EU update – December 2021
Outlines of the future French Presidency
From January 1st 2022, the French delegation will take over the Presidency of the EU Council until June 30th 2022. This presidency will start the next presidency trio with Czech Republic and Sweden. On Thursday 9th December 2021, President Emmanuel Macron presented France’s 3 priorities for its presidency.
- A more sovereign Europe focusing on better border control and a stronger European defence mechanism which provides stability to neighbouring countries. A summit will be also organised between the European Union and the African Union.
- A new European model of growth. The idea is to define the Europe of 2030, through a new European model of production: creating well-being and defending the European social model while being on the front line against climate change at the same time. A Summit of the 27 Member States will be organised on the 10 & 11 March 2022 around four main pillars:
- Build up the production capacity of Europe: make Europe a continent of job creation and innovation. Develop champions in strategic sectors – hydrogen, batteries, Cloud services, semi-conductors – through massive investment plans and industrial alliances.
- Invent decarbonisation solutions of the economy: Go faster on the Fit-for-55 legislations, with the objective to put in place the CBAM within the next 6-months. Go further to accord climate and biodiversity agendas to the economic one: push towards “mirror clauses” in trade agreements, to avoid unfair competition.
- Make the EU a powerful digital economy: On one hand, bring out digital champions, create an integrated digital market, and unlock European funds for start-ups and SMEs. On the other hand, focus on data protection through two initiatives: the Act for a Digital Market – to avoid non regulated monopolies – and the Act for Digital Services – to better regulate content and fight against online hate.
- Create qualified and better paid jobs: Move towards a European minimum wage, and fight against the pay gap between men and women though a decree on salary transparency.
- A ‘more human’ Europe. Emmanuel Macron wants to put the accent on European values and discussions around the future of Europe. Debates will be hold on the rule of law, and new instruments will be put in place to create an independent system to protect journalists, fight against racism and discrimination, and fight against violence towards women. With the end of the Conference on the Future of Europe in May, the European Institutions will have to evaluate the input received from citizens during the different forms of public consultations.
Second batch of the Fit-for-55 package to be proposed
As part of the European Green Deal, the EU has set itself the ambition to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050. To achieve it, a first target was set to cut emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared with the levels of 1990. The first batch of the Fit-for-55 package, a set of legislative proposals to review and update the current EU legislation in terms of climate, energy, and transport, was adopted on 14 July 2021. A second batch of three legislative proposals were announced on 14-15 December 2021:
- Reducing methane emissions in the energy sector. The regulation aims to improve the accuracy of information on the main sources of methane emissions associated with energy produced and consumed within the EU, ensure further effective mitigation of methane emissions across the energy supply chain in the EU, and reduce methane emissions related to fossil energy imported to the EU.
- Revision of the energy performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The EPBD was originally adopted in 2010 and amended in 2018 with a view to improving the energy performance and increasing the rate of renovation of commercial and residential buildings in the EU. In this revise version, the directive will, for example, introduce minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings undergoing major renovation works as part of a renewed push to achieve a zero-emission building stock by 2050.
- Revision of the Third Energy Package for gas to regulate competitive decarbonised gas markets. The revision consists of a directive setting out EU-wide rules for the internal market in natural gas and regulation on access to gas transmission networks. The main objective is to steer the market towards low-carbon and renewable alternatives to fossil gas which needs to be phased out by 2050 to reach the EU’s climate neutrality goal. One of the main proposals will be to introduce new rights for consumers to choose their supplier.
The European Commission adopts a report on improving EU chemical legislation
The European Commission, together with a high-level roundtable on the EU’s chemicals strategy, adopted a report on improving compliance with the EU’s chemical legislation on Tuesday 23 November. The roundtable consisted of 32 representatives from the industry, civil society, and academia who have jointly put forward 10 recommendations for the report. The chemicals industry was mostly represented by Solvay, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), and the European Chemical Society (EuChemS).
The report calls for stricter punishment in case of non-compliance and harmonising enforcement with the creation of a centralised European enforcement control under the supervision of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). One of the main suggestions is the set-up of a ‘whistle blowing mechanism’ that would allow businesses or employees to report the use of unsafe chemicals and products.
The European Commission head of internal market department, Kerstin Jorna, welcomed the report as “a really good set of recommendations”.
The next roundtable meeting will take place in May 2022.