One does not have to be a clairvoyant to foresee that the conflict in Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis will continue to hold European politicians' attention hostage. Meanwhile, many European regions are still struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change has increasingly shown its disastrous effects in recent years. The two main responses to Europe's economic, social, and environmental challenges are the green and digital (twin) transitions, which will continue to influence European policy initiatives in 2023.
While many voices that facing these unprecedented challenges has brought EU Member States closer together, European integration also took another step beginning this year when Croatia adopted the Euro and fully joined the Schengen area on 1 January. Cooperation with candidate countries in the Western Balkans is also said to continue in 2023.
The Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union
On 1 January, Sweden took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union, ending the current “trio” of presidencies of France, the Czech Republic and now Sweden. The latter will thus be responsible to plan and chairing meetings in the Council and representing the Council vis-à-vis the other EU institutions until 1 July, when Spain will take over the presidency.
In accordance with the above-named challenges, Sweden has identified four priorities for its presidency:
- Security - unity
- Green & energy transition
- Democratic values and the rule of law – our foundation
In short, the Swedish Presidency announced that it will put the Common Foreign and Security Policy high on the EU agenda, a concerted approach to European competitiveness to strengthen the Single Market based on the principles of “free competition, private investment and successful digitalisation”, addressing the current high energy prices, and accelerating the energy transition, and finally “upholding the principle of the rule of law and fundamental rights”.
The Commission Work Programme 2023
The 2023 Commission work programme, which sets out the main initiatives for the year and was adopted in October, was equally drafted under the pressure of the current challenges and aims to set the agenda for the coming months to respond to the current crises that are clearly affecting the European people.
This programme includes, amongst other initiatives, pending priority proposals and proposals for withdrawal and repeal, 43 new policy initiatives that fall within the scope of the six headline ambitions formulated at the beginning of the von der Leyen Commission.
In terms of regional policy and economic development, the main objectives include supporting businesses and people by lowering energy prices, securing supplies crucial for EU industrial competitiveness and food safety, or strengthening the European social market economy.
A critical raw materials act is proposed to ensure the digital transition of the European economy and an SME relief package to reduce burdens on SMEs through a revision of the late payments Directive. The European Single Market celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, which will be the occasion for a Communication on its benefits, obstacles, and future priorities.
Other notable initiatives include a patent licensing package and reviews of the multiannual financial framework and economic governance.
Ensuring the functioning and prosperity of the Single Market is also one of the reasons for the “European Year of Skills”, which follows the “European Year of Youth” in 2022 and which is likely to have a significant impact on the European Year and the calendar.
More information on:
Commission Work Programme 2023
Political Guidelines of the 2019-2024 Commission