New Commission aims to see Europe remain an engine room for innovation and competitiveness

Article written by Mark Abdilla – Executive, MEUSAC
Published in The Malta Independent – 21.01.2020

The new European Commission, presided by Ursula von der Leyen, officially took office on December 1, committing itself to providing real political ambition to drive forward new policy proposals. As such, work is underway to ensure that a number of key measures are presented by the Commission within its first 100 days.  These measures would set the tone for the next five years and would pave the way forward for EU institutions and Member States.

The Commission has committed to presenting four ambitious reform projects: a European Green Deal, establishing binding measures on pay transparency, establishing a fair minimum wage for all workers in the EU, and coordinating a European approach to Artificial Intelligence (AI) in a bid to eventually put in place a human-centric legislation based on European values. The latter is likely to be quite a challenge for the new Commission due to the nature of the topic.

Work on the European Green Deal is well underway, with the European Commission having already published a communication. The aim of this deal is to drive a radical transformation of the European economy, to make this transformation a lever for growth and jobs in Europe. The main objective is to achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 and ensuring that all legal acts adopted by the EU take the importance of climate into consideration. The Green Deal guidelines were presented by the Commission during the European Council meeting of December 12, 2019. It is expected that some form of legislation is in the pipeline.

The Commission will also be prioritising the issue of equal pay and full salary transparency. This would be tackled through the European Gender Strategy, providing both women and men equal legal rights across the board. Pay transparency measures would also ensure that there is no discrimination on any basis for the same work being carried out and that the same opportunities are available for all who share the same aspirations.

To continue ensuring a fair and just society, the Commission is also looking to establish a fair minimum wage for the whole of the EU. This would be done through a legal instrument which would be introduced within the first 100 days. It would seek to ensure a decent living wherever workers are employed, that is in Member States. In particular, minimum wages would be established on the basis of each Member State’s different realities and necessities. Therefore, the minimum wage in Bulgaria would be different to that of Luxembourg, since the cost of living in these Member States are very different to each other.

The final priority looks to ensure that Europe and the Single Market are fit for the new digital age, with a particular focus on AI. With AI having become one of the most important economic drivers of the present day, there seems to be a need to look towards the ethical implications posed by this technology. As such, the Commission would look towards a coordinated European approach to ensure that AI is used and implemented in a fair and just manner, while also ensuring that there is space for proper investment and innovation, Europe remaining an engine room for new technologies

President von der Leyen has also committed to the organisation of a Conference on the Future of Europe, which would involve a cross-section of society to give citizens the chance to contribute to shaping the EU’s future. A similar exercise was held in 2018 when Member States directly consulted with their citizens on various matters of national importance. MEUSAC organised these consultation exercises in Malta, focusing on agriculture, social policy, migration, and innovative industries.

The first 100 days of the recently appointed Commission will certainly pave the way forward for the EU’s next five years. However, more direction is needed to address the priorities related to the minimum wage, pay transparency and AI. While there is a clear view on how to move forward with regards to the Green Deal, which has already seen a more detailed plan discussed by EU Heads of State and Government, the same is necessary for the Commission to properly chart its course.

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