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Future priorities for the circular economy

Circular economy has been a priority for the European Commission, and it will continue to be high on the agenda of all the European Institutions and Member States for the coming mandate as well.

The Circular Economy Action Plan adopted in 2015 was a flagship project of the current European Commission. While taking stock of its achievements, the European Commission recently laid down its vision for the future of sustainability and circular economy in the EU. The Commission’s recent communications will heavily contribute to the European agenda for the next five years.

It is very clear that further to the need to deliver on the adopted legislation such as the Circular Economy Package, the European Commission will mainstream its activities on sustainability and circularity.

In its reflection paper on Sustainable Europe by 2030, the European Commission identifies the move from “linear to circular economy” as one of the policy foundations for a sustainable future. The European Commission believes that this requires thinking about circularity from the product design – to ensure possibility for repair and reuse – to collection and waste management. In its paper, the European Commission also highlights the need to integrate sustainable thinking in finance, pricing, taxation and competition to address social and environmental issues and trigger behavioral change throughout the economy.

The European Commission also recently adopted a comprehensive report on the implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan, where it insists on the fact that new actions would be needed to ensure that the EU maintains its leadership in designing and producing circular products and services.

Questions of circularity and sustainability are also likely to spill over into other sectors, with the European Commission trying to adopt a holistic approach to climate change, mainstreaming circularity in various tools and policies. This would potentially translate into organizational changes within the new European Commission.

Member States have also expressed their common interest in pursuing the work on circular economy. While national governments are now implementing certain key EU legislation, such as the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the Council of the EU recently adopted its conclusions on an “EU industrial policy strategy: A vision for 2030“.

In these conclusions, the Council highlights that there are important challenges that need to be addressed in order to speed up Europe’s transition towards circularity. It also stresses the potential of new technologies to improve the economy’s circularity by promoting sustainable models of production based on primary and secondary raw materials and resource efficiency, in which products and materials are designed to be reused, re-manufactured and recycled, in order to be maintained in the economy for as long as possible.

It also underlines the importance of a fully-fledged, well-functioning and harmonized Single Market for secondary raw materials and circular products, cutting red-tape and legislative hurdles.

If you are interested in obtaining more information on this topic, do not hesitate to reach out to us at j.beaulaton@Dr2consultants.eu or call us at +32 (0)2 512 37 22

Informal European Council meeting kicks-off the process to agree on new leaders of the EU top jobs

Yesterday, 28 May, EU leaders gathered in Brussels for an informal summit following the European Parliamentary elections. Under the first agenda item, the state of play of the populist parties was discussed among the Heads of States. Despite the loss of votes for the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Social Democrats (S&D) the electoral gains of the anti-EU parties remained relatively limited. In the new European Parliament, pro-European parties will be able to keep their majority. Furthermore, centrist parties, such as the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) and the Greens won quite some seats. President of the European Council Donald Tusk argued that Brexit helped as a “vaccine” against the hard-liner slogans of the Eurosceptic parties. Tusk additionally said that even the most anti-EU parties had to change their rhetoric from abandoning the EU to reform the EU, which, according to him, is a positive development.

However, the most important topic of yesterday’s summit was not about Brexit, but about the future of the European Union and the future European top jobs. The European leaders decided not to discuss names of individual candidates but mandated Tusk to look for a new President of the European Commission through engaging in a dialogue with both the European Parliament and the Member States. Tusk hopes to present a candidate Commission President by the June European Council meeting (20-21 June), supported by both European leaders and the European Parliament. Factors that play a role for the top job are experience, geographical distribution, power distribution between the big and small countries, demography, political party affiliation and gender balance. As only the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is now a woman, it will be interesting to see whether the future top jobs will effectively be held by women. This could of course help the ambition of Margrethe Vestager as next President of the European Commission.

Other candidates in the race are the Spitzenkandidaten of the European political parties. The Party of European Socialists (PES) will push for the candidacy of Frans Timmermans, as he has the best profile and the most executive experience. On the other hand, the EPP is still the biggest party in the European Parliament, but EPP Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber lacks executive experience, both at national and at EU level, which seems a prerequisite to hold the office of Commission President. Therefore, current Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, also EPP, could be a compromise candidate if Germany accepts a French instead of a German candidate.

The stakes are high because in addition to the position of Commission President (currently Jean-Claude Juncker), also a new President of the European Council, a new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (currently Federica Mogherini), a new Parliament President (currently Antonio Tajani) and a new President of the European Central Bank (currently Mario Draghi) will have to be elected. According to EU diplomats, Tusk will eventually draw up a list of one candidate for each of the four posts. A separate procedure for the presidency of the European Central Bank will be followed.