2007 A Good Year For EU, Committed To Results 2008
After a good year for Europe in 2007, the Commission remains committed to delivering results in 2008
2007 has been a good year for the EU and for the European Commission's twin track approach of resolving the longstanding institutional question while building a Europe of Results under the current framework. Agreement on the Treaty of Lisbon has been reached and the Commission hopes that ratification will be completed in 2008.
The Treaty will enhance Europe's capacity to act, in the full respect of national interests. In parallel, Europe has taken important steps towards fulfilling its 21st century mission of helping Europe to shape and respond to globalisation, in the interest of all its citizens.
The Commission wants a prosperous, low-carbon Europe and believes 2007 has seen significant progress towards that goal. Europeans can be more confident at the end of 2007 than at the start in the EU's ability to act, in partnership with Member States, to defend citizens' interests at a time of rapid global change.
Nevertheless, tough challenges remain and new ones have emerged, notably financial market turbulence and high energy and commodity prices. Europe will need to redouble its efforts to deliver results for citizens in 2008.
EU leaders adopted a declaration on globalisation at the December European Council. This followed a debate at the October informal meeting of European leaders in Lisbon, based on the Commission paper "The European interest: succeeding in a globalised age" (IP/07/1433)
The declaration reflects a growing consensus in 2007 that the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs must be the centrepiece of Europe's response to globalisation, based around an approach of building a greater synergy between internal and external policies.
Europe must continue internal reforms to get fit for global competition and to deal with issues like migration, energy and climate change. At the same time the EU must speak with one voice and act coherently in its external relations. In order to break down trade barriers and open up markets for EU companies, but also to contribute to a more stable world, to promote development and to take the lead in moulding a global response to global warming. Significant steps have been taken towards putting this approach into practice.
The Commission's December 2007 Strategic report on the Lisbon Strategy demonstrated that the EU's game plan for the globalised age is working, while recognising that the process of building an effective response to globalisation is a continuous one and that sustained success will require a redoubling of commitment at both EU and national level.
Meanwhile, the EU has maintained its leadership role on climate change. The Commission has proposed an integrated approach to climate change and energy policy, bringing forward a series of initiatives to improve security of energy supply, ensure fair prices and promote the shift towards a low-carbon economy.
The Commission is determined that Europe must deliver tangible benefits for citizens in their daily lives. With this in mind, the Commission sees as some of Europe's most significant achievements in 2007:
Economic growth was 3.0% in EU-27 in 2006 and is expected to remain at 2.9% in 2007. Almost 6.5 million new jobs have been created in the last two years. Another 5 million jobs are expected to be created up to 2009.
The Strategic report on the renewed Lisbon strategy for Growth and Jobs in December showed that economic reform has contributed to the above successes and has increased the potential estimated growth rate of GDP in the euro zone by 0.2 percentage points since 2005 to some 2.25% in 2007, with the prospect of much more to come if momentum is maintained. Most Member States are making progress towards implementing the country specific recommendations agreed by the European Council in March (IP/07/1892).
The Commission set in motion a root and branch, medium-term review of the EU budget in September (IP/07/1302).
In December, the budget for 2008 was agreed. For the first time ever, the largest share of the EU budget - 45% of all EU spending - will go on measures to boost economic growth and greater cohesion in the EU-27.
Cohesion policy has been reoriented towards competitiveness. Most of the € 347 billion cohesion policy budget for 2007-13 will be invested in key Lisbon-related priorities, such as the knowledge economy, research, development and innovation, human capital and business development (IP/07/1904).
In November the Commission adopted a blue print for a 21st century single market, with an even stronger emphasis on making sure it delivers maximum benefits for consumers - for example, through monitoring of sectoral markets and the publication of a regular Consumer Scoreboard. The single market package also cemented the link between market and social policy, clarifying EU law on services of general interest and setting out a social vision on widening life chances for all Europeans (IP/07/1728).
The Commission also adopted a telecoms package to: increase competition and strengthen consumer rights and choice, including by setting up a European Telecom Market Authority; promote investment into wireless broadband services; and make networks more secure, especially against cyber-attacks. (IP/07/1677) Meanwhile, the Commission made good on its 2006 promise to slash the cost of using mobile phones while on the move in Europe. Thanks to a new EU law, prices started tumbling in July, and by October all 400 million EU mobile users were able to save up to 60 % on calls made or received in another member country (IP/07/1445).
Common flexicurity principles were proposed by the Commission in June (IP/07/919), and endorsed by the Council. The European social partners presented in October a joint analysis of the key challenges for European labour markets (IP/07/1553).
The Commission has stepped up its fight against cartels, imposing a record €3.3 billion in fines and saving consumers up to 4 billion euros. In September, the European Court of First Instance upheld the Commission's approach towards Microsoft's abuse of its dominant position (IP/07/359).
The first integrated EU Maritime policy was launched in October (IP/07/1463).
The Commission unveiled in November its 'Health Check' of the Common Agricultural Policy, building on the approach which began with the 2003 reforms. (IP/07/1720). In December, the Council agreed on the Commission's proposals for reforming the wine sector (IP/07/1966).
In March, EU leaders agreed at the European Council on targets proposed by the Commission in January to reduce Europe's emissions by 20% and increase its use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by the same figure. In September, the Commission brought forward proposals to complete the internal market for energy (IP/07/1361).
At the end of the year, the Commission proposed legislation to reduce the average CO2 emissions of new passenger cars to 120 grams per kilometre by 2012 (IP/07/1965) and has also proposed that aviation should be added to the emissions trading scheme.
Agreement was reached on the funding of Galileo (IP/07/1358) and on the European Institute of Technology (IP/07/882).
2007 has seen progress on the European Research area, with agreement on the Joint Technology Initiatives (MEMO/07/570) and the launch of the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (IP/07/1750).
The Schengen area is extended to nine new Member States on 21 December, removing the requirement for border checks and making travel easier for citizens of those countries and visitors to them.
Meanwhile significant progress has been made on the consolidation of policies on migration. A consensus was achieved in the European Council on a common migration policy. Meanwhile, the Commission brought forward in October proposals on legal migration (general rights and the EU Blue Card) as well as on sanctions for employers of illegal immigrants (IP/07/1575).
2007 also saw the better regulation agenda move further forward, including on impact assessment and reduction of administrative burden.
The Commission's and Member States' commitment to international discussions in the G8 and UN has helped bringing about consensus on a truly global effort to tackle climate change though the Bali roadmap, which reflects EU essentials (IP/07/1941).
The EU-Africa Summit in December (IP/07/1864) saw the culmination of three years of work by the Commission to change the discourse on Africa, moving from a "donor-beneficiary" relationship into a partnership of equals. Europeans and Africans agreed on an Action Plan for the period 2008-2010 in order to achieve concrete progress in 8 areas: Democratic governance and Human Rights, to energy, climate change, peace and security, migration and employment, development, and science and technology.
Economic Partnership Agreements will continue to be discussed in 2008 with most of the ACP countries, after the WTO waiver on the current trade deal between the EU and the ACPs expires on 31 December 2007. The Commission is fully committed to the conclusion of these agreements which represent a good opportunity to boost economic development, trade and regional integration. The Caribbean region and the EU already concluded a full EPA in December 2007.
The strategic partnership with Brazil was launched in July (IP/07/1001).
The Transatlantic Economic Council was set up after the EU-US Summit in April, to improve regulatory convergence with US, so that EU businesses can benefit from better access to US markets. Progress was made in a number of areas at the Council's first meeting in November (MEMO/07/455).
EU and US leaders signed an 'open skies' agreement. The Commission estimates that the open skies agreement will create up to 80 000 jobs in the EU and USA in the next five years and generate € 12 billion in economic benefits through increased competition and the introduction of new routes. Travellers will benefit from more choice and lower fares (IP/07/277).
The EU sent out nine election observer missions in 2007 covering countries from Timor-Leste in Asia to Sierra Leone, Mauritania and Togo in Africa.
On the enlargement front (IP/07/1651) negotiations have progressed well with Croatia and two chapters will open before the end of the year with Turkey (IP/07/1875). In spite of problems, Stabilisation and Association Agreements with Serbia and Bosnia were initialled.
After sustained pressure from the EU, the Russian ban on Polish meat was lifted in December.
The Commission co-chaired the Paris Donors Conference in December and pledged €440 million to the Palestinian people for 2008. The Commission, the largest donor, provided € 550 million in 2007 to provide direct and urgent relief to Palestinians in need.
The Commission granted €50 million in humanitarian (€10 M) and structural (€40 M) support for the provision of basic health and education services for Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan. It also approved €80 million in macro-financial assistance to Lebanon.