EU election campaign to be unveiled this WEEK
06.09.13 @ 19:34
BRUSSELS - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will assess the political and economic health of the EU next week as the 28-member bloc shows slow, but fragile, signs of recovery from its crisis.
In his fourth "State of the Union" speech, on Wednesday (11 September), Barroso is to look at the steps the EU has taken to overcome the economic crunch, which include a major consolidation of budgetary surveillance power in the hands of the commission.
He will also look ahead to controversial measures still to be taken.
His speech comes at a time of general unease about the rise of populist parties in response to record high unemployment and steep cutbacks in public spending.
It also comes amid uncertainty on Greece and its likely need for a third bailout, mixed visions about what is the right fiscal medicine to heal the crisis, and uncertainty over whether member states are prepared to hand over yet more power to the EU institutions to protect the euro.
On the eve of the speech, the European Parliament will formally launch its 2014 election information campaign, eight months ahead of the vote on the 751-seat assembly.
One aim will be to boost turnout, which has sunk every poll since 1979, and which has become an embarrassment at a time of growing parliamentary powers.
A key difference to past elections will be the promised personalisation of the campaign.
When voters cast their ballots next year, they will be able to affect who will be the next President of the European Commission.
MEPs will debate the situation in Syria with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday. They are set to call for a negotiated political solution with Damascus, even as France and the US contemplate military intervention.
Banking supervision will come under euro-deputies' scrutiny when they vote Tuesday on whether to approve plans to put the eurozone's 150 largest banks under the direct supervision of the European Central Bank.
They will also vote on updating EU legislation so that environmental impact assessments will have to be carried out on shale projects in future. The vote comes amid growing public concern about the potential ecological damage.
Meanwhile, the commission will, on Wednesday, adopt a new telecoms package. Two key elements of the legislation are to be the gradual phasing out of price premiums for roaming as well as guaranteeing net neutrality, the principle that all data on the internet is treated equally.
For his part, environment commissioner Janez Potocnik will kick off the week by unveiling plans to protect biodiversity. There are over 12,000 alien species present in the EU, 15 of which are considered to be invasive.
The damage caused by unwanted plants or animals runs to €12 billion a year, the commission says.