2014 started with several developments in the European Union. However, the European Parliament elections in May did not end up with the institutional changes, which will continue after the summer. Moreover, the EU will need to face important challenges regarding its future as well.
2014 began with the accession of Latvia to the Eurozone, the 18th country which joined the common currency. At the same time, restrictions to Romanian and Bulgarian citizens to work in other EU Member States expired after a period in which several countries had established transitory measures. Furthermore, on 1 January the “Erasmus +” programme came into force with a budget of 14.000 million euro for the period 2014-2020. This programme will allow four million young people to study abroad. In addition, regarding the European enlargement, in January negotiations between the EU and Serbia started after obtaining the status of candidate in 2012.
During the last months, the European Parliament have dealt with issues which directly affect the daily life of Europeans, such as the right of ensuring mobility through all Member States to study or to work abroad; the protection of our rights as European citizens against the airlines abuse when we travel by plane; the protection of our privacy when we use the Internet; the fight against criminal actions; among many other issues. Moreover, the European Parliament has approved a large amount of measures, such as the strengthening of regulations against money laundering and tax evasion; the elimination of roaming charges in December 2015 for using mobiles abroad; the establishment of limits to bank charges for transactions with credit and debit cards; giving more information to consumers and avoid unfair competition indicating the origin country in the labelling of the products; aids for the fisheries sector, etc. Furthermore, regarding foreign policy, the EU must currently face the complicated situation in Ukraine, as well as violence in the Middle East.
It is noteworthy that the single resolution mechanism for the baking union was approved in April, which includes a fund of 55.000 million to tackle bank failures. This fund will be gradually built up during eight years from 2016 onwards. In addition to this mechanism, the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive was also approved so that shareholders and creditors of these entities will be first ones to address losses in case of problems. Moreover, the directive on the deposit guarantee under 100.000 euro was approved. This amount will come from the national funds financed by banks instead of by the States as before. All this represents a fundamental step forward towards the banking union. The new single supervisory mechanism (SSM) will enter into force in November, and the European Central Bank (ECB), instead of the national authorities, will supervise the biggest 130 banks of the Eurozone.
#EP2014: a new start
The European elections have concluded this term, but at the same time, it means a new start for important institutional changes which will continue during the autumn. Europeans chose in May not only our representatives in the European Parliament for the next term (2014-2019), but also for the first time, albeit indirectly, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. After the agreement between the two biggest political families (Christian Democrats and Social Democrats) to appoint Juncker as President of the Commission, the new Members of the European Parliament voted the continuation of Martin Schulz in the Presidency of this institution.
National governments are designating along the summer their candidates for Commissioners, who will need to be examined in individual audiences in the parliamentary committees in September. After this process, the European Parliament will vote in October on the College of Commissioners so that the new Commission can start its activities on the 1 November. In addition to the European Parliament and the European Commission, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the President of the European Council will be renewed.
From 1 November 2014, the new “dual majority” system is established in the Council of the EU for adopting decisions, abolishing the old system of vote weighting. From then on, a qualified majority is achieved with the 55% of Member States representing at least 65% of the population of the EU. If the Council does not act on a proposal from the Commission, the majority should cover at least 72% of Member States representing at least 65% of the population. In any case, until 31 March 2017, any State may request that a decision is taken according to the previous system of vote weighting adopted in Nice.
New faces, new regulations, new projects to develop in a term that starts, as always, full of challenges with the aim of improving the welfare of citizens. We always listen that “Europe must approach to the citizens”, but the turnout had never been so low in the European elections (42,54%). One of the reasons or excuses is the alleged distance of the European institutions perceived by citizens. However, many of them have never thought about how to be more informed on the EU or about the initiatives or models for Europe that the diverse political families presented. This is without any doubt a challenge to deal with, a challenge not only for the institutions, but specially for all of us, the more than 500 million Europeans who are citizens of the European Union.
Author: Rubén Ruiz Calleja
Source of the images: Audiovisual Services of the European Parliament (http://audiovisual.europarl.europa.eu/Assetdetail.aspx?id=af68b6f4-4d66-437a-aa98-b2043f49f95c9) and European Council (http://www.european-council.europa.eu/the-institution/europa-building)