With the presentation of the achievements during the plenary session of the EP in Strasbourg, Italy yesterday also formally finished its 12th presidency of the Council of the EU. Our western neighbour passes the relay to a “newcomer”, that entered into the EU with us – Latvia, who will aim to a “competitive, digital and engaged Europe.”
The official presentation will be today, when Latvian prime minister Laimdota Straujuma will step before the MEPs. The Latvian programme (available here) has three main priorities, that comprise economic competitiveness, a bigger digitization of the EU and a bigger role of the EU on the international scene.
As regards the competitiveness of Europe, there are no bigger changes. As many other presidencies until know, also the Latvian one will seek to deepen the single market and to create an operative energy union and for the reduction of administrative burdens for EU companies. The seeking for new jobs is here part of the Juncker’s “315 billion euros” investment plan, for which the presidency will try to adopt it to be fully operative.
The “digital part” of the programme is very interesting, as the presidency set some quite interesting goals. Beside a better definition of what is meant by the “single digital market”, Latvia will try also to break the deadlock on two important legislative packages. In the first we can find the regulation and directive on data protection, which cover also the “online world”. In this field the presidency will also try to adopt an EU cyber safety strategy. The second package contains the legislation in the field of the telecommunication market which, among others, contains legislation regarding internet neutrality and the definitive abolition of roaming charges within the EU. This package is “on hold” practically from April last year, when it was adopted in the Parliament.
In the field of foreign policy the Latvians will seek for a review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (to make it more flexible) and of the EU strategy towards Central Asian countries, also in the light of the current security challenges. Moreover, the presidency will also seek to continue with the negotiations for the TTIP, the implementation of the CETA agreement with Canada and to continue with the talks for the conclusion of free trade agreements with Japan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The goals set by Latvia are very ambitious, yet very difficult to achieve. One of the “easiest” is maybe Juncker’s investment plan, specially because it is highly expected and because, if not adopted, it will put a bad light not only on the Latvian presidency, but also on the Commission and on Juncker himself.
For the two “digital” legislative packages already a progress would be an achievement, if an agreement couldn’t be foreseen.
We will be able to see Latvia’s success in 6 months, until then we can just say them “Veiksmi!” (good luck).
The presentation at the EP will start at nine. You can follow it live here.
THE ITALIAN REVIEW
“We will be able to see what the Italian presidency will bring at the end of the year. However, I think that we won’t be able to see any progress among the top priorities set by the Italian government.” With this words I was ending my post about the start of the Italian presidency last July.
What did then the Italian presidency bring? They succeeded to pass the new legislation on GMOs (the Council adopted it in December and yesterday was finalised by the Parliament), a new directive against money laundering, a common position regarding the reduction of emissions for the Lima climate conference, the EU budget for 2015 and the corrections for the 2014 one and the start of the operation Tritonis for the rescue and control of migrants that are coming to the EU through the Mediterranean.
However, some important fields were practically left behind and no progress was made. One among them is the “digital Europe”, for which Renzi wanted a real progress, specially in connection with education. Latvia will now try to made progress in this field. Very limited progress was made also in the field of taxation legislation, where (with the help of the LuxLeaks scandal) Italy succeeded in finalize an agree for the automatic exchange of data among national tax authorities. Regarding the investments for growth, Italy relayed too much on the Juncker plan, in which the Italian primer minister tried to obtain that expenses for the investments included in the plan, wouldn’t be counted in the deficit.
Beside the result (I leave you to decide if they were good enough), the presidency will be remembered by the “insiders” for the very bad organisation. The Italian weekly magazine “L’Espresso” put together impressions of different diplomats and Brussels-based think-tanks. They claim that the presidency was very bad and confused, the formal and informal ministerial meetings were very chaotic and there was a lot of last minute changes. In their opinion this just confirmed the stereotype of Italy as a very chaotic and unorganised nation, where plenty of things is left t the chance. This may be a result of he fact that the presidency didn’t have a true leader. “L’Espresso” here talks about a “double presidency” due to the lack of coordination between the Italian diplomats in Brussels and Rome.
However, we can say that the presidency had one “excuse”, as it fall in the period of institutional transition, where more emphasis was given to the nomination of the new EU top positions. Despite that we can argue that also here Italy didn’t use all the possibilities it had. This failure totally lies on its primer minister Renzi, who wanted at any price to obtain the post of High representative for Italy, even though it would be better for Italy to get another portfolio that would be more useful for it (as industry, trade or migration).
In any case, Italy finished with its work. Now is on Latvia to show what she can. It posed very ambitious goals that are also very important for the future of the EU. If Renzi didn’t surprise us, let’s hope that at least Latvia will.