The European Commission published the details of its 2009 work programme earlier this month. The document is surprisingly ambitious given that the Barroso executive’s mandate ends halfway through 2009.
Focusing on five policy themes (EURACTIV 25/09/08), the 2009 work programme is unusually comprehensive for an outgoing European executive, reflecting the Commission’s desire to “deliver a response to testing times”.
Top of the EU executive’s to-do list for 2009 is a Communication on the Lisbon Strategy post-2010, but also measures to oversee financial markets, reduce costs for small and medium-sized enterprises, the publication of a ‘green book’ on reform of the common fisheries policy and Communications on financing low-carbon technologies and the future of transport policy.
Although the total number of initiatives is considerably lower than last year, the Barroso Commission’s desire to push through the proposals is thought to represent a bid to shape a legacy for itself following the economic turmoil, which came alongside “a series of other challenges for the EU in 2008”.
Speaking to EURACTIV France, Antonio Missiroli, director of studies at the European Policy Centre (EPC), argues that the busy programme provides an opportunity for outgoing commissioners to leave a legacy for their successors, while allowing those who expect to remain to prepare the ground for their next term. For his part, President Barroso is expected to seek a second term at the head of the EU executive.
This sense of continuity is also reflected in the European Parliament, argued Missiroli, where the main power players – Graham Watson of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group, Joseph Daul of the European People’s Party (EPP), and Martin Schulz for the Party of European Socialists – are expected to remain. Indeed, there is a possibility that Watson could be named the next Parliament president in a post-election pact between the EPP and ALDE (see EURACTIV 06/11/08).
Furthermore, 2009 marks an important year for the Commission, most notably in dealing with the new Obama administration in the US and finding a solution to the ongoing Lisbon Treaty debacle.
The Commission will publish a statement on “what it has achieved” towards its goal of building “the European Union of the 21st century” in the spring of 2009.