The 2016 Commission Work Programme: no more business as usual?
Every year the Commission adopts a work programme setting out the list of actions it will take in the coming twelve months. The Work Programme informs the public and the co-legislators of the political commitments to present new initiatives, withdraw pending proposals and review existing EU legislation. 
Last year, in January 2015, the new Juncker Commission made a New Start. The theme was Less Legislation but Better and Smarter rules: this was the promise, but in practice initiatives that were in the pipeline had to be completed. It is only now that the promise can be turned into a reality.
The work programme does not cover the on-going work of the Commission in role as Guardian of the Treaties to enforce existing legislation or the regular initiatives that the Commission adopts every year implementing existing law.
No Time for Business as usual
The New 2016 Commission Work Programme, named ‘No time for business as usual’, will deliver substantive legislative proposals to follow up on the strategic programmes adopted in 2015. This Work Programme sets out the key initiatives we will take in the next twelve months to deliver named on these commitments.
The news initiatives include:
- Better Migration Management and proposals on Border Management;
- Implementation of the Digital Single Market, the follow-up to the Single Market Strategy, a Space Strategy for Europe, and a European Defence Action Plan;
- A Circular Economy, Next Steps for a Sustainable European Future, and a legislation to implement Energy Union;
- New Skills Agenda for Europe, a New Start for Working Parents, a Pillar of Social Rights as part of a deepening of Economic and Monetary Union;
- A Corporate Tax Package and an Action Plan on VAT.
Other key initiatives for 2016 are the implementation of the European Security Agenda, the follow up on Trade and Investment Strategy and the Five President’s Report on Deepening Economic and Monetary Union, and provide the Commission’s contribution to the Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy. The Commission will also present the mid-term review of the Multi–Annual Financial Framework and a strategy to better focus the budget on results.
The Work Programme is a Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. In it the Commission stresses a change of method, based on the progressive reduction of the number of legally binding acts (Directives, Regulations), in the full application of the Better Regulation policy.
This Commission’s commitment to Better Regulation is about looking at the evidence and making sure that when the EU intervenes it does so in a way that actually will make a positive difference on the ground. So the Commission needs to be constantly attentive to make sure the EU legislation and spending programmes perform effectively and remain fit for purpose.
For the Commission this is a real ‘new start’, based on the Political Guidelines, where the priorities are defined and committed to focus on the big things ‘where the citizens expect Europe to make a difference’.
This is why the Commission has decided to include in this Work Programme a plan to review key areas of existing law and to make sure they are fit to make a real difference on the ground. In Annex 2 to the Communication, REFIT’s Initiatives concern 26 initiatives and in Annex 5 there is a list of laws to be repealed, concerning laws that are no longer relevant. The Commission also highlights, in Annex 6, for the information of citizens and business, the new EU law that that will apply for the first time in the course of the next year.
In this penultimate edition of Across we look at a selection of initiatives that will be undertaken in the course of 2016.
Under the Title ‘A New Boost for Job, Growth and Investment’, the Commission states that REACH needs an evaluation: actions include a Commission Implementing Regulation on simplification of the authorisation procedure, a Commission Implementing Regulation on transparency and cost sharing in substance information exchange fore (SIEF) and the launching of an evaluation to be completed by 1 June 2017.
The Commission Implementing Regulation on the European Standard Procurement Document (introduced by a the new Public Procurement Directives to avoid having to repeatedly file information for each tender submission) will be proposed. Commission Implementing Regulation – update to the standard forms for tender notices in public procurement.
In relation to ‘A Deeper and Fairer Internal Market with a Strengthened Industrial Base’ the Commission proposes:
- a legislative REFIT evaluation concerns part of the Capital Markets Union of the Prospectus Directive Review;
- Tobacco Excise Duty, another REFIT evaluation;
- Food legislation, follow up to the Fitness Check on the General Food Law.
We will look in more detail at the proposals on ‘A Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy’, in a Special Edition of Across on Climate and Energy expected in January 2016. We will do the same in relation to the proposals on Maritime Transport that will be the object of a Special Edition of Across in 2016.
In conclusion, the Commission emphasises the idea that there is ‘No time for business as usual’, and that ‘[w]e need to start work now to secure Europe’s future sustainability. We will present a new approach to ensuring economic growth and social and environmental sustainability … we also want to see European companies make the most of the opportunities of the single market, to growth and compete on a global scale…’.
No more Business as usual? We hope so, Europe needs change.
 The Commission’s preparation of the 2016 Work Programme has been enriched by consultations with European Parliament and Council based on the Letter of Intent send by President Junker and the First Vice President Timmermans on 9 September .
 First Vice President Timmermans said: ‘One year ago this Commission made new start, committing to focus on the big things where citizens expect the EU to make a difference. Today we are taking the next steps to deliver on these political priorities’.
 COM(2015) 610 final , Strasbourg 27.10.2015
 Areas of focus for 2015 are the followings: i) a new boost for jobs, growth and investment; ii) a connected digital single market; iii) resilient energy union with a forward-looking climate change policy; iv) deeper and fairer internal market with a strengthed industrial base; v) deeper and fairer economic and monetary union; vi) an area of justice and fundamental rights based on mutual trust; vii) Working towards a new policy on migration; A stronger global actor; viii) Union of democratic change .
 On the issue, see Across The EUniverse Number Three, June 2015, p.8 ‘Where is EU Law going? Towards a New Commission Strategy on Better Regulation’.
 The Commission approach is that in many areas a common legislative intervention in needed if this is the main way to achieve ambitious policy goals – a high level of environmental protection, high social and employment standards, energy security, a thriving economy that benefits all, a migration policy that reflects European values. But rules which are outdated or are too heavy or too complex to be applied in practice will not achieve their objectives.
 Communication p. 2 .
 REFIT is the European Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme to make EU simpler and to reduce regulatory costs without compromising policy objectives. REFIT contributes to a clear, stable and predictable regulatory framework supporting growth and jobs.
 REACH is the Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It entered into force on 1st June 2007. It streamlines and improves the former legislative framework on Chemicals.
 Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on public procurement and repealing Directive 2004/18/EC, OJ L 94 of 28.3.2014, p.64.
 Directive 2003/71/EC of 4 November 2003 on the Prospectus.
 Council Directive 2011/64/EU of 21 June 2011 on the structure and rates of excise duty applied to manufactured tobacco (codification), OJ L 176 of 5.7.2011, p.24.