EU Focus: The Juncker Mission – New Start or the President’s New Clothes?

IN: Business news

On the Tuesday of the last week of business in Brussels before the New Year, the European Commission revealed its work programme for 2015 which explains where the Commission will focus their efforts for the next 12 months, and also interestingly where they won’t.

undefinedPublished just six weeks after the Commissioners took office, the new Commission is at pains to show how this time is different. The plan, titled ‘a New Start’, marks a clear break with the past with a plan of action for 2015 with just 23 proposals for new initiatives, down from 58 in 2013, the last full year of the previous Commission and almost 10 times fewer than in the first year of that second Barosso Commission (2010). The programme will focus on delivering the first part of the EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker’s “Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change”, which Mr Juncker believes will deliver the Europe that citizen’s want.

In this first work programme of the new college of Commissioner, the Commission has selected the initiatives where they believe there is the need for the most pressing action. 

Chief among this is delivering an investment Plan for Europe, which was trailed earlier in November by Commission Vice-President Katainen. This investment package aims to unlock €315bn worth of investment for Europe but generated a lukewarm response from business organisations. The proposal sends the right signal but many were concerned by the ambitious uplift through leverage presented in the package. What will be needed here will be full and transparent updates on progress with clear measures identifying how the programme is performing.

Other significant programmes include an ambitious Digital Single Market Package, a European Energy Union and deeper economic and monetary Union. The first of these will aim to creating the conditions for unlocking the digital economy in Europe, with the Commission focusing on telecommunications regulation, modernising copyright rules, and making it easier for consumers to buy online with a new set of European rules.

The development of a European Energy Union was a key demand of the European Council (made up of the Heads of Government/State of EU Member States) last year and it is clear that the Commission will need to take action to ensure energy supply security, integration of national energy markets, and a reduction in energy demand while it continues to support green technology.

As well as setting out what the Commission will do the work programme also sets out what they won’t do, with the programme setting out a list of legislative proposal which are to be pulled. Although not a new thing in Commission Work Programmes, this time the Commissioners had to prove they mean business on better regulation. And it appears as though they may have done that with a number of proposals binned because they did not support the new priorities, or because a proposal has been sat on the negotiating table too long, and by setting sunset clauses for some high profile proposals such as the Maternity Leave Directive. The Commission also sent proposals back to the drawing board, most notably the Circular Economy Package. The intention to withdraw proposed legislation which is obsolete or stands no realistic prospect of success is a start to a new beginning and the Commission has shown intent with this plan.

The Commission’s workplan document is available here.

Aldermore and EEF have published the fourth annual EEF survey of executives’ views on the year ahead, and confidence about the economy and manufacturing in 2015 has weakened from the moderate outlook expected at the start of 2014.

Growth is anticipated by manufacturers across the UK economy and in manufacturing sectors, however, concerns about the global economic outlook have grown.

Whilst manufacturers see that the UK is a competitive location for their manufacturing, risks still loom on the horizon, from rising input costs to significant disruptions in major markets. Companies continue to prioritise activities to ensure they realise any growth prospects. The balance between risks and opportunities is a fine one, but manufacturers are confident they can achieve sales growth in the year ahead.

2014 in review

The manufacturing sector expected 2014 to be brighter than 2013 but the majority view was one of moderate improvement.

There was also the view of overall modest increases in firm level attributes such as sales, profitability and employee numbers. The nature of growth was similarly expected to continue the changes seen in 2013 with more firms becoming confident about the domestic market.

Manufacturers continued to be more optimistic about markets outside Europe, but the mood about the eurozone had improved. Against the backdrop of risks and possible global uncertainty, overall, manufacturers were quietly confident they could achieve growth in 2014 and end the year in a moderately better position.

Their confidence in the economic outlook was warranted. The UK economy expanded at a good pace through 2014 and manufacturing looks set to achieve its strongest rate of growth since 2010. 

All text provided by EEF, the manufacturers organisation

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