Vulcan Insight

European Commission presents its 2021 legislative agenda

23 October 2020

The European Commission this week presented its legislative agenda for the year to come. Across its six political umbrellas, the Commission’s 2021 “Work Programme” foresees work on 135 new or existing pieces of legislation to implement its political strategies and move forward the EU’s green and digital transformation.

Upon entering office last year, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen vowed to introduce a European Green Deal, under which her Commission would lead the charge to reduce the EU’s overall carbon emissions by 2030 through greening the continent’s economy and mobility systems, while making products more sustainable and environmentally friendly. 

While the European Climate Law is still under negotiation, it is due to commit the European Union to reducing its carbon emissions by at least 55% by 2030. The Commission’s 2021 Work Programme now sets out the concrete legislative agenda, from renewables to energy efficiency, energy performance of buildings to land use, energy taxation and emissions trading.

In key legislative proposals, the European Commission is set to propose a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which will help reduce the risk of carbon leakage and ensure a level-playing field by encouraging third countries to raise their climate ambition, as well as a revision and expansion of the EU’s emissions trading scheme in the first half of next year.

In addition, the Commission will propose measures to implement Europe’s circular economy action plan, further promote zero-emission mobility and revise emissions standards for cars.

To push Europe’s digital transformation, the Commission will put forward a roadmap of digital targets to be achieved by 2030, focused on connectivity, skills and digital public services. Moreover, the Commission will put forward legislation on product safety and liability, data, a European e-ID and the working conditions of platform workers. In the context of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission will also update its industrial strategy and legislate on tightening the EU’s foreign subsidies regime.

As promised by President von der Leyen, the Commission will adopt a legislative proposal on a digital services tax, including as part of the EU’s own-resources, in the absence of an agreement at OECD level. The proposal is expected by mid-2021. With respect to wider economic policy, the Commission aims to update and further deepen the Capital Markets Union, including through a wide-ranging MiFID II review, as well as focusing on tackling anti-money laundering and the establishment of an EU green bond standard.

To act on the Commission’s self-declared “geopolitical” ambitions, it will take a leading role in the global distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, while also adopting non-legislative Communications on the Arctic, Europe’s partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood, and on strengthening global multilateralism.

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission is set to strengthen the EU’s health agencies, establish a new agency for biomedical advanced research and development and ensure better data transfers and analysis. Besides that, the Commission will put forward legislation on maximising and strengthening the EU’s Schengen area and following up on the its recent Pact on Migration and Asylum and Security Strategy.

The Commission will also present new strategies on the rights of the child and for persons with disabilities, as well as a proposal to combat gender-based violence.

The Commission will also propose clearer rules on the financing of European political parties and take action to protect journalists and civil society against abusive litigation. A long-term vision for rural areas will also propose actions to harness the full potential of these regions.