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New Commissioner for Transport strives for decarbonization and multimodality

With the confirmation of the Romanian Adina-Ioana Vălean as Commissioner-designate for Transport, the new College of Commissioners is now complete and awaits final confirmation of the European Parliament’s plenary on 27 November. The soon-to-be Commissioner for Transport reiterated during her parliamentary hearing that the transport sector needs to become more sustainable and cut back CO2 emissions. According to Vălean, the European Commission will have to strike a balance between applying the polluter pays principle while maintaining the competitiveness of the industry. What is the outlook for transport according to Vălean?

Reducing emissions in most polluting sectors

Both the maritime and aviation sectors will need to cut CO2 emissions significantly in the next decades to comply with the climate objectives as set out in the Paris Agreement. According to Vălean, there are good reasons to include the maritime sector in the EU Emission Trading System (EU ETS). Moreover, she mentioned plans to reduce the free allowances in the EU ETS for aviation and ensuring the sector’s compliance with the global system for offsetting emission CORSIA. The Single European Sky legislative file, which is currently blocked in the Council of the EU, was mentioned as important to move forward with as it can reduce congestion and emissions in aviation.

The Transport Commissioner will cooperate closely together with Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President and coordinator of the EU Green Deal, to work out the details for various upcoming initiatives. Moreover, the European Commission will closely follow developments at global level, most notably the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization, to pursue global solutions. However, Vălean stressed that the European Commission is not afraid to bypass international organizations in order to maintain leadership in climate change.

Focusing on sustainable transport modes

According to the Commissioner, multimodality is a key instrument for accelerating decarbonization of transport. She stated that railways are at the centre of multimodality and sustainable transport. She urged for more investments and the completion of the Trans-European Transport core Network by 2030. Moreover, she will use opportunities in the field of digitalization to further deploy the European Rail Traffic Management System, improve multimodal ticketing and exploit the potential of Mobility as a Service. On road transport, the Commissioner hopes to attain more investments in e-mobility and recharging points for electric vehicles.

What’s next

The proposed College of Commissioner is still subject to a plenary vote by the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 27 November. Moreover, the United Kingdom is also expected to nominate a Commissioner, but up until this moment they have refused to do so. Following a positive result, the European Council will formally appoint the Commission through Qualified Majority Voting in order to take office on 1 December 2019. New legislative initiatives are expected to be published early 2020 and are expected to have significant impact on stakeholders across the transport sector. Do you want to know more about how the policy agenda of the European Commission will impact your business and daily operations? Please get in touch with us to know more.

Click here to download the 5 key takeaways from Adina-Ioana Vălean’s hearing.

Brexit: Momentum? From a deal to elections

In the last two weeks, the Brexit debate has gained momentum. For starters, on 17 October the European Union and the United Kingdom reached an agreement on Brexit. The changes to the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration have been made in the context of significant developments in the Brexit debate: the removal of the backstop and the negotiation of a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. Consequently, Northern Ireland will remain in UK customs territory, but the UK will be responsible for enforcing EU customs procedures. Furthermore, Northern Ireland representatives can vote on continuation of the special arrangement by simple majority 4 years after the end of the transition period.

After the European Council voted unanimously to accept the new deal, the UK Members of Parliament (MPs) gathered for the first time in 37 years on a Saturday to also vote on the new Brexit deal. However, the deal was pre-empted when MPs adopted the Letwin amendment, which requires the Prime Minister to ask for an extension, allowing MPs more time to pass the full Brexit legislation and properly scrutinize the deal. A few hours later European Council President Donald Tusk confirmed he had received three letters: a letter – that was, however, not signed by Boris Johnson – asking for an extension of the Brexit deadline until 31 January 2020; a second letter written by Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s permanent representative to the EU, explaining that the first letter was required under the terms of the Benn Act; and finally a third letter from the Prime Minister, regretting the decision of the UK parliament to ask for a delay. The EU reacted that it will not decide on (the length of) a delay before the House of Commons discusses the new Brexit deal, but it is pretty sure that they will accept an extension.

House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, ruled two days later, on 21 October, that he was not going to permit MPs to hold another vote on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Parliamentary Declaration that day. Instead, the House of Commons voted on 22 October on two other proposals. It first approved the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) in the second reading, a bill that passes the Withdrawal Agreement into UK law and  gives the government permission to ratify it. However, MPs then rejected the government’s proposed timetable, which would have required MPs to debate and sing off on the Bill in three days. The government’s defeat on the legislative timetable has important implications. First, it is now highly unlikely that the UK will exit the EU on 31 October, and second, MPs will now have more time to propose amendments to the Bill. Johnson decided, after the second vote, to pause the legislation “until the EU has made its intentions clear” regarding the extension that would be granted. At this stage, it is not yet clear if there will be a short delay or a long one, until the end of January.

In this turn of events, Boris Johnson indicated on 24 October that he wants to organize early elections on 12 December. In this way he wants to put extra pressure on the parliament to approve his Brexit agreement. However, the opposition only wants to accept new elections if the European Union agrees to a long delay for the Brexit. A vote on the elections will take place on Monday 28 October.

Time is running out because the new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said that the UK must name an EU commissioner to serve in Brussels if the EU grants a delay to the 31 October Brexit deadline.

Digital Ambitions in Flanders

The Flemish Government Agreement 2019-2024 was announced on Tuesday 1 October and was negotiated by N-VA, CD&V and Open Vld. Although the coalition agreement does not contain a separate chapter on digital topics, the new Flemish Government is committed to making innovation and digital transformation a priority in its policies. To achieve this, the agreement emphasizes that Flanders must raise to the top of the digital infrastructure. Moreover, the Flemish Government also wants to take the lead in experimenting with new digital applications and digital transformations in its services.

Lifelong learning

The agreement stresses the importance of digitalization to stimulate a culture of lifelong learning. Therefore, the new Flemish government wants to set up a Lifelong Learning Platform and aims to use smart data to proactively make people aware of career opportunities and threats on the labor market. In addition, embedded in the VDAB (Vlaamse Dienst voor Arbeidsbemiddeling en Beroepsopleiding, Flemish Office for Employment and Vocational Training) career platform, the Flemish government is developing a smart digital tool that will help Flemish people find their way in the private and public labor market. Citizens who do not have sufficient digital skills will be proactively tracked and supported to increase their self-reliance. However, already during the formative years in high school, the government wants to have an eye for digital innovations in the “classroom of the future” and for the corresponding IT applications. In addition, courses should be substantively up-to-date and respond to the reality of tomorrow, certainly also with regard to the necessary digital and transversal competences.

 

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence will play an important role in the digitalization of Flanders. Therefore, the new Flemish Government is preparing an integrated plan for further digitalization of Flanders and the valorization of artificial intelligence. With this plan, the Flemish government wants to increase support for the policy programs and projects for Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security, I-Learn and Mobilidata and ensure that these remain optimally tailored to the needs of Flemish companies and society as a whole. In addition, the government agreement states that the quality of life will also increase thanks to the efforts of AI. The Flemish AI policy plan fulfills the ambition to put Flanders on the world map in this strategic domain through research, training and practical applications in companies.

Digital security

The new Flemish government is also concerned about its digital security. Through the cyber-security policy plan, aimed at research, practical applications in companies and training, the coalition of N-VA, CD&V and Open Vld wants to develop in particular a resilient digital economy in Flanders. In this regard, also privacy is very important according to the government agreement. The government will, in accordance with international evolutions, develop standards for pooling, opening and exchanging data, with the utmost respect for user privacy. In addition, in the rapidly evolving media society where the impact of (social) media on society is enormous, the importance of media literacy and digital literacy should be increased to guard against fake news. Therefore, the Flemish government will continue to implement the media literacy policy together with the Knowledge Center Media Literacy so that they are able to pursue a coordinated policy throughout the media sector with other policy areas.

The ambition of Flanders is clear. The new government wants Flanders to be the world reference for a number of innovative technologies and sectors and to be a pioneer in digital entrepreneurship. Flanders must be the testing ground for companies and citizens who want to taste the digital applications of the future. The question remains, however, how these ambitions will be financed and how these priorities will be implemented concretely in order to give Flanders a leading (digital) position in the world.

Bold sustainability ambitions in the European Union

Already in July, Ursula von der Leyen made clear that the new European Commission has bold ambitions to tackle climate change: The European Union must become an example of how to live sustainably. In this regard, energy efficiency and circular economy are central to the European way of life.

Frans Timmermans and the European Green Deal

The European Green Deal will be the guide for this ambitious transition, targeting among other things, an emission reduction of 50% to 55% by 2030. This target is about 10-15% higher than the current 2030 climate and energy framework. The Commissioner in charge of the Green Deal will be the Dutchman, Frans Timmermans, who also holds the position of first Executive Vice-President of the next European Commission. In his hearing in the European Parliament on 8 October, he urged the European Parliament to be ambitious and lead by example in the world. To make a real difference with regards to global warming, the EU needs to focus on talks with its global partners, according to Timmermans. He feels like he has got a strong mandate, since according to statistics, 9 out of 10 European citizens want the EU to act decisively on climate change.

Concretely, Timmermans will propose a draft Climate Law within the first 100 days of his mandate. This law will put into legislation the EU’s climate ambitions, but most importantly determine the in between steps to be taken to reach these goals. Timmermans is strongly considering using infringement procedures against Member States not complying with the EU’s upcoming climate laws and its ambitions. Furthermore, the Climate Pact will engage citizens with the EU’s climate policy which would make legislation seem less ‘top-down’.

Virginijus Sinkevičius and the European Circular Economy

Three years after its adoption, the Circular Economy Action Plan can be considered fully completed. Its 54 actions have now been delivered or are being implemented. Together with Timmermans, Lithuanian Virginijus Sinkevičius will however increase the ambitions in the field of the circular economy. Sinkevičius stated during his hearing in the European Parliament on 3 October that if the EU ensured the complete circular use of just four materials (steel, aluminum, cement and plastic) – which goes further than the existing Circular Economy Action Plan – EU’s industrial emissions would be cut in half.

Sinkevičius believes that a new action plan can involve three major areas:

  • First, by examining the ways in which the EU produces and consumes. He mentioned particular further action on eco-design and more focus on reuse and repair. This strand could also integrate circularity in other sectors such as textiles, construction, food and ICT.
  • Second, by helping consumers make informed choices.
  • Third, by moving beyond recycling. Waste should not only be minimized, but prevented completely in areas such as textiles and construction.

Environment Council

Not only the European Commission wants to increase the European ambitions regarding climate change and sustainability, but also the Council realizes their importance. On 4 October, Environment Ministers held a debate on the EU’s strategic long-term vision for a climate neutral economy and adopted conclusions on climate change, which set out the EU’s position for the UN climate change meetings (COP25) in Chile in December 2019. The Council called for action to promote circularity systemically across the value chain, including from the consumer perspective, in key sectors including textiles, transport, food as well as construction and demolition. The Council also stressed the need for more measures on batteries and plastics.

 

 

 

 

What will be the digital agenda of the next European Commission?

Between early leaks from DG CONNECT to the individual grilling of Commissioners-designate, the digital agenda of the next European Commission is slowly taking shape – even if key questions remain.

 Digital policies: who does what?

The cross-checking of somewhat blurry portfolio titles, mission letters, the Commission’s new organizational chart, the attribution of DGs and finally the Commissioners-designate hearings shed some light on who will do what to set the digital agenda in motion.

Margrethe Vestager’s hearing set the tone, with a number of questions and declarations on expected digital files (a chance Sylvie Goulard, Commissioner-designate for the Internal Market, did not get). The Vice-President for Digital and Commissioner for Competition also used this occasion to clarify (though without going into details) that the execution of the digital portfolio will be in the hands of her colleagues – allowing her to keep separate her two jobs – and avoid any clash between possible conflicting objectives.

So, who are the Commissioners in charge of digital policies?

Goulard’s rejection today by the European Parliament might lead to some reshuffling, but as it stands, the following Commissioners will contribute to the EU’s digital agenda:

  • Didier Reynders, Commissioner-designate for Justice, on topics such as GDPR and Artificial Intelligence;
  • Věra Jourová, Vice President-designate for Values and Transparency, on issues like illegal content and disinformation – possibly contributing as well to the Digital Services Act;
  • Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner-designate for Innovation and Youth, who also mentioned AI in her hearing, in addition to the importance of investing in education, research and innovation, and ensuring synergies between the three;
  • Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner-designate for the Economy, that will inherit the work on the Digital Tax;
  • Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for “An Economy that works for people”, that will continue the work on Fintech, cryptoassets, cybersecurity…;
  • And of course, now, there’s a big question mark on who will take on the files assigned to Goulard, including the groundwork on the Digital Services Act, Artificial Intelligence, cybersecurity, digital education and so on.

On what topics?

The new Digital Services Act – which will include a revision of the 2000 Ecommerce Directive, has been high on the agenda of the tech sector, and is clearly high on the Commission’s agenda as well. For anyone that has been closely following these developments, the hearings did not reveal anything. The new act will “upgrade” the existing liability rules for platforms and try to find the right balance to avoid hindering a growing European platform economy. Jourová added to the discussion by focusing on the fight against illegal content and disinformation and the responsibility of platforms.

Artificial Intelligence has been mentioned many times, but not in great details. Vestager highlighted again what should be the EU’s approach to AI, and Reynders argued in favor of a very horizontal, “ethics-by-design” approach. Vestager also confirmed that something will come in the first 100 days, without concretely saying what will come and under which form – since a legislative proposal seems relatively improbable under such deadline.

Access to data was briefly mentioned, with Vestager highlighting that the EU might need to regulate the way that companies collect, use and share data, so it can benefit the entire society.

Digital Tax remains on the agenda, with Gentiloni supporting an international solution, but not excluding a European one if an agreement cannot be reached.

On competition, Vestager highlighted that competition rules needed to adapt to digitalization, especially with the development of the platform economy and technologies such as AI, where access to data is crucial. Vestager also declared, after her hearing, that “she will move beyond fines in her second term […] to look at other measures to ensure a fair playing field”.

Remaining on the topic of Big Tech, Valdis Dombrovskis also announced that the Commission was looking into Facebook’s Libra, and that a legislative proposal on such cryptoassets was to be expected.

Beyond policy, the hearings confirmed that the European Commission will have to deal with a fragmented and vocal European Parliament, especially on digital matters.

Download our infographic on Margrethe Vestager’s hearing here.

The push for decarbonization of transport

Now that the President-elect of the new European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen unveiled her team of candidate-Commissioners and the subsequent portfolio distribution, it is time to determine its priorities in the field of transport. The most notable feature in the plans of the Commission is the push for decarbonization in the transport sector in order to comply with the climate objectives as set out in the EU’s 2050 Climate Strategy. So, what is exactly expected in the coming five years?

New structure, new responsibilities

Within the new structure of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans has been proposed as one of the top candidates of the Commission, responsible for realizing the European Green Deal, according to which Europe should be climate-neutral by 2050.

In his new role as Executive Vice-President, Timmermans will coordinate the work of multiple Commissioners, such as Transport, Energy and Agriculture, and their respective contributions towards the Green Deal. Moreover, Timmermans will have direct access to the Directorate-General of Climate Action, which will give him more influence in initiating and implementing legislations. Timmermans is expected to present his first outline of the European Green Deal in early December, in which more details are expected on how transport should contribute to the climate objectives. Frans Timmermans will be heard by the Parliamentary Committees on 8 October.

Decarbonization and the legislative framework

Following the publication of the new Commission’s policy priorities, von der Leyen has set out the priorities for each Commissioner-designate in a dedicated mission letter. According to von der Leyen, transport is at the intersection of the climate and digital transition. The priorities for the next Transport Commissioner should be to ensure sustainable, safe and affordable transport, in which emissions are further reduced. The following policy measures can be expected from the next Transport Commissioner:

  • Strong focus on completing the missing infrastructure links in the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). This should help to smoothen connections in logistic chains and stimulate cross-border transport, i.e. by high-speed train connections;
  • Comprehensive review of existing legislation to align it with the EU’s climate ambitions. In concrete terms, this means breaking up the Energy Taxation Directive and subsequent voting procedures (currently by unanimity), as well as extending the EU’s Emission Trading System (ETS) to the maritime sector and reducing free allowances for airlines;
  • The new Transport Commissioner is asked to also stimulate global solutions besides the European routers, within the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), to avoid hampering the competitiveness of the European transport sector;
  • For road transport policy proposals are expected on the alternative fuels- and EV-infrastructure, as well as new policy regarding road safety and autonomous vehicles.

Perspective of the Member States

The European Commission has ambitious objectives to decarbonize transport, but what about the commitment of the Member States? The EU’s 2050 climate strategy was the centerpiece of the Transport Council of 20 September. Despite an ambitious agenda of the new Commission, Member States seem to have diverging views on the proposed actions for the different transport sectors.

For the road, maritime and aviation sectors, decarbonization is a central theme for the European Commission as well as for the Ministers of Transport. However, there was no explicit majority support during the Transport Council meeting for an extension of the Emission Trading System to the maritime sector, even though the new Commission states this as one of their key ambitions. Secondly, although the new Commission aims to reduce ETS allowances for the aviation sector, the Transport Council meeting also highlighted the lack of support from the Member States for an extension of the current ETS regime for the aviation sector (ending the so-called “stop the clock” measure). Multiple Member States agreed that, for now, the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are the first-choice platforms to reach decarbonization goals. Moreover, changing the voting rules within the Energy Taxation Directive to be able to pass taxation legislation without unanimity from the Member States, is not expected to get support in the Council since Member States prefer taxation measures to remain a national competence.

On rail transport, there is an overall consensus among Member States on the ‘switch to rail’ as a desirable modality shift. As of this moment, fragmentation of national systems and lack of cooperation on cross-border railway connections impede the rise of the train as a more convenient transport mode. The Member States expect investments needed for the development of rail infrastructure through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

Balancing ambitions

When it comes down to politicized dossiers such as the Energy Taxation Directive and extending the EU’s Emissions Trading System, Member States are currently not on the same page as the European Commission. It remains to be seen how the Commission will pursue its agenda and get the necessary support in the Council. More details are expected during the hearings of the Commissioners-designate in the European Parliament.

 

Brexit: What after the prorogation?

On 16 September, Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker met for the first time in person since Johnson became Prime Minister. Both parties saw the meeting as an opportunity to take stock of the negotiations, but the Commission’s statement afterwards concluded that no concrete proposals emerged from the discussion. On the same day, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, called Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit a nightmare at a press conference (which Johnson left early due to anti-Brexit protestors ruining it). Bettel also said the British government had not made any serious proposals for a new deal. Therefore Jean-Claude Juncker also repeated on 18 September, during the European parliament plenary session in Strasbourg, that a no-deal scenario is still very plausible.

However, a deal (or an extension of Article 50) seems necessary as the British government has been accused of minimalizing the possible disruption at ports in a no-deal scenario. Documents published last week about Operation Yellowhammer, the official plan to handle a no-deal scenario, suggested that there would be a low risk for ports outside Kent, a port that has a lot of EU traffic. But new documents show that this is only because tens of thousands of vehicles would be rejected because they would be non-compliant, meaning that the drivers would not have the correct permits or the correct papers filled in, and would be turned away. Also, the facilitation of trade between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic still needs some time. Johnson is setting out plans for an all-Ireland economic relationship which must replace the Irish backstop. With this plan, Northern Ireland would effectively become a special economic zone inside both the UK and the EU. There would still be a border and everything that is not covered by the all-island regime would be subject to checks.

But, as Juncker stated, there is also a very big chance that the UK will leave the European Union without a deal. Two weeks ago, UK MPs passed a law which requires Boris Johnson to seek an extension of Article 50 if Johnson fails to secure a Brexit deal with the EU by 19 October (dubbed the Benn Act). There is no guarantee that Johnson will do that. However, another concern now is that even if Johnson agrees with the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) with the EU and the deal successfully passes through Parliament, there could not be sufficient time to pass through Parliament a separate act implementing the WA (a complex piece of legislation) – or it could be blocked by MPs – before 31 October. Now, once the WA is agreed, the Benn Act does not come into force because it does not take into account the separate act to implement the WA, so the result is a no-deal Brexit. Therefore, it is in the interest of Labour and Tory rebel MPs not to agree to the WA before the extension has been secured. An extension should be obligatory, whether there is a deal or not.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, is currently hearing the case over Johnson’s decision to temporarily shut down the UK Parliament. Scotland’s highest court ruled last week that the suspension was indeed unlawful, but the High Court in England had ruled earlier the opposite way. Therefore, the UK Supreme Court is now discussing if this case is justiciable and, if so, whether the prorogation was lawful. After two days of hearing arguments on both sides, also former Tory prime minister John Major spoke on the final day in court to doubt Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament. It is not yet known when the judges will deliver their verdict, but it is expected for next week.

In addition, on 18 September, a clear majority of the Members of the European Parliament voted for a resolution supporting the UK being given a Brexit deadline extension should it request one. The vote itself is largely symbolic because the European Parliament wants to show that it cannot be ignored. However, the EP will reject a deal that does not include a backstop. This is significant because the EP will need to vote through the final Brexit deal.

Analyse: l’accord de coalition wallonne

La semaine dernière, Elio Di Rupo (PS), Willy Borsus (MR) et Jean-Marc Nollet (Ecolo) ont présenté l’accord de coalition de la région wallonne et du gouvernement de la Communauté française. Les deux accords visent à réduire la pauvreté, à faire de la Wallonie une région exemplaire en termes d’objectifs climatiques et à améliorer l’économie wallonne. Ceux qui liront bien reconnaîtront une ambition sociale (PS), écologique (Ecolo) et économique (MR) pour la législature 2019-2024. Mais certains critiques, tel que Jean Hindriks, professeur en économie à l’UCL, ne croient pas qu’un budget équilibré en 2024 (une autre ambition énoncée dans l’accord de coalition) soit réalisable.

Sommaire de l’accord de coalition

Le 15 septembre, Jean-Claude Marcourt (PS), le nouveau président du Parlement wallon, a déclaré à l’occasion des Fêtes de Wallonie et du nouveau gouvernement wallon qu’il était temps que la Wallonie assume elle-même son destin et regagne sa confiance. La “Déclaration politique régionale“, qui compte 122 pages, contient de nombreuses mesures concrètes sur la manière sur laquelle les nouveaux partenaires de la coalition veulent renforcer la confiance en soi et l’indépendance de la Wallonie.

Pour atteindre les objectifs du Traité de Paris en matière de climat, le nouveau gouvernement wallon souhaite soutenir, par exemple, les entrepreneurs qui mettent en place des projets dans le contexte de la transition énergétique et de l’économie circulaire, notamment en stimulant les audits énergétiques des entreprises. Le gouvernement wallon veut également donner le bon exemple en plaçant l’économie circulaire au centre de ses propres services et de sa politique. En outre, le nouveau gouvernement veut subventionner l’achat de panneaux solaires et réduire ses émissions de gaz à effet de serre de 55% d’ici 2030.

Le gouvernement wallon est également fermement résolu à créer un mouvement de rattrapage numérique. L’accord de coalition indique qu’il souhaite poursuivre le déploiement de la stratégie Digital Wallonia, soutenir les entrepreneurs du numérique et réduire le fossé numérique. Plus précisément, il souhaite y parvenir notamment en déployant le réseau 5G, en approfondissant ses recherches sur l’intelligence artificielle et en élaborant un “Digital Wallonia Pass” qui devrait cartographier et soutenir les jeunes entreprises. Le nouvel accord de coalition souligne également son soutien à une taxe numérique au niveau européen en tant que première étape vers une taxe numérique au niveau mondial.

Au total, le gouvernement wallon souhaite investir 4 milliards d’euros supplémentaires dans la recherche, l’innovation, le logement, l’isolation, les énergies renouvelables et la nouvelle mobilité.

Nouveaux dirigeants 

Comme prévu, Elio Di Rupo (PS) sera à la tête du nouveau gouvernement wallon. Willy Borsus (MR), dont le nom a également circulé pour devenir Ministre-président du gouvernement de la Communauté française, a finalement été nommé Vice-Président et responsable de l’économie, de la recherche et de l’innovation, du numérique et de l’agriculture. Avec Philippe Henry (Ecolo), la Wallonie a désormais son propre ministre du Climat et est également responsable de l’énergie, des infrastructures et de la mobilité.

Le nouveau gouvernement wallon et le gouvernement de la Communauté française signifient également une changement pour les leaders des partis francophones, en particulier pour le parti socialiste. Par exemple, Paul Magnette deviendra très probablement le nouveau président du PS maintenant qu’Elio Di Rupo entrera dans l’Elysette. Il est frappant de voir que Jean-Claude Marcourt, au côté de Magnette et de Di Rupo, participera également à la table de négociation fédérale, ce qui suggère que Marcourt va échanger le niveau régional pour le niveau fédéral. Comme le PS est incontournable au niveau fédéral, le parti semble faire partie de tous les niveaux.

Après les gouvernements de Bruxelles, de la Wallonie et la FWB, nous attendons maintenant les gouvernements flamand et fédéral. En Flandre, un nouveau gouvernement est attendu pour la fin de septembre, mais les thèmes d’intégration et d’éducation semblent mettre en péril ce délai. Comme toujours, Dr2 Consultants suit de près les développements politiques en Belgique. Lisez notre analyse du gouvernement Bruxellois en suivant ce lien et ne manquez pas à revenir pour les analyses à venir. 

 

 

 

Analyse: Waals regeerakkoord

Vorige week presenteerden Elio Di Rupo (PS), Willy Borsus (MR) en Jean-Marc Nollet (Ecolo) het regeerakkoord van het Waals Gewest en van de Franstalige Gemeenschapsregering. Beide akkoorden beogen armoede terug te dringen, van Wallonië een exemplarische regio te maken op vlak van klimaatsdoelstellingen en de Waalse economie te verbeteren. Wie goed leest herkent een sociale (PS), ecologische (Ecolo) en economische (MR) ambitie voor de legislatuur van 2019-2024. Maar critici, zoals de Franstalige professor Economie Jean Hindriks (UCL), geloven niet dat een begroting in evenwicht in 2024 (eveneens een ambitie die in het regeerakkoord vermeld staat) haalbaar is.

Inhoud regeerakkoord

Op 15 september verklaarde Jean-CIaude Marcourt (PS), de nieuwe Voorzitter van het Waals Parlement, ter gelegenheid van de Waalse feesten en de nieuwe Waalse regering dat het tijd werd dat Wallonië haar lot in eigen handen neemt en haar vertrouwen terugwint. In de 122-pagina tellende ‘Regionale Politieke Declaratie’ staan heel wat concrete maatregelen over hoe de nieuwe coalitiepartners het Waalse zelfvertrouwen en de zelfstandigheid willen opkrikken.

Om de klimaatsdoelstellingen van het Verdrag van Parijs te halen wil de nieuwe Waalse overheid bijvoorbeeld ondernemers steunen die projecten opzetten in het kader van de energietransitie en de circulaire economie, concreet door o.a. energie audits voor bedrijven te stimuleren. De Waalse overheid wil ook zelf het goede voorbeeld geven door de circulaire economie centraal te stellen in haar eigen diensten en beleid. Daarenboven wil de nieuwe regering de aankoop van zonnepanelen subsidiëren en haar uitstoot van broeikasgassen verminderen met 55% tegen 2030.

De Waalse regering maakt zich ook sterk een digitale inhaalbeweging te willen doen. In het regeerakkoord wordt vermeld de strategie voor Digital Wallonia verder te willen uitrollen, digitale ondernemers te willen ondersteunen en de digitale kloof te willen verkleinen. Concreet wil het dit doen door o.a. het 5G netwerk uit te rollen, artificiële intelligentie verder te onderzoeken en door een ‘Digitaal Wallonië Pas’ te ontwikkelen die start-ups in kaart moet brengen en moet ondersteunen. Het nieuw regeerakkoord benadrukt ook voorstander te zijn van een digitale taks op Europees niveau als een eerste stap naar een digitale taks op globaal niveau.

In totaal wil de Waalse overheid 4 miljard extra investeren in onderzoek, innovatie, huisvestiging, isolatie, hernieuwbare energie en nieuwe mobiliteit.

Machtsherschikking  

Zoals verwacht komt Elio Di Rupo (PS) aan het hoofd te staan van de nieuwe Waalse regering. Willy Borsus (MR), wiens naam ook circuleerde om Minister-President te worden van de regering van de Franstalige Gemeenschap, werd uiteindelijk benoemd tot Vice-Minister-President en bevoegd voor o.a. economie, onderzoek en innovatie, digitaal en landbouw. Met Philippe Henry (Ecolo) krijgt Wallonië nu ook een eigen Minister van Klimaat en is daarenboven ook bevoegd voor energie, infrastructuur en mobiliteit.

De nieuwe Waalse regering en de regering van de Franstalige Gemeenschap betekent ook een stoelendans voor de Franstalige partijen, vooral voor de socialistische partij. Zo wordt Paul Magnette hoogstwaarschijnlijk de nieuwe voorzitter van de PS nu Elio Di Rupo het Elysette gaat betreden. Opvallend is dat Jean-CIaude Marcourt, naast Magnette en Di Rupo, ook deel zal nemen aan de federale onderhandeltafel, wat doet vermoeden dat Marcourt het regionale niveau voor het federale zal inruilen. Aangezien de PS “incontournable” is op federaal niveau, lijkt de partij op alle niveaus mee te zullen besturen.

Na de regeringsvorming van Brussel, Wallonië en de Franstalige Gemeenschap is het nu nog uitkijken naar de Vlaamse en Federale regeringen. In Vlaanderen wordt een nieuwe regering verwacht op het einde van september, maar momenteel lijken de thema’s inburgering en onderwijs die deadline in het gedrang te brengen. Zoals altijd volgt Dr2 Consultants de politieke ontwikkelingen in België op de voet. Lees onze analyse van de Brusselse overheid via deze link en volg ons om ook de toekomstige analyses te lezen. 

Meet the new European Commission

Today, Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen announced her proposed team of European Commissioners. If approved by the European Parliament, starting from 1 November 2019, the new Commission will have a more complex structure, including eight Vice-Presidents. Among them is also the High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy, Josep Borrel (Spain). The Vice-Presidents will be responsible for the top priorities in the Political Guidelines: by coordinating the Commission’s work on several overarching issues such as the European Green Deal, a Europe fit for the Digital Age, an Economy that Works for People, Protecting our European Way of Life, a Stronger Europe in the World and a New Push for European Democracy.

Executive Vice-Presidents

Out of the eight Vice-Presidents, three Executive Vice-Presidents will serve a double function. If confirmed by the European Parliament, they will be both Vice-Presidents responsible for one of key priorities as well as Commissioners. The first Executive Vice-President is Frans Timmermans (The Netherlands). He is charge of the European Green Deal, meaning that he will coordinate climate policies. In light of the strong results of Green parties across Europe, it can be expected that “Green” policies will play a substantial role in the next term. For Frans Timmermans, who will be supported by DG CLIMA, this means he also has to cooperate with many different Directorate-Generals (DGs), as climate policies interact with policy areas ranging from Transport to Agriculture.

The second Executive Vice-President is Margrethe Verstager (Denmark). She will be overseeing the whole agenda on “a Europe fit for the Digital Age” and at the same time serve as Commissioner for Competition. During the current mandate, Verstager has also been the Competition Commissioner and recently she already paid considerable attention to the digital aspects of competition policy. According to Von der Leyen, this Commission will aim to “make our single market fit for the digital age, we need to make the most of artificial intelligence and big data, we have to improve on cybersecurity and we have to work hard for our technological sovereignty”. A focus on these topics can thus be expected from the new Commissioner.

The third Executive Vice-President is Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia). He will be in charge of an “Economy that Works for People” and he will also serve as Commissioner for Financial Services, supported by DG FISMA. In his role as Executive Vice-President, Dombrovskis is expected to focus on sustainable finance, but potentially also on creating a regulatory framework on cyber-security for financial services. According to the mission letter sent by Von der Leyen, Dombrovskis will work to “bring together the social and the market in our economy”.  He will also lead the work on strengthening the role of the euro as a strategic asset for the EU and this will include increasing the global use of the euro for payments.

The additional five Vice-Presidents are:

  • Josep Borell (Spain) – High-Representative of the Union for Foreign Policy and Security Policy and Vice-President for “a stronger Europe in the world”
  • Věra Jourová (Czech Republic) – Vice-President for “Values and Transparency”
  • Margaritis Schinas (Greece) – Vice-President for “Protecting our European Way of Life”
  • Maroš Šefčovič (Slovakia) – Vice-President for “Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight”
  • Dubravka Šuica (Croatia) – Vice-President for “Democracy and Demography”

Commissioners

Sylvie Goulard (France) has been appointed as the new Commissioner-candidate for the Internal Market. Her work will be supported by DG CNECT and DG GROW, which will from this mandate on be overseen by the same Commissioner. Goulard will be focusing on several digital issues, such as enhancing Europe’s technological sovereignty, developing a European approach on artificial intelligence, the new Digital Services Act and a Single market for cybersecurity. Didier Reynders (Belgium) has been appointed as the new Commissioner-candidate for Justice. In this role he will lead the Commission’s work on the comprehensive European Rule of Law Mechanism. Furthermore, he will focus on consumer protection, implementation of the GDPR and contribute to “a coordinated approach on the human and ethical implications of artificial intelligence, ensuring that fundamental rights are fully protected in the digital age”.  Paolo Gentiloni (Italy) is the candidate to become the new Commissioner for Economy. He will be supported in his work by DG ECFIN and DG TAXUD. In this mandate, he will work on international efforts to find an approach on digital taxation and focus on full implementation of the Union Customs Code. Furthermore, he will aim to turn the European Semester cycle of economic governance into an instrument that integrated the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Rovana Plumb (Romania) has been appointed as the new Commissioner-designate for Transport, supported by DG MOVE. As part of her mission, she will work towards a strategy for sustainable and smart mobility, on extending the Emissions Trading System to the maritime sector and reducing fee allowances for airlines. In addition, she will focus on the review of the Energy Taxation Directive, automated mobility and digital innovation and completing the Trans-European Transport network.

The other Commissioner-candidates are:

  • Mariya Gabriel (Bulgaria) – Innovation and Youth
  • Johannes Hahn (Austria) – Budget and Administration
  • Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus) – Health
  • Kadri Simson (Estonia) – Energy
  • Jutta Urpilainen (Finland) – International Partnerships
  • László Trócsányi (Hungary) – Neighbourhood and Enlargement
  • Phil Hogan (Ireland) – Trade
  • Virginijus Sinkevičius (Lithuania) – Environment and Oceans
  • Nicolas Schmit (Luxembourg) – Jobs
  • Helena Dalli (Malta) – Equality
  • Janusz Wojciechowski (Poland) – Agriculture
  • Elisa Ferreira (Portugal) – Cohesion and Reforms
  • Janez Lenarčič (Slovenia) – Crisis Management
  • Ylva Johansson (Sweden) – Home Affairs

Conclusion

Overall, the socialists bring a small majority of Commissioners to the College and have most of the economic portfolios. The liberals in Renew Europe also managed to obtain key positions, such as the Executive Vice-Presidency on Digital and Commissioner of Competition, as well as Energy and Values and Transparency. The structure of the new European Commission has changed considerably since the last mandate. There are now Vice-Presidents with double functions and Commissioners overseeing two Directorate-Generals. Furthermore, as Von der Leyen intended, there is indeed a gender-balance in the college of Commissioners; there are 14 men and 13 women. Compared to the previous Commission, there is a vast number of newcomers (19), while eight Commissioners maintain a position in the new configuration.

The next step is for the European parliament to test the entire College of Commissioners. Between 30 September and 8 October, parliamentary hearings will take place with the Commissioner-designates, each Commissioner will be heard by the respective parliamentary committees. The European Parliament cannot reject individual candidates, but they can request a second hearing in case of doubt or exert pressure to replace or re-position a specific candidate. The European Parliament can ultimately reject or accept the entire College of Commissioners. The Plenary vote is scheduled to take place on 21 October. In case of no delays with the decision, the new Commission will take office on 1 November.