EU Commission presented its 2022 work programme on 19 October 2021. The goal is to strengthen Europe after the COVID-19 pandemic, to stem the digital and green transformation and to create a more stable and just society. Even though many initiatives are positive, more ambition and legally binding measures especially in the social sector would have been desirable and urgently needed.
The 2022 work programme includes 42 new policy initiatives, which are grouped together in six overarching ambitions, which Commission President von der Leyen set out for this legislative period. The most important initiatives are the following:
European Green Deal: Apart from the negotiations on the ”Fit for 55” package, which was presented in June 2021, the EU Commission is planning to create a certification scheme for carbon removals. In addition, a zero pollution action plan to improve water and air quality shall be submitted. Of particular importance for consumers is the right to repair, which shall be enshrined in form of a legislative proposal. The initiatives are generally positive and it can be expected that the efforts of the EU Commission, namely to ensure a just transition towards a CO2 neutral economy, will be pursued in the coming year (Just Transition).
Digitalisation: The pandemic accelerated global digitalisation; however, at the same time Europe saw a manifestation of deficiencies and dependencies. By means of an Emergency Instrument for the Single Market and a European Chip Act, the EU Commission aims at achieving a higher level of resistance and independence on foreign technologies for the Single Market. Apart from that, it plans recommendations in order to strengthen digital skills at schools, universities and the workplace.
Economy that works for people: Following an Initiative by the EU Parliament, the EU Commission will present a proposal in order to protect workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work. Also positive is the fact that the EU Commission intends to address the issue of an appropriate minimum wage (minimum income). However, in contrast to previously announced, this will allegedly only be a recommendation and not a legislative initiative. Furthermore, the draft legislation on global minimum corporate tax shall be drawn up and uniformly implemented as soon as possible. Important legislative proposals by the EU Commission on platform work and corporate due diligence are expected before the end of the year. It is to be hoped that these will be negotiated and implemented in the coming year. Although the work programme mentions an initiative on the social dialogue, it has not been included in any of the 42 policy initiatives.
EU in the global context: Based on the “Global Gateway” strategy, the EU Commission plans to strengthen the global position of the EU with regard to trade and investments. From AK’s point of view it is vital that the focus of trade strategies lies on the observance of labour and human rights as well as environmental minimum standards and the improvement of global supply chains.
European values: The EU Commission declares 2022 to be the European Year of Youth. The initiative “ALMA” commits itself to enable disadvantaged young people, who are neither in employment nor in education, to gain work experience abroad. The EU Commission also plans to expand the European Health Union. Future important components could be the planned comprehensive care strategy and the early cancer detection recommendation. From AK’s point of view, it is of particular importance to also improve the working conditions for health professionals and live-in care workers through European legal acts. Apart from that, it has been planned to engage in an intensified exchange of information with third countries in respect of security and to review the regulation on advance passenger information.
Strengthening democracy: The planned EU’s Media Freedom Act, which is to ensure a free and independent media landscape, could also become an important measure. Apart from that, a legal act to recognise the parenthood between EU Member States shall guarantee all forms of parenthood.
Another focus of the EU Commission is the “full” implementation of the so-called One-in-One-Out approach, which shall ensure a reduction of the administrative burden. According to AK, this proposal must be vehemently rejected as it would put pressure on social, environmental and consumer standards.
For the most part the Parliamentary groups received the new work programme as positive. However, the EU Commission has once again been urged to ensure a strict enforcement of the EU Rule of Law and to endorse the full implementation of the conditionality of the Rule of Law. Among others, the S&D Group demanded laws on fighting poverty and guidelines for telework. The Greens criticised that the work programme’s dealing with climate and biodiversity is totally inadequate and demanded that phasing out fossil fuels must be given first priority.