2018: Busy, but crucial for European policymakers

Only a few days young, 2018 is set to be a crucial year in European politics. In 2018, European businesses and citizens will see some of the most revolutionary pieces of legislation coming into place. Moreover, with Brussels facing a changing international and environmental landscape, 2018 will see European policymakers hash out core pieces of legislation shaping the European Union for years and decades to come. In view of the European Parliament elections in June 2019, Members of the European Parliament will also be looking to finalize key legislation before election campaigns kick off towards the end of the year.

New EU-legislation: significant changes for businesses

With 2018 marking a number of key EU legislations entering into force, the year will see significant changes to how businesses and different sectors of the European economy operate.

Effective 3 January, the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, short MiFID2, aims to strengthen investor protections and improve how functioning of financial markets operate. The new Directive is a direct response to the 2007 financial crisis and will affect everyone engaged in the dealing and processing of financial instruments, from business and operating models, systems and data, to data, people and processes. From mid-January onwards, the revised Payment Services Directive, PSD2, will enter into force, aiming to better integrate, increase competition and lower costs of electronic payments in the internal market.

Member States and businesses also have until 25 May to transpose the EU’s new comprehensive General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR, before it enters into force. Businesses that won’t comply correctly with customer information will face heavy fines. The GDPR will also provide European citizens with the legal right to data portability, transmitting data from one digital service provider to another.

Brexit phase-2 negotiations to deal with future trade relationship

Formal negotiations on the Phase-2 Brexit negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and Britain are expected to start following the next European Council meeting in March 2018. Major stumbling blocks during Phase-2 will, among others, include negotiations on the future trading relationship, a proposed transition period, intelligence and security relationship as well as air, road and water transport. Recently, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier argued that the UK’s transition period should last no longer than the end of 2020, to coincide with the EU’s multi-annual budget. Both parties need to reach an agreement on a Brexit deal by October 2018 to allow the European Council and Parliament to scrutinize and vote on the agreement before the March 2019 exit deadline.

Sustainability and Circular Economy

2018 will see European legislators continue to deliver on their objectives under the Paris climate agreement. As such, a continued emphasis will lie on delivering the EU’s Energy Union in an effort to contribute to a clean energy transition in 2030. The Clean Energy Package, currently under discussion, includes new regulations for energy efficiency and the re-design of the electricity market.

As such, transforming Europe’s economy into a circular economy will also remain a priority for legislators. While co-legislators will approve the Union’s new waste management policies in early 2018, the European Commission will launch a set of legislative proposals on plastics in the circular economy in January.

Furthermore, legislators will also begin their work on the European Commission’s recent Clean Mobility Package, which strive to reduce vehicle CO2 emissions and speed up the uptake of e-mobility across Europe.

Digital Single Market

On the Digital Single Market, Bulgaria and Austria, the 2018 rotating Council of the EU presidencies, will aim to deliver on the yet outstanding legislative proposals. Both Council presidencies are expected to lead discussions on key legislative proposals such as the upcoming e-Privacy Regulation, the free flow of data, audiovisual and broadcasting services, copyright, and VAT rules for cross-border trade.