Yesterday, the European Commission presented its Work Program for 2023. In a Union that has just emerged from a pandemic, finds itself involved in a war with unforeseeable consequences, whose effects are already being felt at the level of raw material prices – in particular energy -, I would have expected a program with a reinforcement of economic and specially focused on social support, which ended up not happening. I must emphasize that, in my view, there is a lack of social measures and an absence of European demographic proposals, for example, for the Longevity Economy – transversal proposals that integrate demography, migration, natality and aging. We must not forget that Europe is experiencing a long-term demographic decline, not even mentioning the huge challenges for European human resources management.
Nevertheless, this work plan includes essential proposals, such as the reform of the European electricity market, which has long been obsolete – and no longer works -, a comprehensive framework for sustainable food systems, and critical raw materials act, for example.
The EC work program is essentially focused on the environmental and digital transition, following what has already been done in 2022, with several proposals regarding infrastructure for sustainable fuels, energy transition, and commitment to renewable energies. There are eleven legislative proposals on environmental matters and nine of a digital nature.
They are all critical to achieving the goals of CO2 emissions by 2050, in line with legislative packages that the European Parliament is already working on, such as Refuel Aviation, ETS, AFIR, or FuelEU Maritime, for example. But it is never too much to remember that, along with the effects of the invasion and war in Ukraine, the energy transition will lead to price increases, in many cases at high rates, so it is essential to guarantee mechanisms to protect those most vulnerable. At least the motto “no one will be left behind” proposed by the EC and defended by us in the European Parliament would mean a concrete support.
Avoiding price increases, given the current circumstances, will not be possible without a decrease in demand, which is not easy. Invest in sustainable energy to obtain economies of scale, strong support for the most vulnerable, and lower consumption will be necessary.
Regarding transports, the Commission’s program for 2023 is not as ambitious as in 2022, and I would highlight the revision of the Airport Slot Regulation – outdated for a long time since 2011.
The aviation sector is undergoing restructuring and transformation. It is an excellent opportunity to design a modern, functional slot allocation system in line with sustainability criteria, avoiding aberrations such as those we have seen in the last two years with the proliferation of so-called ghost flights. The proposal for the digitalization of travel documents and facilitation of travel also seems very important, especially after we have experienced many restrictions on travel during the pandemic period.
Later this year, specifically at the end of October, the Commission will present its legislative proposal for Short Term Rentals. An important proposal for the Tourism sector, specifically for countries with a vital component of this sector in their Gross Domestic Product, as is the case of Portugal. It is not part of the EC work program for 2023, but it will undoubtedly be a structuring theme on our agendas in the European Parliament. At least there is a possible revision of Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), I hope that after 8 years claiming and presenting proposals for a budgetary line for Tourism this requirement lefts the drawing board.