What’s new in Europe in 2014?

 If 2013 was the European Year of Citizens, 2014 is the year where over 500 millions of European citizens will elect our representatives in the European Parliament and, for the first time, also the President of the European Commission. However, we will see new developments in Europe before the elections of May.

What’s new from 1 January 2014?

Already from the first day of 2014, the Eurozone welcomes Latvia, whose national currency is replaced by the Euro.

Also since the beginning of the year, restrictions to Romanian and Bulgarian citizens expire after a period with transitory measures imposed by some Member States after their EU accession in 2007.

In the field of education, the Erasmus+ programme entries into force, with a budget of 14.000 million euros for the period 2014-2020, allowing four million young Europeans to study abroad.

Greece will be protagonist during the first semester of 2014, not only due to the difficult economic situation of the country and the social unrest, but also because Greece takes over the Presidency of the Council of the EU between January and July, the last country of the trio of Presidencies (Ireland, Lithuania and Greece). Italy will take over the Presidency from July to December.

European agenda in 2014

From January to June, the Greek Presidency will not only meet the objectives of growth, employment, cohesion and other topics concerning the Eurozone. Migrations management, mobility and sea policies will also be some priorities. Relaunching the EU Maritime Policy in all its aspects, and without being confined to issues of growth and development, is an important aim of the Presidency in order to adopt in the European Council of June a EU Maritime Strategy, and highlighting the dimensions of security and growth.

In January, the EU will start the EU accession negotiations with Serbia after having obtained the status of candidate in 2012. Albania might receive the status of candidate in June. In that case, Albania would join other candidates which are already negotiating (Iceland, Montenegro and Turkey) or are waiting for the beginning of the negotiations (Macedonia and Serbia). Moreover, 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of the biggest enlargement of the EU, the enlargement to ten States of Central and Eastern Europe.

The European Union will continue dealing with issues that, even if they are not always present in the media, they directly affect the daily life of Europeans. I refer to issues such as the right of ensuring mobility through all Member States to study or to work abroad; the protection of our rights as European citizens against the airlines abuse when we travel by plane; the protection of our privacy when we use internet; the fight against criminal actions; among many other issues that will be present in the European Parliament in 2014.

From 1 November 2014, the new “dual majority” system is established in the Council of the EU for adopting decisions, abolishing the old system of vote weighting. From then on, a qualified majority is achieved with the 55% of  Member States representing at least 65% of the population of the EU. If the Council does not act on a proposal from the Commission, the majority should cover at least 72% of Member States representing at least 65% of the population. In any case, until 31 March 2017, any State may request that a decision is taken according to the previous system of vote weighting adopted in Nice.

Also in November, the new single supervisory mechanism (SSM) enters into force, and the European Central Bank (ECB), instead of the national authorities, will supervise the biggest 130 banks of the Eurozone. This is the first step towards the banking union, but there is still a long way to achieve it. The adoption of a single resolution mechanism and a deposit guarantee system are also needed for the banking union. The Presidency of the Council will negotiate with the European Parliament the regulation of this single resolution mechanism with the aim of adopting it by the end of this legislative term in May.

It is necessary to highlight the institutional changes in the EU in 2014. In addition to the European Parliament and the European Commission, including the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also the President of the European Council will be renewed.

Why these European Parliament elections are different?

Why the European Parliament elections of 2014 are more important than ever? In addition to the election of the Members of the EP, for the first time in history each European political party will put forward a candidate for President of the European Commission, who will be directly elected through the vote of all European citizens. Therefore, the EU does not only increase its democratic legitimacy, but also becomes more politicized. This should allow the discussion about the diverse European issues and candidates will be able to take part of debates to explain their projects for Europe.

The elections will also be different because all Europeans will elect our representatives in a European Parliament more powerful than ever after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, with more competences and more responsibility.

But I would like to highlight a fundamental challenge that the EU must face in 2014 and, above all, regarding the 2014 elections: facing the increase of euroscepticism and populism, a consequence of the growing citizens’ unrest. In 2014, we have to inform more and better about Europe, to bring the debate on Europe to the media that we follow every day,  and to make understand that European issues affect all of us. Summing up, we have to explain the reality of Europe. However, this is not only the task of the European institutions or the Member States. It is also our responsibility, of all Europeans, because the European Union is not something we can leave aside. The EU is always moving and it depends on us to shape it. There are lots of thing to do in 2014. Let’s start right now.

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