EU Legislative Outlook 2017: At A Glance

Kelley Drye Client Advisory

Sixty years ago in March, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany signed the Treaty of Rome, creating the economic union that today is the European Union (EU).   The founding nations perhaps never imagined that the EU would become 28 members strong; recent events, not the least of which is BREXIT, render the future equally unpredictable.  Nevertheless, the immediate future is fairly certain.  Issuing for the first time a joint declaration on common legislative priorities, the European Institutions (the Council of the EU, the European Commission, and the European Parliament) will work together on a legislative agenda for 2017 that focuses on economic growth, security and social issues, migration, a single market for digitization, and a new Energy Union with a heavy emphasis on climate change. As the driver of the legislative agenda, the European Commission will have its hands full to arrive at its goal of better regulation and to deliver a Europe that protects, empowers and defends.”  Key areas of legislative change are identified below.

Animals: A legal review of the Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes will be completed by 10 November 2017.  Negotiations on Commission proposals to update rules governing medicated feed and veterinary medicinal products were not completed in 2016 but will likely be concluded in 2017.  Results of the ongoing evaluation of the Zoos Directive are expected to be published in the 4th quarter with a legislative proposal to follow.

Chemicals: A major evaluation of EU chemicals legislation is anticipated to be completed in the 4th quarter of 2017.  Legislation under assessment includes regulations on Classification, Labeling and Packaging of substances, Biocidal, Cosmetics, and Food Contact Materials.  The REACH Regulation will be evaluated separately by the end of the 2nd quarter.

Communications and Technology: The Commission will evaluate existing rules protecting the ownership, interoperability, usability and access of databases in 2017. Earlier proposals to revise the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, the Satellite and Cable Directive and the regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services remain under negotiation.

Employment: The Commission will complete and publish results of a comprehensive evaluation of 24 EU directives on health and safety at work.  It also will undertake an impact assessment and consider a legislative proposal to implement the 2015 Agreement extending information and consultation rights of workers concluded by the EU social partners.  An interpretative communication and implementation report on the Working Time Directive is planned.  In addition, the Commission will finalize ongoing evaluations of the directives on Part-time work and Fixed Term Work.  Lastly, a proposal revising existing social legislation in road transport to ensure a genuine level playing field for the road transport industry and adequate working conditions is expected in the 4th quarter.

Energy: The European Commission has announced a series of regulatory actions toward the completion of an Energy Union and implementing the commitments in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  A package comprising eight regulatory initiatives adopted in November 2016 includes a proposal to update the Energy Efficiency Directive with a new 30% efficiency target for 2030 and a proposal for common rules for the internal market in electricity.  Proposals for regulations on binding annual greenhouse gas emission reductions by Member States from 2021 to 2030 and on the inclusion of emissions and removals from land use, land use change, and forestry into the 2030 climate and energy framework published in July of last year also will be considered.

Environment: In 2015, the Commission published a package of legislative proposals on waste, setting targets for increasing recycling and reducing landfilling of waste, and establishing a long-term vision for waste management and recycling to stimulate Europe’s transition toward a circular economy.  Negotiations will take place during the first half of 2017 and final adoption of legislative measures is expected by year end.  Results of the ongoing evaluation of the EU Ecolabel Regulation are expected to be published in 2017 with possible recommendations for revision.  As a follow-up to its evaluation of the Environmental Liability Directive, the Commission will propose a multi-annual work programme to improve the evidence base concerning environmental damage and support national implementation of the Directive to address it.

Food and Drink: In 2016, inter-institutional negotiations on whether pesticide residues should be tolerated in foods labeled as organic” ended in deadlock; negotiations were reopened in January. The European Commission is expected to finalize an assessment of the implementation and functioning of the general food law by the 2nd quarter of 2017.  In addition, it likely will adopt a draft implementing act restricting the use of bisphenol A in food contact materials.  An ongoing evaluation of legislation on nutrition and health claims concerning foods should be finalized by June 2017.  The Commission also will launch an impact assessment to evaluate how the intake of industrial trans-fats through food can be most adequately addressed.  Finally, the Commission is expected to undertake an impact assessment and issue a proposal amending the EU’s Drinking Water Directive to implement the findings of the 2016 evaluation.

International Trade: The Commission has listed a reasonable and balanced free trade agreement with the U.S.” among its policy priorities for 2017.  Moreover, the Commission has announced it will seek to conclude a free trade agreement with Japan by year-end.  Negotiations with New-Zealand, Mercosur and Indonesia likely will continue throughout 2017 and the ratification procedure for the EU – Canada deal will be kicked off in early 2017.  In addition, work will get underway on the Commission’s September 2016 proposal to modernize and strengthen rules on export controls of dual-use items throughout the EU and its Member States.    Negotiations on reform of Trade Defence Instruments initiated in 2013 by the Commission will continue in 2017.

Transportation: The Commission will update existing legislation on training, qualification and licensing in road transport and on access to the international market for coach and bus services.    Legislation on road infrastructure and tunnels safety will be revised and a code for small crafts will be proposed in order to facilitate and simplify the construction and cross border trade of small passenger vessels and their registration.  The Commission likely will issue a proposal updating the Clean Vehicles Directive to stimulate the market for clean and energy efficient vehicles.  A legislative revision of rules on combined transport will be proposed to further promote intermodal transport in the EU and to contribute to reducing emissions.  Lastly, the Commission intends to propose improvements to the Eurovignette system.