Back

12   Annual Policy Strategy pp 6-7 Back

13   Annual Policy Strategy p 4 Back

14   Annual Policy Strategy p 5 Back

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