28 Oct 2015   |   News

EU Commission sets out legislative stall for next year

New drive to promote the use of satellite data, investment deals with China and Japan, and improving digital skills, are among 23 initiatives announced this week

The European Commission’s legislative plan for 2016 includes a space data drive, new trade negotiations and a plan to increase women’s participation on the boards of public companies.

All are in a raft of 23 initiatives announced on Tuesday by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans in Strasbourg.

In the line-up is a strategy, “for releasing the full benefits of the European space programmes,” that aims to maximise the value of the EU’s financial backing of the large fleet of satellites in the Galileo and Copernicus missions. These satellites run a variety of services, including navigation, agriculture and forestry, urban planning and disaster mitigation, and the Commission would like to see the data they generate exploited by inventive start-ups.

While the Commission is not promising it can finalise the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (TTIP) with the US, in what will be US President Barack Obama’s last year in office, this remains a top priority.

Not discouraged by the drawn-out TTIP talks, the Commission is moving to broker new investment deals with Japan and China.

Legislative proposals will also be put forward for long-term projects including energy union, the single market strategy and the digital single market.

Other measures include a circular economy package, which promotes the re-use of products and materials; greater scrutiny of tax treatment for technology multinationals; and a new skills agenda to adapt workforces to digital jobs.

The Commission said 20 pending pieces of legislation are to be dropped, compared to the 80 items it scrapped last year, while 40 will be re-evaluated to see if they are still relevant.

The 2015 agenda will not be neatly sewn up by the end of the year. The plans for a new copyright proposal this autumn went out of the window, as a result of attention-diverting crises involving the Greek economy and the influx of refugees into Europe, and will now be unveiled next year.

Under the previous Commission mandate from 2009 to 2014, there was an average of 130 new initiatives in each annual work programme. The Commission under President Jean-Claude Juncker changed tack last year, presenting only 23 new initiatives, the same number it has announced for 2016.

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