11 January 2016
Article by Gregg Jones, Head of EU Office, National Assembly for Wales
Welcome to a new EU Weekly blog by the Assembly’s Brussels Office. It aims to provide you with a snapshot of key developments on the EU agenda (in Brussels and back at home) of most relevance to Wales. We hope you find it useful – if you do we’ll keep producing it!
This week the EU Institutions return to business as normal following the Christmas break. The new year, of course, saw the usual change in the rotating six-month EU Presidency of the Council. The Dutch have taken over the reins from Luxembourg, and its Presidency Programme “focuses on the essentials, a Union that focuses on growth and jobs through innovation, and a Union that connects with civil society”. The four priority areas for the Presidency show a high degree of continuity with priorities for 2015: (i) Migration & international security (ii) Europe as an innovator & job creator (iii) Sound finances and a robust eurozone (iv) Forward-looking climate & energy policy.
The new Dutch Presidency is prominent on the agendas of committees meeting in the European Parliament this week, whilst a number of Commissioners also make an appearance, including the Climate Action and Energy Commissioner to discuss the outcome of COP21 talks in Paris in December, and Regional Policy Commissioner to discuss Cohesion Policy.
ENVI Committee adopted its Report on the mid-term review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy at a meeting held on 22 December 2015 – a Resolution is expected to be adopted in February plenary session on this report. ENVI also held an exchange of views with Environment Commissioner Vella on the Circular Economy Package of proposals, published in early December. Compromise deals were reached before Christmas in trilogue negotiations (between EU Presidency, European Parliament and Commission) on a number of pieces of draft legislation including: Plant Health; Animal Breeding; and EU Data Protection reform.
ECOFIN Council also meets this week and will discuss the Dutch Presidency priorities, implementation of the Banking Union, as well as adopting conclusions on the Annual Growth Survey marking the start of the annual European Semester cycle.
The UK Government’s EU reform agenda (see also Inbrief Blog 1 and Blog 2 for more background) has been prominent in the news following the European Council 17-18 December, with a number of articles on reactions to the summit. Prime Minister Cameron was in Bavaria last week and met senior politicians from the Christian Social Union Party, and the Guardian had an interview with Manfred Weber, Chair of the EPP in the European Parliament – the EPP is of course the majority party represented in the European Council. The UK in a Changing Europe initiative has published a number of blogs in recent weeks, including last week a blog by Dr Jo Hunt and Dr Rachel Minto from Cardiff Law School on engagement of the Devolved Nations in the EU reform agenda (Dr Minto will hold an update session on the EU reform agenda with Assembly officials on 18 January, organised by the Wales Governance Centre). No doubt there will be reflection on these and other issues in the IWA In or Out Debate between the First Minister Carwyn Jones AM and UKIP leader Nigel Farage MEP taking place this evening.
The European Commission published a number of new consultations over the Christmas period including: (i) experiences of greening obligations in the CAP direct payment scheme (closes 8 March); (ii) review of the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (closes 18 March); and EU-US cooperation in eHealth/Health IT (closes 15 March).
In the Assembly Enterprise and Business Committee is due to discuss in private session the draft report from its inquiry into Developing the Potential of the Maritime Economy.
Finally, visiting the EU Office today in Brussels is Lucas Leblanc (and this afternoon Dr Kay Swinburne MEP’s Office), a student at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, USA who was intern with David Melding AM during the summer/autumn. Lucas will be taking up an internship at the European Parliament’s Office in Washington when he returns to the US later this month.
Europa Newsroom (press releases; details of all new proposals)
European Parliament Committees (details of meetings, agendas etc)
European Parliament UK (representation based in London and Edinburgh)
Council of the European Union (press releases etc.)
UK in a Changing EU (ESRC project to inform public in lead up to EU referendum – includes Cardiff Law School
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