The geopolitical Commission? Politics and policy in the 2019-2024 EU policy cycle

General Politics

The political guidelines for the 2019-2024 European Commission, and its priorities for the first 100 days, are wide-ranging and open to different interpretations. This is in contrast with its predecessor which (at the outset) could set as its over-riding priority the restoration of economic growth in Europe.

A new and highly politicised landscape is reflected in the tone adopted by President-elect, von der Leyen, and in Commissioners’ job descriptions. Making the economy work ‘for people’, protecting a ‘European’ way of life, a ‘stronger’ Europe in the world, and a ‘push for democracy’ all contain value judgements. They can also be used to justify divisive steps. Meanwhile, the first priority, a Green Deal, may enjoy broad political support but it explicitly draws attention to the need for trade-offs and bargaining between different interest groups.

At the start of a term of office, there are obvious risks in reading too much into political soundbites. But debates so far about how they will mobilise and direct a traditionally technocratic executive show that incoming Commissioners will have to build coalitions and risk alienating some traditionally pro-European stakeholders. In this publication, Global Counsel’s specialist consultants unpack these choices and the complex network of interest groups that will have to be reconciled.

First, Ermenegilda examines whether an ambitious to-do list on climate change can really be turned into a ‘bargain’ that wins support from Eastern European countries that have been alienated by recent emphasis on the rule of law. Adam assesses the most explicit attempt to adopt populist language: an economy reform agenda that works ‘for people’, while Franck looks at the main element of continuity from the Juncker Commission making Europe fit for the digital age. Daniel examines a change of tone in the trade policy agenda – being ‘stronger in the world’ – and Alexander considers the consequences for business of a renewed focus on values and transparency. Finally, Ana considers the new Commission’s chances of passing legislation in a Parliament that is fragmented to an unprecedented degree and a Council that is divided over what constitutes ‘balance’.

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