On 18 October the European Commission published its 2023 work programme, consisting of a Communication and relevant Annexes – link here

This new work programme is very much framed against the backdrop of the Ukraine conflict, the energy crisis and what the Commission refers to as new challenges to the global rules-based order. Indeed, much of the programme is now dictated by events that unfolded only in the last few months. While the twin transitions (digital and sustainability) remain the fundamental policy pillars for 2023, and work on these will be accelerated by the current turmoil, this year’s ‘collision of crises’ provide an additional overlay to the Commission’s output. 

The importance of overcoming challenges collectively as a Union and the need for solidarity with the EU’s partners is clearly visible throughout the Communication, whilst references to open strategic autonomy and sovereignty which were heavily pushed in last year’s programme have taken a back seat – although are still visible in the individual initiatives to come.

The Communication also makes clear that this current situation cannot be met with a business as usual approach, and as a result, there will be a need for ‘fast reactions’. We should expect more therefore in terms of reactive proposals tackling immediate problems as they arise (the energy crisis proposals being a case in point). The COVID-19 pandemic saw the Commission’s ability to shift into a new mode - one which will continue to prove essential over the next months.

It is also worth bearing in mind that ahead of the European elections in May 2024, this programme aims to adopt the final pieces of legislation for the remainder of this 2019-2024 political mandate. 

Outline of key initiatives relevant for business

Europe Fit for the Digital Age initiatives

  • European Critical Raw Materials Act (legislative and non-legislative initiatives) – Q1 2023
  • Initiative on virtual worlds such as metaverse (non-legislative) – Q2 2023
  • A common European mobility data space (non-legislative) – Q2 2023

 An Economy that Works for the People initiatives

Do note the Commission’s assertion that this programme was decided in a time of high economic uncertainty and as such, the Commission ‘stands ready to re-evaluate after the winter, especially those measures that can affect competitiveness’.

New MFF initiatives

  • Review of the functioning of the Multiannual Financial Framework (non-legislative and legislative) – Q2 2023. Part of this will also be to push to create a new ‘European Sovereignty Fund’ to ‘ensure that the future of industry is made in Europe’.

New own resources initiatives:

  • Second set of new own resources (legislative) – Q3 2023: building on the proposal for a single set of tax rules for doing business in Europe (BEFIT)

New corporate taxation initiatives:

  • Business in Europe: Framework for income taxation (BEFIT) (legislative) – Q3 2023

New data access in financial services initiatives

  • Open finance framework (legislative) – Q2 2023 (previously planned for Q1 2023)
  • Revision of EU rules on payment services (legislative) – Q2 2023

New strengthenig the role of the euro initiatives

  • Digital euro (legislative) – Q2 2023
  • Scope and effects of legal tender of euro banknotes and coins (legislative Q2 2023)

European Green Deal initiatives

New energy initiatives:

  • Revision of EU’s internal electricity market rules (legislative initiative) – Q1 2023 
  • EU Hydrogen Bank (legislative or non-legislative) – Q3 2023

New circular economy initiatives:

  • Revision of food waste and textiles aspects of the EU Waste Framework Directive (legislative initiative) – Q2 2023

Already announced circular economy proposals due to be published next year:

  • REACH revision – registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (legislative initiative) – Q4 2023
  • Revision of EU rules to improve access to and availability, sharing and re-use of chemical data (legislative initiative) – Q4 2023

New agriculture initiatives:

  • Legislation for plants produced by certain new genomic techniques (legislative initiative) – Q2 2023
  • Revision of EU animal welfare legislation (legislative initiative) – Q3 2023
  • Legislative framework for sustainable food systems – likely to include revision of Food Contact Materials regulation (legislative) – Q3 2023
  • Initiative on protecting, sustainably managing and restoring EU soils (legislative) – Q2 2023

New transport initiatives:

  • International freight and passenger transport – increasing the share of rail traffic (legislative initiative) – Q2 2023
  • Revision of the weights and dimensions Directive (legislative initiative) – Q2 2023
  • Revision of the Combined Transport Directive (legislative initiative) – Q2 2023
  • Greening corporate fleets initiative (legislative or non-legislative) – Q3 2023

Already announced transport proposals due to be published next year:

  • Revision of the roadworthiness package (legislative) – Q3 2023

Stronger Europe in the World initiatives

  • Setting a sanctions framework targeting corruption (legislative initiative) – Q2 2023

Promoting our European Way of Life initiatives

  • Revision of the combating child sexual abuse Directive (legislative initiative) – Q3 2023

Push for European Democracy initiatives 

  • Update of the anti-corruption legislative framework (legislative initiative) – Q3 2023
  • Defence of democracy package, including an initiative on the protection of the EU democratic sphere from covert foreign influence (legislative and non-legislative) – Q2 2023

Already announced Democracy proposals due to be published next year:

  • Revision of alternative dispute resolution and online dispute resolution framework to improve the enforcement of consumer law (legislative) – Q2 2023