EU Parliament discusses future European policy challenges.

IF – 04/2019

How can we advance Europe? What will happen to the European Union after the European elections? These are the questions that many in Brussels are currently pondering. The European Parliament has also been dealing with these issues. The own-initiative report by rapporteur Jáuregi Atondo (S&D, ES), which was adopted by the European Parliament in February, looks at social policy influences on past and future European policy.

The last few years have been marked by intensive debate on migration, terrorism and security, digitalisation, climate change and completion of the Economic and Monetary Union. But numerous social policy issues have also been on the agenda. An initiative which has been at the centre of much discussion is the European Pillar of Social Rights, which serves as a compass for a renewed upward convergence towards better working and living conditions in the European Union.

The European Parliament believes that these challenges must now be jointly addressed and developed at European level. The European Union should therefore take further measures to improve inner-European cohesion in line with the interests of the Member States. In addition, framework conditions should be created to enable Union citizens to enjoy optimum living and working conditions, such as fair pay and the best workplace protection possible. 

In addition, the report also deals with the issue of optimising European legislative processes in the social field. The report proposes changing the way decisions are made by moving from the principle of unanimity, which has been partially applied, to qualified majority voting. In the opinion of the MEPs, this would lead to an acceleration of legislative processes. This is a matter that the Commission is also pursuing (see article 'The end of una­nim­ity in Euro­pean social pol­icy?' of April 2019).

The MEPs also recommend enhancing economic and social convergence through further reform efforts in economic, tax and labour market policies. The next Parliament will also seek further improvements in social policy and the continued implementation of the Pillar of Social Rights. In order to finance the implementation of these objectives, a balanced EU budget and a stable euro area are needed to ensure long-term stability and continued growth in Europe.

The report calls for the Member States to deal with antidemocratic and anti-European sentiments. Not only are an increasing number of anti-European MEPs expected to join the new Parliament, the Christian Democrats (EPP) and Social Democrats (S&D) are also likely to lose their joint parliamentary majority for the first time.

The report also calls for compliance with the ‘Spitzenkandidat’ process as set out in the Lisbon Treaty, according to which only candidates who can command a majority in the next European Parliament can be put forward for election as Commission President.

It will be very interesting to see what form the next Parliament and the new Commission take in terms of content and persons.