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College read-out on the 2021 Commission work programme by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op maandag 19 oktober 2020.
  • Good afternoon,

Before moving to the 2021 Commission work programme, which I am here to present to you today, let me briefly mention the other points from today's College meeting.

  • First, as announced by the President von der Leyen at the State of the European Union, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have today put forward a Joint Proposal for a Council Regulation concerning implementation of restrictive measures (sanctions) against serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide.
  • Once in force, the new EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime will provide the EU with greater flexibility to target those responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide, no matter where they occur or who is responsible.
  • It is expected that the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime will consist of measures such as asset freezes and travel bans. On the latter, the Joint Proposal would also give, for the first time, the Commission oversight on the implementation of the travel bans.
  • Secondly, we also heard a presentation by Professor Niels Thygesen, the Chair of the European Fiscal Board, on the findings of the Board's annual report. The Board provides independent advice to the Commission.
  • This annual report provides a comprehensive and independent assessment of the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact in 2019, and discusses the general orientation of fiscal policy in the euro area as a whole.
  • It also puts forward ideas on how to reform the Stability and Growth Pact, which will contribute to the debate about the reform of our economic governance framework.
  • The College also discussed the investor citizenship schemes in Malta and Cyprus, and the case of launching infringement procedure and this will be adopted by the finalisation procedure tomorrow.
  • Finally, the President informed the College that she had reactivated the group of Commissioners most involved in the COVID-19 response to ensure the proper planning and monitoring of activities.

And with this, let me move on to the main menu item for today.

  • We have just adopted the Commission work programme for the year ahead. It demonstrates that our focus will be twofold:
  • We will first continue to put all of our efforts into managing the crisis - the ongoing resurgence of the virus shows that we are not out of the woods yet, and therefore, EU action and EU coordination will be required, among other things to make sure that the current health and economic crisis does not turn into a social one.
  • Second, we will draw all necessary lessons from this crisis - the pandemic has sharpened the need to boost Europe's long-term resilience and therefore, we will make sure to use this unparalleled opportunity, which the pandemic has paradoxically presented.
  • So while many things have changed due to the pandemic, our ambition - to lead the twin green and digital transitions - remains the same. But we will accelerate.
  • Take for instance, a Fit for 55 package to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030. It will be tabled in June and cover a wide range of policy areas, including a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism to help reduce the risk of carbon leakage and ensure a level-playing field by encouraging EU partners to raise their climate ambition.
  • Another example is a roadmap of clearly defined 2030 digital goals, related to connectivity, skills and digital public services - to make this Europe's ‘digital decade'. We plan to put it forward in the first quarter of next year.
  • In total, we plan to table 86 major initiatives, put together in 44 packages or policy objectives. These are defining initiatives for the entire decade and even for the first half of this century.
  • I have already mentioned our green and digital agenda. Let me add a few additional examples under the remaining headline priorities of this Commission.
  • To ensure that we do not see a social crisis unveiled, the Commission will put forward an ambitious action plan to implement fully the European Pillar of Social Rights, making sure that no one is left behind in Europe's recovery. The Commission will also come forward with a new European child guarantee, ensuring access to basic services like health and education for all children.
  • Throughout the next year, we will ensure that Europe plays a vital role in this world, hit so severely by the pandemic - by proposing a Joint communication on strengthening the EU's contribution to a rules-based multilateralism as well as by leading the global response to secure a safe and accessible vaccine for all.
  • In the face of COVID-19, the Commission will also propose to build a stronger European Health Union, notably by strengthening the role of existing agencies and establishing a new agency for biomedical advanced research and development.
  • We will also draw lessons in other areas, notably when it comes to the Schengen area and upholding free movement of people without internal border control. To preserve and improve its functioning, a new strategy for the future of Schengen will be tabled.
  • Precisely because of the long-term and transformative nature of our work programme, it is more important than ever to legislate in the most impactful way and with the future in mind.
  • The upcoming Communication on Better Regulation will renew this emphasis. It will focus on simplification and burden reduction, notably by introducing a ‘one-in-one-out' approach.
  • The newly established Fit for Future Platform - that starts its mission on 17 November - will help us achieve that. This agenda is particularly needed in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is very important especially for SMEs.
  • To deliver on the ground, the Commission will also step up its outreach, with the Conference on the Future of Europe playing a central role.
  • To conclude, let me underline that bringing all our ambitions to life will require a team effort between all institutions, Member States and key partners.
  • Therefore, I appreciate the excellent cooperation with the Parliament and the Council in preparing this Commission work programme. Now, we will strive for a Joint Declaration to streamline our shared legislative priorities.

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