EM Ireland – Just the Facts: European Commission Work Programme Update Part One
Following on from our Just the Facts in January which outlined the European Commission’s Work Programme for 2015, in the first of this three part series, we take a look at the progress of the European Commission’s 2015 Work Programme in the key area of Jobs and Investment.
Under the Commission’s 2015 Work Programme, low levels of investment following the global financial crisis were to be addressed by focusing on Mobilising investment; Supporting investment; Establishing an investment friendly environment.
European Fund for Strategic Investment
The European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) was to be set up within the European Investment Bank (EIB) to support these efforts. The European Parliament validated the EFSI on 24 June. Compared to existing structures, the fund will specifically target projects delivering a higher societal and economic value. EU guarantees will be based upon existing EU funds of €16 billion which will be used for long term projects. Additionally, €5 billion provided by the EIB will be used to finance small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Pending final approval by the European Parliament and European Council, a number of Irish projects have already been initiated. This includes 14 primary healthcare centres which the EFSI will finance through a Public-Private Partnership.
In July, final arrangements were also made to launch the European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH). The EIAH will support the development and financing of investment projects in the EU by offering a single point of contact for coordination, guidance, technical assistance and advice. A decision on the European Investment Project Portal (EIPP) was also reached in July. The EIPP will be a publicly available web portal where EU based project promoters seeking external financing can promote their projects to potential investors. The package ensures that the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) is operational by early autumn 2015, keeping to the timetable set to implement the European Commission’s ambitious three-year Investment Plan for Europe.
On Thursday 21 May, European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, was the keynote speaker at the European Citizens dialogue event: ‘Investing in Europe’s Future – Digital Opportunities for Ireland’ which was held in Dublin’s Convention Centre. This was part of Commissioner Katainen’s campaign to promote the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) across the 28 Member States. His visit coincided with the promotion of Juncker’s EU Investment Plan worth more than €300 billion to the EU economy. He explained the new opportunities open to governments, investors, trade unions, as well as regional authorities and communities. He stated that “Citizens’ Dialogues are excellent opportunities to collect ideas from citizens, and get feedback on what we got right, what we should do differently and what our priorities should be”.
The inclusion of a European commissioner embarking on ‘investor roadshows’ across Europe is innovative, and signals a shift within President Juncker’s Commission to bridge the gap between EU commissioners and EU citizens. Commissioner Katainen also maintained that the focus is now on SME’s and companies with between 250 and 3000 employees which will benefit from the proposed TTIP agreement.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed bi-lateral free trade agreement between EU and the US which was originally launched by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in July 2013. In the Commission’s 2015 Work Programme this has been prioritised as one of President Juncker’s main objectives for generating investment. Negotiations have now reached the tenth round, with progress being halted by a difference of opinion on a number of core issues. The proposed inclusion of an Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause has also generated significant opposition from the public and various interest groups in a number of Member States.
On 5 May 2015, the European Commission published a concept paper concerning ISDS – “Investment in TTIP and beyond – the path for reform”. This re-affirms a government’s right to regulate in the public interest and envisages a move from current ad hoc arbitration towards an Investment Court. This idea was raised earlier this year by the European Parliament who said that ISDS should be replaced by a public court procedure. During the tenth round of negotiations, Chief U.S. negotiator Dan Mullaney said he expected to receive the EU’s proposal in the “very near future,” although no specific date was mentioned. Cecilia Malmström, the EU’s trade commissioner also stated that “We will do everything [to] try to wrap this up in 2016”. Further rounds are expected to take place in October and December this year.
The EU’s new migration policy and the European Energy Union will be the topics of our next Just the Facts series on the 2015 Commission Work Programme.
This Just the Facts article is also available as an email information service from European Movement Ireland to our members. For more information on becoming a member of European Movement Ireland, contact our offices or visit our Membership webpages.