Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Annual Policy Strategy

On 21 February 2007, the European Commission presented the 2008 Annual Policy Strategy (APS). The annual policy strategy outlines policy objectives and key initiatives for the following year. It also allocates the corresponding financial and human resources for the strategic initiatives. The Commission’s Legislative and Work Programme for 2008, to be adopted in October, should be based on the Annual Policy Strategy and on the dialogue with the Council and the European Parliament. Hence, until the publication of the Legislative and Work Programme, the EU institutions and national parliaments are seeking to mark some influence upon it. However, as the European Scrutiny Committee has proposed: “the extent to which the views of national parliaments will be taken on board remains to be seen.”
The 2008 APS outlines policy objectives, mainly in the four key strategic areas of the Barroso Commission: prosperity, solidarity, security and freedom and a stronger role of the EU in the world. Moreover, the document identifies a series of cross-cutting issues such as energy and climate change, migration management and the Lisbon agenda for growth and jobs. The Commission has proposed for the first time to make communication a priority in 2008. Furthermore, the document contains a general framework for human and financial resources for 2008.
The House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee conducted an inquiry into the Commission’s Annual Policy Strategy 2008, aiming to “examine the role of the Annual Policy Strategy 2008 as a planning tool and consultation document in the preparation of the Legislative and Work Programme.” The European Scrutiny Committee is not convinced yet that the APS is a “useful exercise” as the results of the dialogue between the EU institutions are not clear as well as the influence of other EU institutions in the creation of the Legislative and Work Programme. Also important is that one of the objectives of the APS is to enlighten discussions on the Preliminary Draft Budget in the European Parliament. The European Scrutiny Committee has noticed “the lack of consistency between the headings used in the APS and those used in the Budget” and recalls the European Parliament resolution of 24 April 2007 on the Commission’s annual policy strategy for the 2008 budget. The European Parliament “regrets that the APS classifications of prosperity, solidarity, security and external projection represent a third classification system that is rather arbitrary as regards the classification of policy areas under the different chapters, does not have any major value from a budgetary perspective and cannot easily be reconciled with the Activity based budgeting (ABB) and multiannual financial framework (MFF) categorisations”. It has demanded that the “Commission respect more closely the ABB and multiannual financial framework structures.”

Furthermore, the Committee observed that some proposals contained in the APS were too vague, restricting the “scope for useful debate” such as “an initiative on the implementation of a centralized database of fingerprints.” The Minister for Europe, Jim Murphy, told the ESC that there were three areas of potential concern on the compliance of the proposals in the APS with regards to the principle of subsidiarity: on a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base, consular assistance, and a centralised database of fingerprints. Also important has been the implementation of the EU Maritime Policy – mainly, the international maritime governance and maritime border control mentioned in the APS are very likely to raise important issues of competence. Other proposals are also likely to raise concerns over EU competence, such as urban transport, rights of the child, policies to tackle violent radicalisation, emissions controls on shipping, strengthening EUROJUST, initiatives to prevent discrimination outside the labour market, and measures aimed at reconciling family and working life. The ESC considered that the APS has value although limited in providing the House and the government with early warning of areas in which the Commission is likely to put forward proposals. Moreover the ESC made some suggestions such as the APS having more background information to the proposals and a closer connection between the policies proposed and budgetary resources.

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