Following the signing of the Lisbon Treaty at the end of 2007, 2008 is likely to see a pan-European focus on encouraging the timely ratification of the Treaty. In fact, one of the stated priorities of the new Slovenian Presidency is to secure the entry into force of the Treaty before the next European Parliamentary elections. Slovenia itself hopes to set an example by completing its own ratification process in early 2008, while the Hungarian Parliament was the first to approve the Treaty with ratification taking place on 17 December 2007. Ratification is, however, likely to prove more challenging in other Member States.
Along with the new Treaty, climate and energy issues look set to keep Europe occupied in 2008. With climate change already taking place, the Commission has suggested in its legislative and work programme for 2008 that the EU now needs to identify the sectors and policies that will need to adapt most to the impact of climate change. Actions will include the proposal of a white paper and particular consideration will be given to "the greening of the transport sector". In early 2008, the Commission also plans to present the second Strategic Energy Review. The Review is intended to form the basis of the Energy Action Plan from 2010 onwards and will include a review of the Energy Taxation Directive.
A further priority for the EU over the coming year is the strategy for growth and jobs. As part of this, the Commission intends to focus on making markets work better in areas where its efforts are likely to have the greatest impact on both companies and consumers. In particular, it is looking to enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to benefit more fully from the internal market. On the basis of its assertion that SMEs create most of the jobs and wealth in Europe, the Commission aims to improve the market performance of SMEs by taking specific measures in the form of a "Small Business Act". In the field of competition, businesses should also keep a look out for the launch of a review of the Merger Regulation, the Procedural Regulation and several Block Exemption Regulations. In addition to new work streams, the Commission will also be continuing existing initiatives. In this regard, it has decided that in light of the turmoil in the financial markets, further analysis will be required. This may ultimately lead to suggestions for regulatory change with the Commission working towards ensuring transparency for investors, markets and regulators.
As the legislative and work programme highlights, the EU has a busy year ahead of it. It will be interesting to see how the ratification process for the Lisbon Treaty progresses and how the Commission's legislative intentions unfold. All of this will be set against a backdrop of promoting dialogue between cultures, beliefs and traditions as Europe enters the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.
The European Commission's legislative and work programme for 2008 can be viewed at http://ec.europa.eu/news/employment/071024_1_en.htm.
The Scottish Parliament's European and External Relations Committee is currently consulting on issues within the Commission's legislative and work programme that have implications for Scotland. The deadline for submissions is 25 January 2008. Further details are available at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/s3/committees/europe/LWP2008-consultation.htm.