On 24 October, the European Commission published its 2018 Work Programme, and announced its plans for completing the 'Better Regulation Agenda 2017'.
It also outlined forward-looking initiatives for the future of Europe. The Programme includes a limited number of targeted legislative initiatives and some ambitious forward-looking actions and initiatives. The Commission maintains that "Europe is visibly regaining its strength. The European Union is now in its fifth year of an economic recovery that reaches every single Member State. With growth now above 2% for the EU as a whole - and 2.2% for the euro area - Europe's economy has grown faster than that of the United States over the last two years”.
Although the economic environment is significantly improving, the European Union "still needs to deal with the legacy of the crisis and translate higher growth into new jobs, fairness and new opportunities for all”. The Commission notes that it has already completed 80% of the proposals essential to the completion of the Digital Single Market, the Energy Union, the Capital Markets Union, the Banking Union, the Security Union and a comprehensive European migration policy. Priority is now assigned to turning proposals into legislation and implementation.
The Work Programme's focus is two-fold:
- a limited number of targeted legislative actions to complete priority policy areas over the next months, with all legislative proposals expected to be tabled no later than May 2018, to allow the European Parliament and Council to complete their legislative work before the European elections of June 2019;
- an ambitious forward-looking actions and initiatives "as the new Union of 27 shapes its own future for 2025", reflecting the debate introduced by the Commission's 'White Paper on the Future of Europe' and the 'State of Union Address'. It promises to deliver all these initiatives by the end of its current mandate.
The Commission's agenda for a “More United, Stronger and More Democratic Union” outlines initiatives looking forward to 2025 and beyond, including a set of political proposals facilitating structural resolutions and consolidating institutional efficiencies.
With a focus on delivery, 66 pending proposals are prioritised as requiring swift adoption by the European Parliament and Council. The Commission suggests the, if those do not achieve political agreement, are obsolete or are technically outdated.
Adopted in 2015, the 'Better Regulation Agenda' involved comprehensive reforms across the entire political cycle, intended to boost transparency, improve law quality and promote the review of existing EU legislation. The Commission notes that reforms already initiated have been priority-driven, evidence-based, transparent and effective. It believes that the new tools introduced provide a solid basis for timely and sound policy decisions. Also, a more extensive engagement with the public, systematic evaluation, high quality impact assessments and a strengthened Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme 'REFIT' have secured significant process and outcome improvements, it is said.
The key messages conveyed by the Commission's Work Programme and progress of the Better Regulation Agenda reflect a political determination to implement work objectives and conclude outstanding legislation by the end of its mandate. The also outline a broader regulatory footprint for Europe's future. When coupled with the fact that many pieces of post-crisis legislation are due for review over the coming three years or so, this approach appears to contrast with US regulatory policy reform pronouncements.
It is unclear what this will mean for global regulatory convergence. Global businesses may need to operate in an increasingly compartmentalised world, with quite different regulatory approaches across different geographies.