Monday

19th Nov 2018

EU's 2015 to-do list: Tax, economic integration, GMOs

  • Some cuts might cause controversy: ditching a packaging waste bill because there is 'no foreseeable agreement' (Photo: epsos.de)

The European Commission intends to combat tax evasion, deepen economic integration, review its legislation on GMOs, and set up a mandatory lobbyist register, according to its draft legislative programme for 2015.

Next year's to-do list, seen by EUobserver, contains 23 measures covering the economy, migration, climate, and industry.

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In at the top are proposals designed to boost the EU economy, including commission president Jean-Claude Juncker's flagship European Fund for Strategic Investments, meant to unleash €315 billion of investments over the coming years.

There are also to be more measures to help young people into work. The digital market is to be boosted by an overhaul of copyright rules.

Meanwhile, Juncker's promised action on tax will take the form of a law on the automatic exchange of information on member state tax rulings (sweetheart deals which facilitate tax avoidance), as well as an attempt to revive a law on a common corporate tax base (stuck in the legislative pipelines since 2011).

There will also be a "follow-up" to the EU's far-reaching stable of economic governance laws.

"The commission is ... developing proposals on further steps towards pooled sovereignty in economic government," says the mission statement accompanying the draft programme.

This will include "incentives" for structural reforms - one of the commission's biggest headaches is getting large member states such as France and Italy to undertake structural changes.

There will also be measures to address the "external representation" of the economic and monetary union, currently represented by several commissioners as well as the head of the eurozone finance ministers.

Noting that "citizens expect improvements in what the EU is doing and how we do it", the commission is planning on getting an agreement between itself, the European Parliament, and the EU Council (representing member states) to set up a "mandatory transparency register".

This will ensure that "all European institutions are open about who is influencing the decision-making process".

It is also going to open a political can of worms by reviewing its system of approving GMOs - genetically modified organisms - in Europe.

GMOs, labour mobility

GMOs is a highly sensitive topic in several member states, made even more so by the fact that, under the current system, the commission can approve the authorisation of genetically modified products even if a majority of EU governments is opposed.

The recent highly publicised debate on the alleged abuse of national welfare systems by migrants has also made it on the commission's programme.

The draft text refers to "support [for] labour mobility", but also to "tackling abuse by means of better co-ordination of social security systems".

In other areas, the Juncker commission is planning for the EU to accede to the European Court of Human Rights, to make steps toward an "energy union "(high on the political agenda as the EU seeks to reduce its dependence on Russia) and to review its trade policies.

As a backdrop, it plans more efficient law-making, amid criticism that the EU regulates where it does not need to, or proposes laws that are unlikely to see the light of day.

Binning some laws

As part of this, the commission, led by anti-red-tape tsar Frans Timmermans, has suggested 80 pieces of law that should be binned.

These include several obsolete (often made redundant by other laws) pieces of legislation such as rules on past multi-year budgets or laws relating to farm aid.

Some are being scrapped because there is "no foreseeable agreement". The list covers: labelling of organic goods; a proposal on an EU-wide system for registering radioactive materials; a law on loans to nuclear power stations; and one on harmonisation of excise duty on alcohol.

Others still are being abandoned because their final negotiated state is very different from what the commission had originally proposed, as with taxation of energy products, or because the parliament asked for a law to be withdrawn (such as one on the marketing of plant reproductive material).

Some of decisions are set to be controversial, including the binning of legislation on air quality (to be modified as part of forthcoming climate legislation) and packaging waste ("no foreseeable agreement").

The work programme is to be debated by the European Parliament next week.

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