Priority 4 - A Stronger Europe in the World

© European Union, 2021

Foreign Policy

European Neighbourhood Policy

International Cooperation and Development

Humanitarian Aid, Civil Protection

Trade Policy

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EU Enlargement

European Commission Work Programme 2024

Strengthening Partnerships


Non-legislative, Q2 2024.

European Defence


Non-legislative: On the 5th of March 2024, the European Commission published a Joint Communication on a new European Defence Industrial Strategy: Achieving EU readiness through a responsive and resilient European Defence Industry (press release).

Problem: The steep increase in regional and global threats, including the return of high-intensity conventional warfare in Europe, challenges the EU's security and defence readiness. This has highlighted the urgent need for a step-change in the speed and scale at which the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB) can develop and produce necessary military equipment. Furthermore, the fragmentation of defence investments along national lines has weakened the EDTIB, resulting in inefficient use of resources and a reliance on non-EU sources for defence acquisitions, thereby undermining the EU's strategic autonomy and security.

Objective: The strategy aims to address these challenges by proposing a comprehensive and ambitious approach to enhance the EU's defence readiness through a responsive and resilient European Defence Industry. It introduces the European Defence Industry Programme (EDIP), alongside a set of measures and the European Defence Fund (EDF), to strengthen the industrial pillar of EU defence readiness. This involves ramping up production capabilities, fostering innovation and competitiveness within the EDTIB, and ensuring security of supply across the EU. Moreover, it seeks to incentivise collaboration among member states in defence spending and investment to bolster their military capabilities and, by extension, the EU's overall defence posture and strategic independence.

Subject Matter: Central to the strategy is the European Defence Industry Programme (EDIP), designed to underpin the ambitious approach towards strengthening the industrial pillar of EU defence readiness. The European Defence Fund (EDF), illustrating a robust commitment to facilitating a step-change in defence capabilities and readiness across the Union, complements this initiative. The EDIP and EDF collectively aim to address critical gaps in defence investment, production capabilities, and technological advancement, thereby ensuring the EU's strategic autonomy and its ability to respond effectively to security challenges. Furthermore, the strategy emphasises the imperative of enhancing defence industrial readiness across the Union. This encompasses a concerted effort to streamline and strengthen the production capabilities of the EDTIB, ensuring that it can meet the urgent and complex demands of contemporary and future security environments. Moreover, the strategy addresses the fragmented nature of defence spending and investment within the EU, calling for enhanced collaboration among member states. By prioritising joint investments and procurement, the EU seeks to overcome inefficiencies, reduce duplications, and maximise the impact of its defence budget. The strategy also recognises the importance of securing a reliable supply chain for defence materials and technologies. It proposes measures to ensure the availability of critical components and raw materials, thereby mitigating the risk of supply disruptions that could compromise the EU's defence readiness. This includes the establishment of an EU-wide security of supply regime, designed to enhance solidarity and effectiveness in response to supply crises and security challenges. In addition, the Communication underscores the need to facilitate access to finance for the defence sector, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups that are at the forefront of innovation. By improving the defence industry's access to both private and public finance, the EU aims to support the growth and competitiveness of its defence technological and industrial base. Enhanced cooperation with NATO and potential synergies in areas like supply chain security is discussed. To ensure progress member states are invited to procure at least 40 per cent of defence equipment in a collaborative manner by 2030 while ensuring that by the same time the value of intra-EU defence trade represents at least 35 per cent of the value of the EU defence market.

European Commission Work Programme 2023

Climate and Security Nexus


Non-legislative Act: On the 28th of June 2023, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published a Joint Communication on a new outlook on the climate and security nexus: Addressing the impact of climate change and environmental degradation on peace, security and defence (press release).

Problem: Climate change and environmental degradation pose increasing risks to international peace and security. Extreme weather events, rising temperatures and sea levels, desertification, water scarcity, threats to biodiversity, environmental pollution and contamination, and loss of livelihoods threaten the health and well-being of humanity. These conditions can create the potential for greater migratory movements and displacement, pandemics, social unrest, instability, and insecurity.

Objective: To address these massive challenges, the Joint Communication aims to establish an enhanced framework and proposing concrete measures for climate adaptation and mitigation. The general aim is to strengthen climate and environment-informed planning, decision-making, and implementation through enhanced evidence-based analysis and foresight. Moreover, it seeks to operationalise the climate and security nexus in EU external action from policy to implementation.

Subject Matter: The Joint Communication proposes several key actions at the EU level to address the significant impact of climate change and environmental degradation. Firstly, the High Representative and the Commission, in collaboration with EU member states and international partners, will champion and support ambitious and innovative proposals to further align Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) strategies and financial flows with the Paris Agreement goals. This provision aims to ensure that international financial flows are in line with global climate goals, thereby promoting sustainable development. Secondly, guided by the precautionary principle, the Commission and the High Representative will support international efforts to comprehensively assess the risks and uncertainties of climate interventions, including solar radiation modification. They will promote discussions on a potential international framework for its governance, including research-related aspects. Thirdly, the European External Action Service (EEAS) will seek closer cooperation between EU and UN experts on the ground. Thereby, greater synergies between their respective activities and further explore joint initiatives shall be created, such as in training and capability development. Moreover, the EEAS and relevant Commission services will further integrate climate change and environmental considerations in dialogues with bilateral partners, regional organisations, and various civil society organisations where relevant. To this end, the Communication emphasises the need for a holistic approach to climate security, incorporating climate considerations into a wide range of dialogues and partnerships. Fourthly, the High Representative and the Commission shall consult with NATO to set up a structured dialogue to address the manifold linkages related to climate change, environmental degradation, security and defence. Therefore, synergies between both organisations shall be explored and possible cooperation in areas of mutual benefit identified. Lastly, the relevant Commission services and EEAS will convene climate, environment and security dialogues in priority regions of concern. These dialogues aim to support spaces for discussion of specific challenges and to foster cooperation.

Security and Defence Dimension of Space


Non-legislative Act: On the 10th of March 2023, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published a Joint Communication on the European Union Space Strategy for Security and Defence (press release).

Problem: The functioning of economies, citizens and public policies increasingly depends on space infrastructure, which is therefore critical for the strategic autonomy as well as the digital and green transition of the Union. Due to the geopolitical context of increasing power competition, the EU needs to develop a Space Strategy for security and defence to ensure its competitiveness and resilience.

Objective: The Strategy is aimed at ensuring the Union’s competitiveness and resilience in space, in order to defend the EU’s strategic interests. The EU and its member states nevertheless pledge to continue to promote a safe and secure space environment.

Subject Matter: The first emphasis of the Strategy lies within enhancing the resilience and protection of space systems and services in the EU. To this end, balancing national security interests of EU member states with a comprehensive and consistent Union-wide approach is seen as key for the protection of space systems. Consequently, the Commission shall consider proposing an EU Space law. Additionally, the EU shall strengthen its technological sovereignty in the space sector. For this purpose, the Commission, in cooperation with the High Representative and the European Space Agency (ESA), shall propose a roadmap to reduce strategic dependencies for EU space projects by mid-2024. Moreover, the Strategy aims to increase resilience by developing an autonomous access to space and other capabilities to increase strength and longevity of its space assets. Therefore, the Commission shall develop joint programming between the European Defence Fund (EDF), the EU Space Programme and Horizon Europe to accelerate such the development of such capabilities. The second emphasis of the Strategy lies on the response to space threats. The Commission therefore proposes to explore with member states to develop capabilities to provide Space Domain Awareness (SDA) services to improve detecting and characterising space threats. Moreover, the attribution and reaction to hostile behaviours in the space domain are addressed, due to the highly political implications of such decisions. To this end, the existing toolbox of the Union for this purpose shall be expanded by amending the Council Decision on the security of systems and services deployed, operated and used under the Space Programme of 2021. Complementary to this, the Commission and the member states shall set up regular exercises in the space domain to test and develop the EU’s response to space threats and explore the solidarity mechanisms in case of an attack from space. The third emphasis lies on enhancing the use of space for security and defence. Accordingly, the EU space systems and services supporting security and defence shall be promoted by more systematic cross-fertilisation between EU space, defence and security initiatives. Generally, innovation and competitiveness as well as skills, education, and training shall be fostered and promoted. The fourth emphasis lies on international partnerships. Thus, norms, rules, and principles for responsible behaviour in outer space shall be promoted by engaging with the United Nations, partnering with the US and NATO on space security and defence and enhancing dialogue with third countries on space security.

Relations with Latin America and the Caribbean


Non-legislative Act: On the 7th of June 2023, the European Commission with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published a Joint Communication on a New Agenda for Relations between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean (press release).

Problem: The EU and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are already linked by a close economic and social partnership. However, increasing geopolitical challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or the global climate crisis, require a further intensification of dialogue and cooperation between the EU and the LAC countries.

Objective: The Communication advocates a renewed strategic partnership to address global challenges. Fundamentally, this partnership will be based on strengthening the rules-based international system, promoting sustainable growth and building inclusive societies.

Subject Matter: The Communication refers to several areas of cooperation. Firstly, the political partnerships should be renewed and strengthened, especially through an open and regular political dialogue. Specifically, a bi-regional summit between the EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) will be held in July 2023 for the first time in eight years. In addition, there should be regular meetings at the level of head of state and foreign ministers, based on a permanent coordination mechanism between the EU and CELAC. The bi-regional dialogue shall be complemented by intensified cooperation with individual LAC states and (sub)regional groups. The Caribbean in particular should receive more political attention in the form of a structured dialogue. The existing networks of agreements and bilateral mechanisms ought to be constantly modernised and adapted. As a second area of cooperation, the joint EU-LAC trade agenda shall be strengthened. Key measures in this area include the signing of various bilateral trade agreements, including with Chile, Mexico and the Mercosur group. In addition, cooperation between the EU and LAC countries in the WTO should be intensified. Thirdly, the Communication refers to the Global Gateway Initiative in the context of the green and digital transformation and sustainable economic growth. Therefore, investment through the Global Gateway Initiative shall be mobilised in each area respectively. With regard to the green transition specifically, a new partnership for critical raw materials shall be signed. Moreover, bi-regional ministerial meetings on the environment and climate change should be intensified. In the context of digital transformation, joint actions will be developed in the framework of the EU-LAC Digital Alliance. In the context of economic development, the Communication proposes increased mobilisation of the Team Europe initiative and intensified support for Erasmus+ projects. Fourthly, the Communication also refers to the area of justice and cross-border crime. To this end, capacity building and cooperation with the Latin American Internal Security Committee (CLASI) and the Police Community of the Americas (AMERIPOL) ought to be promoted. In addition, cooperation between the two regions shall be intensified, particularly with regards to drug policy. Fifthly, cooperation on democracy and the rule of law should also be strengthened. Sixthly and finally, partnerships should be strengthened through personal contacts. This shall be achieved through initiatives such as Youth Sounding Boards, projects in the field of education and research, and increased mobility of people between the two regions.

Maritime Security


Non-legislative act: On the 10th of March 2023 the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published a Joint Communication on the update of the EU Maritime Security Strategy and its Action Plan "An enhanced EU Maritime Security Strategy for evolving maritime threats" (press release).

Problem: Due to the high amount of global trade on the oceans, the EU economy heavily depends on safe and secure seas. The European maritime security strategy (EUMSS) has provided a framework for addressing security challenges at sea, however the rapid changes to the overall maritime environment such as climate change and Russia’s war against Ukraine requires more action from the EU in the international security domain.

Objective: The updated EUMSS and its action plan alongside this Communication aims to respond to these new challenges, in line with the EU Strategic Compass for Security and Defence. It is intended to promote international peace and security while at the same time promoting the principle of sustainability at sea.

Subject Matter: First off, the Communication identifies threats to the EU maritime security, namely an increase in strategic competition for power and resources globally, geopolitical competition along key shipping routes around the world, the climate crisis and marine pollution, cyber-attacks targeting maritime infrastructure and lastly ongoing criminal activities such as piracy, organised crime or illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Accordingly, the EU maritime security interests prioritise the security of the European Union, its member states, citizens and partners; preserving global peace and stability; keeping maritime shipping routes free and open; upholding international law at sea and promoting international ocean governance; and protecting natural resources and the marine environment. To protect these interests, the EU shall take action in six strategic objectives through the updated maritime security strategy. The first one regards activities at sea, for which the EU shall organise an annual EU naval exercise, reinforce existing EU naval operations, step up the fight against illegal activities at sea and step up EU-level cooperation on coast guard functions. As the second area of action, cooperation with international partners shall be increased. The EU shall therefore encourage the signature and ratification of international instruments related to maritime security, intensify EU-NATO cooperation, conduct joint naval exercises with partners to boost interoperability and promote international cooperation on information exchange and the surveillance of critical maritime infrastructure. The third strategic objective concerns leading in maritime domain awareness. For this purpose, the EU shall ensure that the Common Information Sharing Environment becomes operational by mid-2024, strengthen the defence maritime surveillance information exchange network (MARSUR), integrate innovative cyber-resilient tools to boost maritime situational awareness and step up coastal and offshore patrol vessel surveillance. The fourth area focuses on risk and threat management, for which the EU shall conduct regular, full-scale, live exercise at EU level focused on harbour protection, deploy assets and surveillance tools, improve early warning and strategic foresight, enhancing maritime domain awareness in the Arctic. For the fifth set of actions to enhance capabilities, the EU shall develop common requirements and concepts for technology in defence, build interoperable systems to monitor critical maritime infrastructure and building up joint testing and experimentation exercises. The sixth area of action regards education and training, for which the EU shall boost cyber-, hybrid- and space-related security skills and conduct dedicated training programmes open to non-EU partners.

Good Governance


Non-legislative Act: On the 3rd of May 2023, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published a Joint Communication on the fight against corruption (press release).

Problem: Corruption poses a threat to the democracy, society and economy of the EU. It undermines political institutions by diluting their credibility and hampers their ability to deliver effective public policies. Nonetheless, even conservative estimates suggest that corruption costs the EU economy at least 120 billion euro per year. Therefore, fighting corruption is key to uphold the effectiveness of Union policy making, the economy, and to maintain the rule of law.

Objective: To combat corruption, the Commission has adopted two proposals alongside this Communication. One of them is aimed to update and harmonise EU law on the definitions and penalties of corruption offences. The other proposes a complementation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) toolbox with dedicated sanctions on fighting corruption. The Communication is aimed to give context to these policy actions by outlining a comprehensive and systematic strategic approach to fighting corruption.

Subject Matter: Firstly, the Communication elaborates on the definitions, contexts and implications of corruption. Thereby, it is stated that an effective fight against corruption needs to build on measures enhancing transparency, integrity and accountability in public life. To this end, anti-corruption approaches need to regulate conflict of interests, lobbying and revolving doors. Moreover, special attention needs to be paid to organised crime, since corruption plays an integral part in that area. Secondly, the Communication outlines a Union wide anti-corruption framework. To that end, the proposal for a Directive adopted alongside the Communication establishes concrete definitions and penalties for corruption offences, ranging from misappropriation to obstruction of justice. Moreover, the Directive defines consistent penalty levels, while taking possible aggravating and mitigating circumstances into account. Therefore, it addresses corruption in both public and private sector, and also sets out clear monitoring and reporting requirements. On the side of prevention, the Directive requires member states to conduct awareness-raising campaigns, as well as research and education programmes. Furthermore, it sets out a definitive set of rules to improve the coordination of actions at national and EU level. In addition, the Directive shall also strengthen enforcement by improving the capacity, specialisation and access to the relevant investigative tools for authorities. Apart from the proposed Directive, the Communication outlines broader measures to establish an EU anti-corruption strategy. A strategy at Union level would ensure that legislative loopholes are not addressed individually, but that legislature is instead mainstreamed in all relevant policy sectors. This shall be achieved by mapping common high-risk areas for corruption by 2024 or updating transparency rules in tax legislation. Furthermore, the EU Anti-money Laundering Directive, initiatives to combat organised crime and guaranteeing the independence and impartiality of national bodies are key to the EU anti-corruption strategy.


Proposal: On the 3rd of May 2023, the European Commission published a Proposal for a Directive on combating corruption, replacing Council Framework Decision 2003/568/JHA and the Convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union and amending Directive (EU) 2017/1371 of the European Parliament and of the Council (press release).

Problem: Corruption poses a threat to the democracy, society and economy of the EU. It undermines political institutions by diluting their credibility and hampers their ability to deliver effective public policies. Therefore, fighting corruption is key to uphold the effectiveness of Union policy making, the economy, and to maintain the rule of law. While there are legislative instruments in place at Union and national level, they show a lack of comprehensiveness and effectiveness.

Objective: The proposed Directive aims to address shortcomings of current anti-corruption legislation, by improving its preventive and repressive toolbox, as well as by ensuring coherence across member states. It is, therefore, in line with the EU Security Union Strategy (2020-2025) and the EU Strategy to tackle Organised Crime.

Subject Matter: The first major purpose of the Proposal is to strengthen the prevention of and the fight against corruption. To this end, the Proposal emphasises the need for adequate risk assessment processes as well as improved education and research programmes. Consecutively, member states are required to entertain specialised bodies with sufficient resources to exercise these tasks. Furthermore, member states shall provide specialised anti-corruption training for competent authorities. The second major focus of the Proposal lies on establishing harmonised definitions of minimum rules, criminal offences and their respective sanctions. To this end, the Proposal defines specific offences, such as bribery, misappropriation or obstruction of justice. Furthermore, member states are required to criminalise the acquisition, possession or use of property derived from corruption for individuals who were not personally involved in the offence. Moreover, the minimum maximum penalty for corruption offences shall be increased to between four and six years. In addition, the Directive defines aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Lastly, the cooperation between relevant national authorities and authorities at Union level shall be strengthened.

Economic Security


Non-legislative Act: On the 20th of June 2023, the European Commission together with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy published a Joint Communication on ‘European Economic Security Strategy’ (press release).

Problem: Today, the EU is facing a number of challenges for its security, primarily related to the resilience of supply chains, physical and cyber security of critical infrastructure, technology security and technology leakage and the weaponisation of economic dependencies.

Objective: The document aims to present a comprehensive strategy to enhance European economic security in the face of emerging global challenges. Hence, the technological sovereignty and resilience of EU value chains, research security, economic security, and cooperation with third countries on economic security issues shall be promoted.

Subject Matter: Firstly, the Communication highlights the importance of export controls of dual-use items, which are primarily implemented by member states. While the established dual-use export control architecture is seen as effective, there is a need for greater flexibility and coordination at the EU level. Hence, the Communication proposes a review of the current framework to improve its effectiveness and efficiency. Furthermore, risks associated with the leakage of dual-use technologies such as Quantum, Advanced Semiconductors, or Artificial Intelligence are outlined. To this end, a collective risk assessment process with EU member states and private stakeholders is proposed. Similarly, the Commission also suggests to identify and assess risks to the EU’s economic security that threaten its key interests within clearly defined parameters, taking into account the evolving geopolitical context. Moreover, the risk of weaponisation of economic dependencies or economic coercion by third countries is also addressed. Therefore, to enhance the resilience of supply chains, the physical and cyber security of critical infrastructure, and technology security shall be enhanced. Subsequently, a list of strategic technologies critical for economic security shall be set up, with a focus on technologies that have a high risk of civil military fusion and misuse for human rights violations. Furthermore, the Communication emphasises the need for cooperation with a broad range of partners, including long-standing like-minded partners and others with whom the EU shares common interests. To this end, bilateral and plurilateral cooperation instruments, like Free Trade Agreements, Digital Partnerships or Green Alliances, shall be promoted to enhance economic security. Additionally, measures to respond to inbound investments affecting security and public order are addressed. Thereby, a revision of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Screening regulation is suggested, and member states are encouraged to implement national FDI screening mechanisms. Lastly, a number of measures are proposed to improve research security for technologies deemed to be critical for economic security. Hence, a systematic and rigorous enforcement of tools to prevent EU-funded technology leakage is suggested. In addition, a Toolkit on Tackling Foreign R&I Interference shall be developed to raise awareness and build resilience in the R&I sector across Europe.

Follow-up: EU Strategic Compass for Security and Defence


Legislative procedure completed: On the 7th of July 2023, the European Parliament and the Council reached an agreement on the Regulation supporting ammunition production (ASAP). The regulation is intended to enhance the Union’s capacity to increase its ammunition and missile production (press release).

Proposal: On the 3rd of May 2023, the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on supporting ammunition production (ASAP) (press release).

Problem: Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine exacerbated the imminent danger to the security of supply of relevant defence products within the Union. This crisis has highlighted vulnerabilities in the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB), particularly concerning the timely availability and supply of ground-to-ground and artillery ammunition, as well as missiles. Moreover, there's a need to address the obsolescence of relevant defence products and ensure they are usable by end users. Lastly, challenges exist in optimising, expanding, and modernising production capacities for these defence products.

Objective: The Regulation aims to urgently strengthen the responsiveness and ability of the EDTIB. Its primary objective is to ensure the timely availability and supply of relevant defence products, particularly ground-to-ground and artillery ammunition, as well as missiles. This includes financial support for industrial reinforcement for the production of these defence products in the Union, including through the supply of their components. Moreover, the Regulation seeks to establish mechanisms, principles, and temporary rules to secure the timely and lasting availability of these defence products to their acquirers in the Union. Correspondingly, it promotes cross-border industrial partnerships and aims to improve access to finance for relevant economic operators.

Subject Matter: The Regulation revolves around establishing a comprehensive set of measures to bolster the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB). Thereby, a cornerstone of the Regulation is the introduction of an instrument that provides financial support for the industrial reinforcement of the production of these defence products within the Union. This includes not only the end products but also their essential components. To this end, the Regulation emphasises the significance of optimising, expanding, and modernising existing production capacities. In addition, the importance of establishing new production capacities is underscored, especially concerning relevant defence products or their components and corresponding raw materials. This is particularly pertinent when these components and raw materials serve as direct input for the production of the main defence products. Moreover, the Regulation promotes the establishment of cross-border industrial partnerships. These partnerships can manifest in various forms, including public-private partnerships or other modes of industrial cooperation. Such cooperative endeavours aim to coordinate the sourcing or reservation of components and the corresponding raw materials. Additionally, they seek to synchronise production capacities and production plans across member states. Another pivotal aspect of the Regulation is its focus on testing and reconditioning certification of relevant defence products. This is crucial to address any obsolescence issues and to ensure that the products remain usable by end users. Hence, the Regulation recognises the importance of training, reskilling, or upskilling personnel associated with the activities mentioned. This shall not only ensure the quality and reliability of the products but also foster a skilled workforce that can adapt to the evolving needs of the defence industry. Lastly, the Regulation sets clear boundaries on what actions are not eligible for funding. For instance, actions related to the production of goods or services prohibited by international law, or those related to the production of lethal autonomous weapons without meaningful human control, are explicitly excluded.

European Commission Work Programme 2022

Ukraine War - Temporary Crisis Framework


Non-legislative Act: On the 24th of March 2022 the European Commission published a Communication regarding Temporary Crisis Framework for State Aid measures to support the economy following the aggression against Ukraine by Russia (press release).

Problem: In the light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, restrictive measures have been imposed against Russia as well as Belarus, due to its role in facilitating Russia’s military aggression. Following EU sanctions, Russia itself decided to take certain restrictive economic counter measures. Shrinking demand, interruption of existing contracts and projects, with the consequent loss of turn-over, disruptions in supply chains, in particular of raw materials and pre-products, as well as the scarcity of other inputs have been the consequences. Additionally, the displacement of Ukrainian citizens both internally and in neighbouring countries has led to an unprecedented inflow into the EU of refugees, resulting in major humanitarian and economic difficulties.

Objective: Specific criteria are needed for the assessment of the compatibility with the internal market of State aid measures that member states may have to take in order to counter the economic effects of the sanctions imposed by the EU, its international partners as well as Russia’s responsive counter measures. The aim is to introduce coordinated economic response of member states and EU institutions to mitigate the immediate social and economic negative repercussions in the EU, to preserve economic activities and jobs, and to facilitate the structural adjustments needed in response to the new economic situation created by the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.

Subject Matter: The Communication defines the possibilities that member states have under EU State aid rules to ensure liquidity and access to finance for enterprises, especially SMEs, that face economic challenges under the current crisis. Member states are encouraged to make specific social payments to non-commercial energy consumers, which could help them afford their energy bills in the short term, or provide support for energy efficiency improvements, while ensuring effective market functioning. Additionally, tax and/or levy reduction, a reduced rate to the supply of natural gas, electricity or district heating or reduced network costs are suggested. Further, member states are invited to consider, in a non-discriminatory way, setting requirements related to environmental protection or security of supply for granting aid by requiring investments in energy efficiency, reducing the energy consumption relative to economic output e.g. by reduced consumption for production processes, heating, or transportation as well as requiring the beneficiary to meet a certain share of energy consumption needs by renewable energies.


Legislative procedure completed: On the 24th of May 2022, the Proposal for a temporary trade liberalisation with Ukraine was adopted by the European Parliament and Council. All import duties on Ukrainian exports to the EU, in particular on industrial goods, fruit and vegetables as well as agricultural products, will thereby be eliminated for one year (press release).

Proposal: On the 27th of April 2022 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on temporary trade liberalisation supplementing trade concessions applicable to Ukrainian products under the Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and Ukraine, of the other part (press release).

Problem: Due to the unprovoked Russian military aggression against Ukraine, Ukraine’s ability to trade with the rest of the world has been affected negatively. Accordingly, upon Ukraine’s appeal, the Union agreed to facilitate as much as possible the trade conditions to enable the country to maintain its trade position with the rest of the world and further deepen its trade relations with the Union.

Objective: Supporting and fostering the existing trade flows from Ukraine to the Union and further establishing conditions for enhanced economic and trade relations leading towards Ukraine's gradual integration in the EU Internal Market are the main objectives.

Subject Matter: Measures shall include facilitating overland logistics and increasing the degree of market liberalisation, thus adding flexibility and certainty for Ukrainian producers. Trade-liberalisation by the temporary suspension of all outstanding for products such as industrial products subject to duty phase out by the end of 2022, fruits and vegetables subject to the entry-price system and agricultural products and processed agricultural products subject to tariff-rate quotas shall be put in place. The Commission additionally proposes the temporary non-collection of anti-dumping duties on imports originating in Ukraine as of the date of entry into force of this Regulation, as well as the temporary suspension of the application of the common rules for imports with respect of imports originating in Ukraine. Lastly, in order to reflect on the success of the trade-liberalising measures, the Commission’s annual report on the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area shall include a detailed assessment of the implementation of the measures provided for in this Regulation as well as an assessment of the social impact of those measures in Ukraine and in the Union.


Legislative procedure completed: On the 6th of July 2022, the Proposal on financial support for EU fisheries and aquaculture was adopted. Fishers as well as producers and fishing and aquaculture operators whose activities were disrupted as a consequence of the Russian aggression in Ukraine will thereby receive support by financial compensation. The aid is provided retroactively from 24th of February 2022 at a co-financing rate of 75 per cent (press release).

Proposal: On the 13th of April 2022 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation amending and correcting Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 as regards specific measures to alleviate the consequences of the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine on fishing activities and to mitigate the effects of the market disruption caused by that military aggression on the supply chain of fishery and aquaculture products (press release).

Problem: Trade flows of key commodities for EU’s fishery and aquaculture sector have been disrupted due to the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, increasing prices of key inputs such as energy and raw materials. Additionally, the unavailability of transport as well as low supply of grain, vegetable oils and white fish from Ukraine and Russia, are likely to lead to a significant market disruption, caused by substantial cost increases, and trade disruptions, requiring effective and efficient action.

Objective: The proposal introduces measures that shall alleviate the consequences of the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine on fishing activities and mitigate the effects of the market disruption on the supply chain of fishery and aquaculture products.

Subject Matter: The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) is to support specific measures to mitigate the effects of the market disruption by enabling financial compensation to recognised producer organisations and associations of producer organisations which store fishery or aquaculture as well as to operators of the fishery and aquaculture sector for their income forgone, and for additional costs they incurred due to the market disruption. Similarly, a temporary cessation of fishing activities with a maximum co‐financing rate of 75 per cent of eligible public expenditure is proposed. Finally, member states are advised to ensure that relevant calculations for aid on the basis of additional costs or income forgone are adequate, accurate, and established in advance on the basis of a fair, equitable and verifiable calculation.


Legislative procedure completed: On the 14th of December 2022, the Macro-Financial Assistance+ instrument was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council. Subsequently, a memorandum of understanding between Ukraine and the EU was signed on 16 January 2023, and the first tranche of loans amounting to €3 billion was disbursed the following day. (press release).

Proposal: On the 9th of November 2022 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on establishing an Instrument for providing support to Ukraine for 2023 (macro-financial assistance +) (press release).

Problem: Due to the ongoing Russian war, Ukraine's short-term financing needs in 2023 are expected to be substantial, as critical state functions need to be maintained, the overall economy needs to be kept stable and damaged or destroyed national and municipal infrastructure needs to be rehabilitated. It is therefore essential to continue this support in a complementary way, accompanied by reform incentives.

Objective: Therefore, the Commission proposes the creation of an instrument to support Ukraine in 2023 (“Macro-Financial Assistance +”). Through highly concessional loans, the instrument will provide predictable, stable, orderly and timely financial relief in the short term to finance immediate needs, rehabilitate critical infrastructure and provide initial support for post-war reconstruction to help Ukraine on its path towards the European Union.

Subject Matter: Specific objectives of the Instrument consist of promoting macro-financial stability and alleviating Ukraine's external and internal financing constraints. Thereby, a reform agenda moving towards the early preparatory phase of the pre-accession process to the Union will be supported, alongside the restoration of critical functions, the rehabilitation of critical infrastructure and assistance to people in need. A maximum of €18 billion will be made available for assistance under the Instrument in the form of loans over the period from 1 January to 31 December 2023. The relative share of the contributions from the member states corresponds to the relative share of the respective states in the total Gross National Income (GNI) of the Union. The disbursement of the assistance is conditional on Ukraine's continued respect and maintenance of effective democratic mechanisms, the fulfilment of which will be continuously monitored by the Commission and the European External Action Service. The disbursement shall be made in tranches, for which the Commission will set a timetable. In the event that Ukraine's funding needs decrease significantly over the disbursement period compared to the initial forecasts, the Commission may reduce, suspend or discontinue the amount of assistance. The Commission shall inform the European Parliament and the Council of the developments and evaluation of the Instrument by annual reports and present an ex-post evaluation report no later than two years after the end of the provisioning period. The Regulation shall enter into force on the day following its publication.

EU Strategic Compass for Security and Defence


Non-legislative Act: On the 21st of March 2022 the EU’s defence and foreign ministers adopted the Strategic Compass at their meeting in Brussels (press release).

Problem: The increasingly security-threatening environment of the EU requires an increase in the capacity and readiness to act in the field of security and defence, as well as the strengthening of European resilience and more investment in the EU's defence capabilities.

Objective: The strategic compass aims to make the EU a stronger and more effective actor in the field of security and defence policy. In this way, the EU should contribute to global and transatlantic security and act complementarily to NATO.

Subject matter: The strategic compass defines the foundations of the EU's common defence policy. In addition to better coordination of national armies, the development of better instruments against hybrid and cyber threats is also relevant. The compass covers all aspects of security and defence policy and can be divided into four pillars: (1) action, (2) investment, (3) security and (4) partners. In the area of action, the EU aims to guarantee more efficient and faster action in the event of an acute crisis. To this end, in addition to the expansion of military mobility, the EU rapid development capacity is to be established. This will make it possible to mobilise up to 5,000 soldiers trained and equipped to respond to crises through effective command structures, common funding and enhanced financial solidarity, as well as secure communication and forces tailored to specific situations. In addition, in the area of action, full use of the European Peace Facility to support partners should be guaranteed. The European Peace Facility is designed to increase the EU's ability to guarantee security for its citizens and partners. For this purpose, the EU will provide five billion euros outside the EU budget for the period 2021-2027. In addition, an adequate risk assessment is to be guaranteed and monitoring the respect of international law is to be established. In the area of security, the EU aims to strengthen its ability to anticipate and respond to current threats and challenges, including through the development of a European space strategy for security and defence and an intensification of the European role as a maritime security actor. In terms of investment, member states have committed to substantially increase their defence spending to reduce critical gaps in action and support the development of technological innovation in the field of security. Finally, the Union aims to strengthen cooperation and partnerships through the Strategic Compass on Security and Defence. In order to combat common threats and challenges, the EU will cultivate and intensify strategic partnerships such as NATO, the UN and regional partners. In addition, tailored bilateral partnerships with like-minded countries and strategic partners such as the USA, Canada, etc. are to be strengthened. Tailored partnerships will also be established in the Western Balkans and with the EU's eastern and southern neighbours.


Non-legislative Act: On the 15th of February 2022 the Commission published a Communication on its contribution to European defense (press release).

Problem: Besides conflicts and crises in our neighbourhood, climate crisis and biodiversity loss are creating challenges for global security in general and for civil-military operations in particular. The recent Russian-military build-up along the eastern border of Ukraine, in Belarus, and in the Black Sea region challenges the international rules-based order. The present challenges and crises upcoming on and around our borders on land, air and at the sea, as well in cyber spaces, along important maritime routes and in outer space, underline the need to become better prepared, more capable and more resilient.

Objective: Through the new EU Strategic Compass for security and defense (“Strategic Compass”), the member states are working to tackle all threats and challenges more robustly. The European Commission wants to ensure an effective and focused implementation of the innovative instruments and initiatives, support closer defense cooperation between member states and between industries and strengthen the ability to respond in the face of acute crises and long-term challenges. Furthermore, the Commission wants to maintain and enhance close interaction with NATO.

Subject matter: Achieving these goals is only possible by developing, procuring and operating military equipment together. The Communication outlines concrete, new measures and initiatives in a number of critical areas. Firstly, investments for defense research and capabilities developed in EU cooperative frameworks should be stepped up. Through the European Defense Fund (EDF) the European Commission will invest EUR 1.9 billion in defense research and capability development projects answering member states’ capability needs. The EDF’s strategic orientation is provided o.a. through the defense capability priorities commonly agreed by member states within the framework of the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). It is important to ensure that the horizontal policies remain consistent with the European Union efforts to facilitate the European defense industry’s sufficient access to finance and investment. In 2022, the Commission will keep on working with the member states to further facilitate the transfer of EU-funded defense products within the internal market, in particular by supporting the full exploitation of possibilities offered by the Directive 2009/43/EC. Secondly, the synergies between civilian and defense research and innovation should be facilitated and reduce strategic dependencies. Therefore, the Commission will make a proposal that would enable a Value Added Tax (VAT) waiver to support the joint procurement and ownership of defense capabilities of the EU, while ensuring compliance with World Trade Organization rules by early 2023. Further, measures include a possible amendment to article 13 of Regulation 2021/697 establishing the European Defense Fund to reinforce the EDF bonus system when member states commit to jointly acquire and/or own the defense capabilities under development. On third place, the member states should be called upon to continue moving towards streamlined and convergent export control practices. Furthermore, the defense dimension of space at EU level should be strengthened through o.a. enhancing the protection of EU space assets and an adequate governance for EU space infrastructures. Finally, the European resilience should be enhanced. Therefore, gaps and needs must be identified such as steps to address them. Other measures concerning the European resilience address the enhancement of cybersecurity and cyber-defense, of military mobility, such as addressing climate change challenges for defense.


Non-legislative Act: On the 15th of February 2022 the Commission published a Communication about a roadmap on critical technologies for security and defense (press release).

Problem: The fragmentation of Europe’s security and defense capabilities brings economic inefficiencies, reduced operational capacity and increased strategic dependencies with it. Considering the complex global geopolitical situation and the continuing race for new technologies that are relevant for security and defense, the EU and its member states must reinforce cooperation on technologies that are critical for Europe’s long-term security and defense and efforts to reduce related strategic dependencies.

Objective: The roadmap aims to outline a path for boosting research, technology development and innovation (RTD&I) and reducing the EU’s strategic dependencies in critical technologies and value chains for security and defense. It will feed into the EU strategic Compass for security and defense.

Subject matter: These goals should be reached by (1) identifying technologies critical for EU security and defense and boosting them through European (RTD&I) programs, (2) ensuring that defense considerations are better taken into account in civilian European RTD&I programs and industrial and trade policies, such as (3) promoting from the out-set an EU-wide strategic and coordinated approach for critical technologies for security and defense and (4) coordination as much as possible with other like-minded partners under mutually beneficial conditions. Concerning the critical technologies and strategic dependencies for security and defense, the Commission will establish an expert group to facilitate exchanges with member states on critical technologies, value and supply chains. The Commission will present a study on the EU security market to better understand the specific features of the civil market security, and Commission services will produce a paper summarizing the proposals for fostering the adoption of capability-driven approaches to be applied across security sectors. Additionally, the RTD&I should be boosted on critical technologies for security and defense. Therefore, the separation between EU civilian and defense RTD&I needs to be overcome. Further, measures include linking the EU and national programs and instruments supporting RTD&I on critical technologies for security and defense should be linked, such as supporting security and defense innovation and entrepreneurship to create an EU Defense Innovation Scheme. Concretely, the Commission a.o. invites the member states to commit in the Strategic Compass and will review existing EU instruments and propose further ways to encourage dual-use RTD&I at EU level. To reduce strategic dependencies in critical technologies and value chains for security and defense, the Commission is exploring the possibility of adding defense work strands in initiatives and will, together with the member states, identify and report on the need for risk-assessing supply chains of critical infrastructure to better protect the EU’s security and defense interests. Considering the external dimension, the Commission and the High Representative will explore in the context of the EU-U.S. TTC and the recently launched EZ-U.A. dialogue on security and defence how to advance supply chain resilience and secure the protection of citizens. Together with the NATO, they will explore how to promote a mutually agreeable and beneficial interactions between their respective relevant initiatives.


Non-legislative Act: On the 10th of November 2022 the European Commission published a Joint Communication on an action plan on military mobility 2.0 (press release).

Problem: The member states’ forces need to be able to respond quickly and with sufficient scale to crises erupting at the EU’s external borders and beyond. Therefore, military mobility is vital for the European security and defence. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has shown the importance of quick and smooth movement of military aid within Europe. In this context, most member states have taken a case-by-case approach to overcome their national restrictions and enable quick military aid.

Objective: The aim of the action plan is to transform this case-by-case approach towards structural solutions. It shall thereby develop the military mobility initiative from 2017 further for the period 2022-2026 to provide a comprehensive framework to enhance military mobility. Following the direction set by the Strategic Compass on Security and Defence, the proposed action plan shall enable the swift, efficient and unimpeded movement of potentially large-scale forces. It sets out recommended actions that the member states are invited to take forward in a complementary and coherent manner, in respect of the sovereignty of EU member states.

Subject Matter: The strategic approach of the proposed action plan is centred on the need to develop a well-connected military mobility network, based on three pillars. The first pillar sets focus on multi-modal transport corridors and logistical hubs, as well as transport nodes and logistical centres. Member states largely use the same transport infrastructure for both civilian and military movements. Investments in dual-use transport infrastructure, through co-funding from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), shall therefore enable the handling of potentially heavy and large-scale military transports at short notice. As part of this pillar, the scope of the military requirements shall be broadened to cover a fuel supply chain infrastructure; Commission services together with the European External Action Service (EEAS) shall carry out a study by mid-2023 to identifying possibilities to improve long-term infrastructure planning and optimal use; and member states shall look for synergies on energy efficiency in their national strategies to prepare the armed forces for climate change. The second pillar puts emphasis on harmonised rules, regulations, procedures and digitalised administrative arrangements in order to further facilitate swift military movement across the Union. Some key actions under this pillar therefore consist of the European Defensive Agency’s (EDA) support for participating member states to fully implement the technical arrangements for cross-border movement permissions procedures by monitoring their usage and identifying and resolving bottlenecks and obstacles; the monitoring of digital system for the exchange of information on military mobility by the Commission; and an elaboration by the EDA of a concept for an EU-wide logistics IT network by 2024. Furthermore, the third pillar consists of enhanced sustainability, resilience, and preparedness of civilian and military lift and logistical capabilities. Key action includes various assessments by the EDA and EEAS on logistical footprints of large-scale cargo missions and operations and possible sets of emergency measures; an overview per transport mode of all key actors in the civilian domain for emergency and crisis planning and coordination purposes provided by Commission services; as well as conducting a regular basis risk evaluation and risk scenarios from a cybersecurity perspective. Lastly, the action plan also emphasises the partnership dimension by continuing the EU-NATO Structured Dialogue on military mobility, by including military mobility in other security and defence dialogues with relevant partners such as Canada, Norway, and the US, and by setting a particular focus on Ukraine and Moldova with regards to the exploration of dual use infrastructure possibilities.


Legislative procedure completed (political agreement): On the 27th of June 2023, the European Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement on EDIRPA. The Regulation is intended to incentivise member states to commonly procure most critical and urgent defence products. Amongst other changes, the political agreement provides for an amendment of the budget to 300 Million Euro compared to 500 Million Euro as proposed by the Commission. Additionally, the instrument will now primarily incentivise production within Union territory or associated states, for example by limiting the cost of components originating in non-associated countries to a maximum of 35 per cent of the final product (press release).

Proposal: On the 19th of July 2022, the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation on establishing the European defence industry Reinforcement through common Procurement Act (press release).

Problem: The current situation in the defence industry requires urgent policy intervention at the EU level. The lack of cooperation between member states in the defence procurement process has led to delays, inefficiencies, and increased costs. Moreover, market structural changes and the need for better conditions and delivery timelines in the acquisition phase have made intervention necessary.

Objective: The Regulation aims to address the problem by establishing an Instrument to enhance cooperation and coordination between member in the realm of defence procurement. Thereby, it seeks to incentivise cooperation in the defence procurement process, hence reducing costs and improving efficiency. Correspondingly, the general aim of the Regulation is to foster an environment favourable to cooperation within a system of open and competitive markets, reinforcing an industrial sector across Europe, and complementing existing EU programmes and initiatives.

Subject Matter: Fundamentally, the Regulation stipulates that defence common procurement actions, which contravene applicable international law, will not be eligible for support from the Instrument. This includes the procurement of lethal autonomous weapons that lack meaningful human control over decisions related to strikes against humans. Firstly, a central feature of the Regulation is the introduction of an Instrument to stimulate cooperative defence procurement processes among member states. Its primary intention is to benefit the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base (EDTIB), ensuring the armed forces of EU member states have the ability to act, secure supplies, and increase interoperability. Furthermore, the Instrument serves as a dedicated tool to address the adverse effects and consequences of the Ukraine war within the Union, promoting joint procurement actions to address urgent defence needs. The Instrument shall be implemented through a work programme designed to outline the minimum financial size of joint procurement actions and to determine the indicative amount of financial support for actions carried out by a minimum number of member states. Another pivotal aspect of the Regulation regards communication. To this end, recipients of Union funding shall be mandated to acknowledge the origin of the funds and ensure their visibility, especially when promoting the actions and their results. In tandem, the Commission will implement information and communication actions related to the Instrument, ensuring that the broader public and stakeholders are well-informed. Furthermore, to ensure transparency and accountability, the Commission is tasked with monitoring the actions taken under the Instrument. Therefore, the Commission will draw up an evaluation report assessing the impact and effectiveness of these actions by 31 December 2024. Moreover, the Regulation establishes a committee procedure, where the Commission will be assisted by a committee in its endeavours. Notably, the European Defence Agency will be invited to provide its views and expertise as an observer, with the European External Action Service also playing a role in the committee. Lastly, the Regulation earmarks a budget of EUR 500 million in current prices for the implementation of the Instrument. This budget allocation is expected to address the multi-annual financial framework in terms of both the required budget and human resources.

Investigation of Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes


Legislative procedure completed: On 19 May 2022, the Proposal for a strengthened Eurojust mandate was adopted by the European Parliament. This will allow for centralised preservation, analysis and storage of evidence, improved exchange of evidence within the Union, and processing of digital evidence in the prosecution and conviction of war crimes (press release).

Proposal: On the 25th of April 2022 the European Commission published a Proposal for a Regulation amending Regulation (EU) 2018/1727 of the European Parliament and the Council, as regards the collection, preservation, and analysis of evidence relating to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes at Eurojust (press release).

Problem: There is a reasonable ground to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been and are being committed amid the Russian military aggression against Ukraine. While member states as well as Ukraine itself have started investigations of core international crimes, which are supported and coordinated by Eurojust, the Eurojust Regulation does not explicitly allow Eurojust to collect, preserve and analyse such evidence. Thus, there is the urgent need to go beyond the Eurojust’s existing case management system and expand its competences to allow the use of its expertise and experience to support the investigations and prosecutions of core international crimes, including by facilitating the activities of Joint Investigation Teams (JITs), such as the one set up by some member states and Ukraine in the context of the current hostilities.

Objective: In order to coordinate efforts currently deployed by member states to collect evidence, it is crucial to quickly set up central storage, where evidence collected by Union agencies and bodies as well as national and international authorities or third parties such as civil society organisations could be stored. This proposal specifically seeks to allow Eurojust to collect, preserve and analyse evidence in relation to genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and related criminal offences and, when necessary and appropriate, enable its exchange or otherwise make it available to the competent judicial authorities, national or international. Eurojust shall be able to receive and centrally store the evidence from different sources in order to support case building work in national and international investigations in a more effective way and provide additional support to the competent prosecution services.

Subject Matter: The central matter of the Regulation is the collection, preservation, and analysis of evidence related to criminal offences. By extending the categories of data that Eurojust can lawfully process to include video and audio recordings, as well as satellite images and relevant photographs, national and international judicial authorities will be able to benefit from the comprehensive assistance that Eurojust can provide in the ongoing investigations into the main international crimes related to the aggression against Ukraine. The implementation of the digitalization of the data exchange of the agency will be monitored and evaluated. In addition to the horizontal governance rules applicable to agencies, each year Eurojust shall provide multi-annual and annual work programmes and resources programming to the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council a Single Programming Document (SPD). The SPD will set out the objectives, expected results and performance indicators to monitor the achievement of the objectives and the results. As a decentralised agency, Eurojust is subject to internal audit by the Internal Audit Service of the Commission, annual reports by the European Court of Auditors, giving a statement of assurance as to the reliability of the annual accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions, annual discharge granted by the European Parliament as well as possible investigations conducted by OLAF to ensure, in particular, that the resources allocated to agencies are put to proper use.

Blocking Statute


Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Q2 2022.

International Energy Engagement


Non-legislative Act: On the 18th of May 2022 the Commission put forward a Joint Communication on the EU external energy engagement in a changing world (press release).

Problem: Through long-term implications such as the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss and the short-term needs concerning the Russian military strike on the Ukraine, the urge for a green energy transition becomes clearer than ever before.

Objective: The EU aims to ensure a just and inclusive energy transition. Therefore, an updated external energy strategy is needed. The new EU external energy policy will aim to strengthen its energy security, resilience, and open strategic autonomy by diversifying the EU’s energy supply and boosting energy savings and efficiency.

Subject matter: The global green and just energy transition should be accelerated to ensure sustainable, secure and affordable energy for the EU and the world; support Ukraine and other countries that are directly or indirectly affected by the Russian aggression and build long-lasting international partnerships and promote the EU clean energy industries across the globe. Concerning the diversification of the EU’s gas supply, the dependency on Russian gas shall be ended as soon as possible through the REPowerEU plan. Key actions in this area include furthermore the full implementation of the Joint Statements with the US and Canada, the negotiation of political commitments with existing or new gas suppliers to increase gas deliveries to Europe and to ensure the rapid operationalization of the EU Energy Platform and its regional platforms. Besides the end of the Russian gas supply, the dependency on other Russian energy imports should be reduced as well. The EU therefore intends to work with the G7, the G20 and other international fora, as well as bilaterally with the countries concerned, to ensure well-supplied and well-functioning oil markets. Dialogue with the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) should also be pursued to ensure stability and affordability in the oil market. In addition, energy savings and efficiency should be prioritised through key actions such as working with partners, supporting the global transition to a circular economy to reduce energy consumption, facilitating the availability of and access to finance for investments in energy efficiency and savings, and implementing the Global Methane Commitment and the external dimension of the EU Methane Strategy. Another key point concerns the support of partners impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In this field, the Ukraine’s energy system should be repowered and a close cooperation with the neighbourhood is to be ensured. Therefore, the repair and reconstruction of energy infrastructure in Ukraine will be supported; cross-border capacity to enable electricity trade will be increased and the REPowerUkraine initiative will be launched. However, the EU is committed to a leading position in the global green and just energy transition. Besides various key actions to be taken, it is also necessary to promote renewable technologies and energy efficiency in partner countries, to cooperate on research and technology and to ensure access to critical raw materials. To lay down a foundation of the new global energy system, established alliances must be strengthened and new partnerships must be built. In terms of geopolitics and global energy architecture, energy diplomacy is to be stepped up in the EU and member states’ foreign policy. To ensure a successful green energy transition, it must be socially just and fair, leaving no-one behind.

International Ocean Governance


Non-legislative act: On the 24th of June 2022 the Commission put forward a Joint Communication on the EU’s International Ocean Governance agenda (press release).

Problem: The meaning of the ocean for life on Earth is essential. Besides its role in climate regulation is also key for international commerce. Yet, the ocean is also used for unlawful purposes such as piracy, terrorism and human trafficking.

Objective: The EU and its member states aim to reaffirm and update their commitment toward an improved ocean governance to address the many challenges stemming from the ocean’s multidimensional and interconnected role. Therefore, the international ocean governance framework should be strengthened at global, regional and bilateral levels. Additionally, ocean’s sustainability, security, and safety must be guaranteed. Furthermore, the EU aims to build international knowledge for evidence-based decision-making, to result in action and protect and sustainably manage the ocean.

Subject matter: To strengthen the international ocean governance framework, an EU-led cooperation for the ocean shall be implemented in the following sectors: Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs); regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) and Regional Sea Conventions (RSCs). Other tools concern several high-level dialogues and partnerships with partners like Canada and China. Besides, cooperation is ensured by the EU’s financial instruments such as the Neighbourhood, Development, and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) and the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMF AF). Concerning the field of sustainability, the EU records, that the decrease in the global biomass of maritime animal communities and fisheries, such as the shift in species composition will pose a challenge for international and national ocean and fisheries governance. Marine pollution should be fought and the fulfilment of flag States responsibilities by those acting as open registers should be promoted. To make the transition to a global sustainable blue economy possible, the EU will seek to promote economic growth and improve livelihoods while ensuring sustainable use of marine resources and the well-being of coastal communities. To ensure security at the sea, the EU is committed to the rule of law and to guaranteeing peace and security at sea through multilateralism, rules-based regional maritime security architectures and by working with its cooperation partners. Developments will keep being monitored closely by the EU, such as a swiftly respond to any threat to maritime security, cooperating with its partners. Furthermore, safety and decent working conditions worldwide are to be promoted in line with the objectives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Considering the improvement of maritime safety legislation and promoting high-quality standards at global level, the aim is to eliminate substandard shipping, increase the protection of the passengers and crews, reduce the risk of environmental pollution and ensure that operators who follow good practices are not put at a commercial disadvantage. To truly protect and manage the ocean, our gabs in our knowledge of the ocean must be filled. Therefore, Horizon Europe provides 350 million euro a year to support ocean knowledge building and stimulates new ideas and initiatives to tackle ocean challenges. Another 110 million euro a year will be allocated to the European Mission “Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030” for the period 2021-2023.

A Partnership with the Gulf


Non-legislative act: On the 18th of May 2022 the Commission put forward a Joint Communication on a strategic partnership with the Gulf (press release).

Problem: As the Gulf represents a dynamic neighbouring region and an important gateway between Europe, Asia and Africa, the EU sees itself as directly influenced by the security and stability situation of the Gulf region. During these times of insecurity and challenges to the rules-based international order both in the Gulf region and in Europe, the EU would gain from a stronger and more strategic partnership with the Gulf.

Objective: To combat upcoming challenges like the climate crisis, which affect both regions, this Joint Communication proposes a stronger partnership in a series of key policy areas.

Subject matter: To establish a partnership for prosperity, the EU concentrates on different key policy areas. At first place, the EU will seek to strengthen the cooperation of the EU and the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) on economic integration and sustainable business and investment environment. Complementary to the existing EU-GCC trade and investment partnership, the EU will consolidate economic bilateral partnerships with each GCC country. This should also contribute to economic diversification. In terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gulf region represents an important partner in the collective effort to tackle the impact of this crisis. Therefore, the EU will engage with them on long-term recovery instruments and the NextGenerationEU. Another key area represents the field of transport, in which the EU will especially seek to continue improving aviation cooperation with the Gulf countries. Other important policy areas to establish a partnership for prosperity are the maritime safety, digialisation, research and innovation and cooperation on space issues. In terms of the green transition and sustainable energy security, the EU will step up its cooperation with Gulf countries on climate action and clean energy transition by facilitating exchanges and partnerships on renewable energy, energy efficiency etc. Concrete actions points to be taken are to set up a dedicated EU-GCC energy and climate expert group to intensify policy dialogue on green transition at regional and bilateral level; to hold an annual EU-GCC Ministerial meeting on green transition, complemented by a related private sector initiative to identify further joint initiatives etc. Furthermore, the EU aims to guarantee a partnership for regional stability and global security i.a. by improved cooperation on maritime security, a dedicated political-military dialogue and an exchange of good practices in disaster prevention and preparedness. Its action points include the proposal of an appointment of an EU Special Representative on Gulf security, a dialogue on cyber security, the development of a cooperation mechanism for enhanced maritime security and the strengthening of technical support in the area of nuclear safety. Besides, a partnership in terms of global humanity and development should be guaranteed by i.a. stepping up policy dialogue and donor coordination with Gulf donors at multilateral level; identifying opportunities for cooperation on Global Gateway initiatives and promoting Gulf partners’ collaboration with EU institutions etc. Another key aspect represents the partnership for people, which is to be ensured by different measures such as stepping up human rights dialogues with Gulf partners; developing cooperation on inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue to foster human fraternity, tolerance and peaceful coexistence etc. Finally, this Communication aims to institutionalise the cooperation of the EU and the Gulf region through stepping up institutional and organizational exchanges with the GCC General Secreteriat; exploring the possibility of negotiating bilateral partnership agreements with the six GCC member states and by pursuing the implementation of joint activities in relation to health, trade, and investment etc.

The Power of Trade Partnerships


Non-legislative act: On the 22nd of June 2022 the Commission put forward a Communication on a green and just economic growth through trade partnerships (press release).

Problem: In the current unstable geopolitical context, it is necessary for the EU to strengthen its engagement with third countries as a reliable partner. Moreover, the EU is firmly committed to promoting sustainability through its trade agreements in line with the European Green Deal.

Objective: Based on the input and recommendations received throughout the Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) review process, the Commission has developed key action points and policy priorities to make the approach more effective through stronger enforcement provisions.

Subject matter: The EU's TSD approach is values-based and requires more comprehensive commitments from partner countries than is the case with trade agreements concluded by other international actors. Compliance with the fundamental principles of the International Labour Organisation is mandatory. EU trade agreements interact with a wider range of policy instruments, multilateral efforts and development cooperation instruments. Further autonomous instruments to promote sustainable trade should be available to the current Commission by the end of its term. In the spirit of sustainable development, the policy orientation in trade agreements also needs to be adjusted. There is a need for improvement in the following six priority policy areas: (1) the need for more proactive cooperation with partners; (2) strengthening the country-specific approach; (3) mainstreaming sustainability beyond the TSD chapter in trade agreements; (4) strengthening monitoring of the implementation of TSD commitments; (5) strengthening the role of civil society; and (6) improving enforcement by using trade sanctions as a last resort. For sustainable development in trade agreements, the Commission will focus on a number of action points for each policy priority. For example, working with trading partners in a cooperative process will be intensified; trade agreements will be used to promote dialogue with partner countries and, where appropriate, to help them meet the EU's sustainability requirements. Furthermore, the definition of country-specific implementation priorities in the Action Plan should be made more needs-oriented and targeted. The aspect of sustainability should be taken into account in trade agreements in the future. To this end, it should be ensured, a.o., that all chapters of trade agreements are analysed with regard to their impact on sustainability issues in impact assessments and sustainability impact assessments. The implementation of the TSD commitments should be jointly monitored, and the role of civil society should be strengthened, i.a., by enforcing the role of the internal advisory groups (IAGs) in the EU and an inclusive consultation process with civil society in all phases of the life cycle of trade agreements. Finally, it is important to ensure more consistent enforcement of TSD obligations, including by extending the phase of general settlement of disputes between states and compliance with the TSD chapter; the involvement of DAGs in monitoring; and the possibility of applying trade sanctions.

European Commission Work Programme 2021

Strengthening the EU’s Contribution to Rules-Based Multilateralism


Non-legilsative Act: On the 17th of February 2021 the Commission published a Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on strengthening the EU’s contribution to rules-based multilateralism (press release).

Problem: The current geopolitical rivalries between the major powers are destabilizing the global order. Existing multilateral rules and organizations are increasingly being called into question. Yet rules-based international cooperation and a stronger multilateral order are needed right now to jointly confront growing global challenges, such as the COVID-19 crisis.

Objective: The European Union's goal is to work for greater peace and security in the world and to defend fundamental rights, universal values and international law. The Union wants to work for active for cooperative solutions and take the lead in overcoming the climate and biodiversity crises.

Subject Matter: Achieving the goals of expanding global security and global recovery from the pandemic will require a new impetus for the multilateral order. There is a need to develop a more stringent and strategic approach to the EU's multilateral engagement in order to contribute to an effective reform of multilateral institutions. The development of more effective cooperation mechanisms between the EU and its member states and the deepening of the EU's partnerships and alliances with third countries are indispensable for this purpose. At the same time, the EU should strengthen its role in the United Nations (UN) and thus advance measures to manage conflicts as a driving force. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU insists on the need to "build back better" in the global recovery from the pandemic. In doing so, it must ensure that the global recovery is environmentally friendly, digital, inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. In addition, the Communication focuses on the effort to ensure compliance with international standards and agreements. It is necessary to ensure that the UN Human Rights Council acts more effectively and that international judicial authorities and arbitration and enforcement bodies are supported. Furthermore, the implementation of the goals foresees reforms for relevant multilateral organizations. For example, the EU supports the reform process initiated by the UN Secretary-General to make the UN fit for purpose. Moreover, multilateralism should be extended to new global issues, such as international taxation, consumer protection, pollution, etc. For a more effective use of the EU's strengths, it is necessary to strengthen coherence and coordination within the EU. In addition, the EU's ability to actively participate, be effectively represented, and speak with one voice is critical. Funding for the multilateral system is made possible by the "Team Europe" concept. The concept promises to more effectively leverage the collective contributions of the EU and member states in support of agreed policy priorities and in the context of their implementation, and in favor of greater coherence in international fora. The formation of alliances, partnerships and regional cooperation must be strengthened, as well as cooperation with multilateral institutions.

The Arctic Dimension


Non-legilsative Act: On the 13th of October 2021 the European Commission put forward a Communication about a stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic (press release).

Problem: Climate change represents the most comprehensive threat the Arctic is facing and has reached an unprecedented crisis point. Through its environmental footprint and demand for resources and products origination in the Arctic, the EU exerts a significant impact on the region. At the same time intensified interest in Arctic resources and transport routes could transform the region into an arena of local and geopolitical competition and possible tensions The EU’s interests concerning the region could be threatened. The interlinked challenges and opportunities can best be tackled in a coordinated manner and in close cooperation of the European Union with Arctic states, regional authorities and local communities.

Objective: The Communication aims for the EU’s full engagement in Arctic matters. The objectives include the support of the inclusive and sustainable development of the Arctic regions to the benefit of its inhabitants and the tackling of the ecological, social, economic and political challenges of climate change. Furthermore the EU wants to contribute to maintaining peaceful and constructive dialogue and intensifying cooperation in a changing geopolitical landscape to keep the Arctic safe and stable.

Subject matter: To maintain a peaceful and constructive dialogue and to guarantee a peaceful cooperation in the new geopolitical setting different measures must be taken. This includes i.e. the EU’s involvement in all relevant Arctic Council working groups, the push for an All Atlantic ocean research alliance from Pole to Pole and the establishment of a European Commission Office to strengthen and enhance the EU-Greenland cooperation. For making the Arctic more resilient to climate change and environmental degradation measures must be taken in close cooperation with national, regional and local authorities. The European Union should i.e. push for oil, coal and gas to remain in the ground, including in Arctic regions, reduce the quantity of black carbon emissions, support the designation of Marine Protected Areas in the Arctic Ocean and promote faster and more ambitious emissions reductions for Arctic shipping. The inclusive and sustainable development of the Arctic regions to the benefit of its inhabitants should be achieved by the involvement of women, young and Indigenous people in relevant decision-making processes and the improvement of transport connectivity through TEN-T corridor extensions. Additionally the EU will invest in Arctic research under Horizon Europe and boost digital connectivity in Arctic regions through EU space programs and the Connecting Europe Facility

Southern Neighbourhood


Non-legilsative Act: On the 9th of February 2021 the Commission published a Joint Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions concerning the renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood (press release).

Problem: As early as 25 years ago, the European Union and the partners in the southern Mediterranean jointly decided to make the Mediterranean region an area of exchange, dialogue and cooperation in order to ensure peace, stability and prosperity. Especially against the backdrop of the Arab Spring, the challenges facing the region are unmistakable. The challenges of the Southern Mediterranean can be traced back to global trends and require joint action by the EU and partners in the Southern Neighborhood.

Objective: The new Agenda for the Mediterranean proposed in this Communication aims to revitalize cooperation and realize the region’s untapped potential. The perspective of building in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis provides the opportunity to commit to a common and people-centered agenda and the actions needed to implement it. The new agenda also aims to build green, digital, resilient and equitable in line with the principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal.

Subject Matter: The new agenda includes new areas and forms of cooperation. New partnership cornerstones include both an "Economic and Investment Plan for the Southern Neighborhood" to advance long-term, socioeconomic recovery, and joining forces to combat climate change, reduce harmful emissions and accelerate environmental transformation. Furthermore, the new agenda calls for increased commitment to the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, equality, democracy and good governance, as well as jointly addressing the challenges of flight and irregular migration. In addition, the new agenda calls for a stronger commitment to unity and solidarity among EU member states, as well as mutual engagement and joint action with Southern Neighborhood partners. The new agenda proposes a number of actions in key policy areas. With a view to human development, good governance and the rule of law, the new agenda promotes, among other things, international social and labor rights and measures to eliminate violence against women and girls. Preparedness and coping capacities of health systems in the event of pandemics are to be supported. Cooperation in various areas, such as digital literacy, is to be promoted. To strengthen resilience, promote prosperity and exploit the opportunities offered by the digital transformation, the new agenda is to include support for the development of sustainable tourism and participation in the EU's Horizon Europe framework program. Peace and security are to be guaranteed, for example, by investing in the prevention of and fight against radicalization and intensifying dialogs on counterterrorism. In the area of migration and mobility, support is to be provided, among other things, to partners' capacities for effective migration and asylum management.

Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of Ex-Combatants


Non-legislative Act: On the 21st of December 2021 the Commission published a Joint Communication on an EU strategic approach in support of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of former combatants (press release).

Problem: Armed conflicts destabilise states and entire regions, confronting the European Union with direct and indirect consequences, as well as new security challenges. There is thus an urgent need for the EU to act more than ever as a global peace actor against instability and conflicts outside its borders.

Objective: With the help of an updated disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DD&R) strategy for ex-combatants, the EU aims to make a significant contribution to stabilisation and the establishment of lasting peace.

Subject matter: The Communication presents an EU-wide comprehensive strategy for assessing and engaging in DD&R processes. It also proposes ways and means to jointly design and support DD&R measures in affected countries and regions in accordance with international law. According to the established participation criteria, categories of persons eligible for DD&R interventions include abducted children, survivors and other victims; family members and others associated with members of armed groups; returning civilians and persons who have demobilised themselves, etc. The key components of DD&R interventions include disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. The area of disarmament includes measures such as the collection, documentation, control and disposal of weapons. The EU can contribute to disarmament, inter alia by initiating sectoral or general policy dialogue or by providing support measures and technical advice to national and local authorities. The process of demobilisation refers to the separation and/or disengagement of adult members of armed forces or armed groups from command structures and their transition to civilian life. Here the EU can contribute in the form of training to prepare for civilian life or similar. Reintegration describes the process of transition of former combatants and their helpers to life as members of the civilian community. To this end, the absorption capacity of host communities and authorities is to be increased, e.g. by strengthening local administrative structures, capacities and procedures. To address the broad challenges of DD&R, the EU draws on its multidimensional contributions to peace, security and development. To strengthen the effectiveness of the initiative, it is important to use common strategies and instruments of the Integrated Approach. It is necessary that all relevant EU actors coordinate and consult each other at the political, strategic and operational levels. Thus, DD&R efforts need to be coordinated with the EU's activities in the field of security and defence: civilian and military CSDP missions and operations should be in line with the objectives of the DD&R process. Within the framework of the DD&R strategy, the EU will combine immediate action with long-term, geographical, regional and thematic engagement in support of DD&R processes. The task of the EEAS and the relevant Commission service is to develop monitoring and evaluation criteria and to evaluate the findings.

Research, Innovation, Education and Youth


Non-legilsative Act: On the 18th of May 2021 the European Commission put forward a Communication11 on the global approach to research and innovation (Press release12).

Problem: Coping with future challenges like maintaining prosperity and competitiveness, a fair digital transformation or establishing a sustainable industry depends on innovative solutions. Therefore, resources need to be mobilized concerning the sectors of research and innovation. The European principle of an international cooperation in research and innovation, respecting its key values like the academic freedom, is suffering from little financial investment and a global antimultilateral trend. Beside these problems many countries are trying to instrumentalize innovation and research to act out social control and enlarge their global influence.

Objective: The EU wants to face the global trend by presenting itself as a role model for openness in international research and innovation cooperation. Its objective is to support multilateral partnerships of innovation and research. The EU aims to strengthen its leading role to deliver new solutions to challenges in areas such as environment, health, digitalization, society and innovation. At the same time, the EU aims to reach an open strategic autonomy.

Subject matter: The realization of this strategic autonomy should be guaranteed by a flexible bilateral cooperation with third countries in terms of innovation and research. This cooperation should make the realization of European interests and values possible. Additionally resources of science and technology should be mobilized in countries with little income to accelerate the transition to sustainable societies and economies. To maximize the effectiveness and the impact of the actions, actions by the EU, financial institutions and member states should be combined. Concrete measures are planned for all future relevant sectors of the EU. For example common principles are being developed for international cooperation, or guidelines for dealing with foreign interference that targets EU research organizations and higher education institutions should be developed and promoted. By establishing the “New European Bauhaus initiative”, the EU presents an international knowledge management platform. Furthermore, the EU wants to build strong digital partnerships and strengthen the cooperation with industrialized non-EU countries and emerging economies. The EU’s Partnership with counties and regions in Africa and Latin America is also to be deepened.
A first review of progress is will take place at an international conference in 2022.

EU’s Humanitarian Aid


Non-legilsative Act: On 10th of March 2021 the Commission published a Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on the EU’s humanitarian action.

Problem: Humanitarian aid is a central pillar of the EU's external action and highly relevant to its ability to spread its values worldwide. However, humanitarian aid is currently facing a number of challenges, which have once again been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While on the one hand the need for humanitarian assistance is greater than ever before, on the other hand the gap between humanitarian needs and the resources available worldwide is widening.

Objective: Facing the many challenges of humanitarian assistance, the EU aims to give new impetus to its humanitarian aid policy so that it can better respond to growing humanitarian needs.

Subject matter: Priority actions for the EU with regard to humanitarian assistance include promoting flexible and efficient humanitarian operations and funding mechanisms, for example, by developing guidelines to promote equal partnerships with local aid workers. Further it should ensure that EU humanitarian aid is delivered quickly and efficiently to those in need. The resource base for humanitarian action is to be significantly expanded, e.g. by intensifying EU cooperation with traditional and emerging donor countries. Alliances need to be formed and strengthened to reinforce the global humanitarian agenda. In addition, the impact of climate change and environmental factors should be consistently integrated into humanitarian aid policy and practice. To this end, the share of climate change funding for resilience building and climate change adaptation in the most disaster-prone countries and regions should be significantly increased. Risk-aware approaches are to be further developed and applied in this context. To reduce overall humanitarian needs and address the root causes of conflict and crisis, it must be guaranteed that humanitarian, development and peace policies work together. This framework will include strengthening coordination mechanisms for EU humanitarian aid, development, and peacebuilding activities on the ground. In the context of the "Team Europe" approach, cooperation with EU member states will be intensified. Prioritize compliance with international humanitarian law in the EU's external action to protect civilians, support principled humanitarian action, and ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and medical personnel. By organizing a European Humanitarian Aid Forum in 2021 to promote dialogue on humanitarian aid policy issues, the EU's engagement and leadership in humanitarian aid will be strengthened.

Consular Protection


Proposal: On the 6th of December 2023, the European Commission published a Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directive (EU) 2015/637 on the coordination and cooperation measures to facilitate consular protection for unrepresented citizens of the Union in third countries and Directive (EU) 2019/997 establishing an EU Emergency Travel Document (press release).

Problem: There are currently inadequacies in providing consular protection to unrepresented Union citizens in third countries. This inadequacy is particularly evident in crisis situations where the need for prompt and efficient consular support is critical. Moreover, there is a lack of clarity and uniformity in the processes and procedures across member states, leading to inconsistencies in the level of support provided. Additionally, the existing framework does not adequately address the financial aspects of consular protection, creating further challenges in ensuring effective assistance.

Objective: The Proposal aims to rectify these issues by enhancing legal certainty for Union citizens regarding their entitlement to consular protection. It seeks to establish clear roles, coordination, and cooperation mechanisms between member states and Union delegations, ensuring efficiency, especially in times of crisis. Furthermore, the Proposal focuses on improving information provision and communication with unrepresented Union citizens, thereby ensuring they are well-informed about their rights and the assistance available to them. Lastly, it aims to increase the efficiency of financial reimbursement procedures, ensuring a more streamlined and effective process for managing the costs associated with providing consular protection.

Subject Matter: One of the key aspects of the Proposal is to improve legal certainty for both consular authorities and citizens. This involves clarifying the criteria under which a Union citizen is considered ‘unrepresented’ and thus eligible for consular protection from other member states' consular authorities. This clarification is essential to ensure streamlined cooperation between consular authorities supported by Union delegations. Furthermore, the Proposal emphasizes the utilization of the network of Union delegations, particularly in third countries where few member states are present. It proposes the establishment of joint consular contingency plans, also known as ‘Joint EU Consular Crisis Preparedness Frameworks’, for all third countries. These plans are designed to facilitate responses to potential future consular crises. Additionally, the Proposal includes a legal basis for the deployment of joint consular teams. These teams, comprising voluntary multi-disciplinary experts from member states and Union institutions, aim to support local consular services of member states, particularly in crisis situations. Another significant component of the Proposal is the enhancement of information flow between member states, Union institutions, and Union citizens. This improvement is intended to enable citizens to make better-informed decisions regarding travel, thus ensuring their safety and well-being in third countries. Moreover, the Proposal seeks to streamline the financial reimbursements procedures related to consular protection. In the future, member states would be able to directly request reimbursement from the citizens concerned, thereby bypassing lengthy bureaucratic processes. Union delegations would also be entitled to obtain financial reimbursements when they support the provision of consular protection to unrepresented citizens.

European Commission Work Programme 2020

International Cooperation


Legislative procedure completed: The agreement was initialed on 15 April 2021 at the end of the negotiations. The new Partnership Agreement provides the new legal framework for the EU's relations with the 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific states. It includes a common basis at ACP level combined with three regional protocols focusing on the concrete needs of the regions.

Proposal: On the 3rd of December 2020 the European Union and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) reached a political deal on the text for a new Partnership Agreement (press release).

Problem: The European Union and the members of the OACPS represent a significant weight in the world. In order to cope with global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, maritime policy, migration, peace and security, it is necessary to prepare for them together in the course of a new agreement.

Objective: The new agreement aims to strengthen each of the participating regions in their ability to jointly address global challenges. Once in force, the agreement will serve as a new legal framework, but also as a guide for political and economic relations and cooperation between the EU and the members of the OACPS in the years to come.

Subject Matter: The new agreement establishes common principles and covers the following priority areas in which the two sides intend to cooperate: (1) human rights, democracy and governance, (2) peace and security, (3) human and social development, (4) environmental sustainability and climate change, (5) inclusive sustainable economic growth and development, and (6) migration and mobility. Complementing the foundation part of the partnership agreement, the agreement includes three regional protocols for Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, focusing on the specific needs of the regions. The regional protocols will have their own administrative structures, which will include joint parliamentary committees and provide governance for relations between the EU and each region. In addition, an overarching common OACPS-EU framework with a strong parliamentary dimension will be established. Now that political agreement has been reached, the text will go through internal procedures and finally be initialled by the chief negotiators. The signature of the agreement will take place at a later stage in 2021.

Financial Sovereignty


Non-legislative act: On the 19th of January 2021 the European Commission published a Communication on the European economic and financial system: fostering openness, strength and resilience (press release).

Problem: Due to the changing geopolitical balance of power, the UK's exit from the Union, massive technological and societal changes, and an increasingly multipolar global economy, the Union requires an open strategic autonomy and strengthened resilience to help shape global governance structures for generations to come.

Objective: The Communication thus aims to enhance the open strategic autonomy in the macroeconomic and financial field in order to strengthen the EU's role in global politics. This shall be achieved by promoting the Euro, strengthening financial market structures and improving sanctions regimes.

Subject Matter: The first key measure outlined in the Communication, also in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns the completion of the Banking Union while deepening the Economic and Monetary Union to contribute to the resilience of the EU. Furthermore, a stronger role for the Euro would offer benefits in terms of monetary autonomy, greater systemic stability of the global monetary regime, as well as lower transaction, risk management and financing costs. In addition, the role of the Euro in the global economic system shall therefore be strengthened in order to achieve the status of a reference currency, especially in the energy and commodity sectors. As part of this, the Commission promises to greater outreach to public and private sector partners, as well as financial regulators in partnership countries around the world to promote Euro-denominated investment and develop a better understanding of the obstacles to wider use of the euro. Another area of financial policy concerns climate and environmental protection. Accordingly, Union bonds shall be increasingly used as an instrument for financing investments within the framework of the European Green Deal. In addition, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme shall be strengthened and expanded in order to maximise environmental results. As a further measure, the path to a possible digital euro is to be further streamlined. In addition, the Commission shall examine how undue interference through sanctions by third countries in financial market infrastructures of the Union can be prevented and combated. On the other hand, the effectiveness of sanctions imposed by the Union shall be strengthened, as these represent an essential instrument of foreign policy. In the course of this, the EU should, on the one hand, strengthen its cooperation with the G7 partners in this area. On the other hand, the Commission will set up a system for anonymous reporting of cases where sanctions are being circumvented, a database for the exchange of information and lastly a central contact point for sanctions and implementation issues.

Africa Strategy


Non-legilsative Act: On the 9th of March 2020 the Commission published a Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council concerning a comprehensive strategy with Africa (press release).

Problem: There are close ties between the EU and Africa, both for historical and geographical reasons and because of common interests. Numerous changes of an economic, political, social, demographic and environmental nature are creating both new prospects and new challenges for the African continent. Africa's potential is increasing the cooperation with the continent among numerous actors. Thus, Europe needs to adapt the way it cooperates with Africa so that the interests of both sides can be covered.

Objective: To strengthen the EU's strategic alliance with Africa, it is necessary to jointly develop a new comprehensive strategy that addresses the existing challenges and develops measures that ensure stability, peace, security, sustainable economic growth, etc. To this end, cooperation is to be expanded in five areas: A partnership (1) on the green transition and access to energy, (2) on the digital transformation, (3) on sustainable growth and employment, (4) on peace and good governance, and a partnership (5) on migration and mobility.

Subject matter: In the area of a green transition, both the EU and Africa must focus on a low-carbon resource-efficient and climate-resilient future. Innovation has a key role to play here. In addition to investments to strengthen scientific capacities in Africa, more trade should also contribute to the introduction of innovative, sustainable business models, among other things. In addition, a clean circular economy is to be established, among other things, which is crucial for the transition to a sustainable economic model. Joint measures will be taken to improve maritime policy and protect forests. In the area of digital transformation, investments in infrastructure and policies for full digital inclusion are needed. The digital transformation is of significant relevance to Africa and could create a large number of much-needed jobs. In addition, accelerating the digitization of public administration is an essential element for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. With regard to the Partnership for Sustainable Growth and Jobs, it is important to promote trade and sustainable investment in Africa, improve the investment climate and business environment, and foster regional and continental economic integration, particularly through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. It also aims to improve access to quality education, skills, research, innovation, health and social rights. To realize the fourth partnership for peace and security, it is important to strengthen joint engagement and implement more structured and strategic cooperation, with a particular focus on regions where tensions and vulnerabilities are highest. Resilience should be ensured by linking humanitarian, development, peace and security policies at all stages of the conflict and crisis cycle. Finally, a balanced and comprehensive approach to migration and mobility must be developed, based on principles of solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility.



Non-legilsative Act: On the 5th of February 2020 the Commission published a Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on strenghtening the accession process for the Western Balkans (press release).

Problem: In times of increased geopolitical competition, a credible accession perspective for the Western Balkans represents more than ever a geostrategic investment in a stable, strong and united Europe. To secure its influence in the region and spread European values such as democracy and the rule of law, the Western Balkans' firm and merit-based prospect of full EU membership is in the Union's own political, security and economic interest.

Objective: The objective of the Communication is to improve the accession process in the areas of credibility, political governance, dynamization of the negotiation process and predictability regarding positive and negative conditionality.

Subject matter: To promote the credibility of the accession process, it must be based on mutual trust and clear commitments on both sides. To this end, it is essential that the leaders of the Western Balkans fulfill their commitments. Moreover, credibility should be strengthened by a stronger focus on the essential reform projects. Negotiations regarding these should be guided by individual roadmaps in the areas central to accession, such as the rule of law, the functioning of democratic institutions and stronger linkages between economic reform programs. Stronger political management should, among other things, focus on the political nature of the process and signal more leadership on both sides. To this end, regular summits between the EU and the Western Balkans are to be held. All bodies established under the Stabilization and Association Agreements are to focus more on key political issues and reforms. The Communication invites the Member States to systematize their participation in the accession negotiations, against which the Commission will make more detailed proposals on how to proceed with the reforms. The introduction of thematic clusters concerning the negotiation chapters is intended to increase the dynamics of the negotiation process. This will focus the policy dialogue more on core sectors and identify the most important and urgent reforms for each sector. The clusters will be assigned to SAA subcommittees, allowing progress in each cluster to be monitored. Furthermore, the process will be made clearer and more concrete. There is a need for member states to have a clear understanding of exactly what is required of candidate countries. The conditions for progress by the candidate countries should be objective, precise, detailed, rigorous and verifiable. Sufficient implementation of agreed reform priorities should lead to increased funding and investment, as well as increased integration of the country with the EU. On the other hand, persistent stagnation or regression in the implementation of reforms should be sanctioned.


Non-legilsative Act: On the 29th of April 2020, the Commission published a Communication on the support to the Western Balkans in tackling COVID-19 and the post-pandemic recovery. The Communication represents the Commission’s contribution ahead of the EU-Western Balkans leaders meeting on 6th of May 2020 (press release).

Problem: The Western Balkans represent an integral part of Europe and are thus of central geostrategic importance for the European Union. Promoting stability and prosperity in this region is therefore also of significant relevance for the EU. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a negative impact on the region's economy and people's lives, it is important to support European partners in the Western Balkans.

Objective: European Union action is aimed at supporting the Western Balkans in the fight against COVID-19 and in post-pandemic reconstruction. Furthermore, longer-term EU aid to the areas of cooperation will be identified, as well as a further intensification of EU engagement and support for the realization of the European perspective.

Subject matter: As part of the EU's support to partners in the Western Balkans in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU is providing more than €3.3 billion in financial assistance to countries in the region. The financial package includes a proposal for macro-financial assistance and a support package from the European Investment Bank, in addition to the redeployment of funds from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance. This financial support is intended to address the immediate health crisis and resulting humanitarian needs, as well as longer-term and structural impacts on society and the economy. In addition, the Union Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated in this context, providing partners with appropriate assistance from EU Member States. The Commission is also ready to involve the region in the implementation of its "Joint European Roadmap" for the lifting of COVID-19 containment measures. An economic and investment plan to revitalize the economy is envisaged for the post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery period. A total budget of 14.5 billion euros is foreseen for the period 2021-2027. In addition, financial guarantees to support public and private investments in the region will be significantly increased through the specific guarantee instrument of the Western Balkans Investment Framework. The investments are expected to contribute to a green and digital transformation in the region. To improve connectivity within the region and with the EU, EU funding of €1 billion will be allocated to the Connectivity Agenda. In particular, the challenges of young people should be addressed by doubling Erasmus+ funding for the region. All these support measures aim in the long term to transform the economies of the Western Balkans into functioning market economies capable of full integration into the EU single market. A prerequisite for an effective recovery from the current crisis is that the countries continue to deliver on their reform commitments. This also requires a stronger focus on the rule of law and the functioning of democratic institutions and public administration.

Eastern Partnership


Non-legilsative Act: On the 18th of March 2020 the Commission published a Joint Communication about the Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020 (press release).

Problem: In May 2019, the European Commission launched a consultation on the future of the Eastern Partnership. This revealed that while there is a broad consensus overall that the Eastern Partnership currently has a solid policy framework and delivers tangible results for people, governance outcomes need to be significantly improved.

Objective: The overarching policy goal of strengthening resilience is to be achieved through collaboration on the realization of various long-term strategic goals for the Eastern Partnership post-2020. The long-term goals include resilient, sustainable, and integrated economies, environmental and climate resilience, and digital transformation resilience. Furthermore, accountable institutions, rule of law and security, and resilient, fair and inclusive societies are to be promoted.

Subject matter: To achieve the goal of resilient, sustainable and integrated economies, one of the objectives is to further deepen trade and economic integration with and between partner countries. This will involve selective and gradual economic integration of countries into the EU single market, The EU will work with partner countries in various multilateral fora and seek to build alliances on global economic issues. For the implementation of structural reforms investment and access to finance are of great relevance. By increasing the use of the euro in external trade, the EU aims to further strengthen partner countries and their economic relations with the EU and help ensure their economic and financial stability. Furthermore, interconnectivity between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries must be intensified in the transport and energy sectors, among others. Support for research and innovation, as well as reform of the education system, should strengthen the social and economic resilience of the partner countries. The creation and promotion of accountable institutions, the rule of law and security are to be ensured through judicial reforms to align with European standards and an active role for international organizations and experts. Corruption and white-collar crime are to be fought with the help of digital tools. The fight against organized crime is to be carried out, among other things, through security sector reforms and increased cooperation with the EU agencies responsible for justice and home affairs. In the area of environmental and climate resilience, the EU aims to support the ecological turnaround in the countries concerned. This includes improving public health by modernizing medical facilities. Halting the loss of biodiversity is to be addressed, for example, through sustainable agriculture and fisheries supported by the EU. In addition, green growth will also be promoted through awareness raising as well as rapid conversion to sustainable and intelligent mobility. Resilience in digital transformation is to be promoted, among other things, through the development of a digital infrastructure. The goal of a resilient, fair and inclusive society is to be realized, for example, through greater involvement of citizens in political decision-making. In this context, the ability of civil society organizations to get involved in political decision-making processes and policy dialog is to be strengthened. Young people are to be motivated to participate in civic engagement through cooperation projects and volunteering. An action plan against disinformation is to strengthen the media environment. The promotion of human rights in the partner countries is to be supported by the EU. Finally, mobility between countries is to be improved, for example through mobility partnerships and labor migration initiatives.

Human Rights, Democracy and Gender Equality


Non-legislative Act: On the 25th of March 2020 the Commission published a Joint Communication on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024 (press release).

Problem: The EU is founded on a firm commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In a changing geopolitical landscape, the EU's global leadership in the defence of human rights and democracy is becoming even more evident. While much progress has already been made in this area, the defence of human rights and democracy also faces new challenges, including technological and environmental ones.

Objective: The EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy aims to consolidate the EU's longer-term commitment to human rights and democracy as part of a renewed strategic agenda. The objectives and priorities for the next five years in this area of external relations are intended to contribute to the goal of a stronger Europe in the world. The Communication includes (1) strengthening the EU's leadership in promoting and protecting human rights and democracy worldwide; (2) identifying priorities, setting EU objectives and focusing on implementation in the context of new geopolitical, environmental and digital challenges; (3) expanding the human rights toolbox; and (4) promoting a united and more coordinated EU by promoting effective and coherent action.

Subject matter: Looking at the digital turn, new opportunities and challenges can be identified. Digital technologies can promote human rights and democratisation on the one hand by facilitating public participation, but on the other hand they can lead to abusive and unlawful restrictions on freedom of movement and expression. The other fundamental turn in ecology is driven by global environmental problems such as environmental degradation, pollution and climate change. While civil society can increase its voice by reporting human rights violations and demanding concrete action to protect the climate, the negative impacts of climate change can simultaneously multiply challenges to a range of rights. The new action plan sets out five interrelated lines of action: (1) protecting and empowering individuals, (2) building resilient, inclusive and democratic societies, (3) promoting a global human rights and democracy system, (4) new technologies to harness opportunities and address challenges, and (5) delivering results through collaboration. To implement the five new lines of action, the broad range of policies and instruments available to the EU will be used. The focus in implementing the Action Plan is on improving coherence and strengthening the link between internal and external policies. The central role in the dynamic implementation of the Action Plan will be played by the EU Special Representative for Human Rights.


Non-legilsative Act: On the 25th of November 2020 the Commission published a Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council about the EU Gender Action Plan (GAP) III for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the EU external action (press release).

Problem: Although gender equality is a core value of the EU and widely recognized as a human right, not a single country in the world has yet been able to ensure gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls by 2030. Despite some progress towards gender equality, deep-rooted inequalities persist.

Objective: Based on the EU Strategy for Gender Equality 2020-2025, which aims to achieve a Europe of equality, this new EU Action Plan for Gender Equality 2021-2025 (GAP III) calls for a world of equality. It also complements the LGBTIQ equality strategy for the period 2020-2025.

Subject matter: This EU action plan provides a policy framework to boost its level of engagement, which focuses on five pillars. The first pillar concerns strengthening the effectiveness of the EU's commitment to gender equality as a cross-cutting priority of the EU's external action in policy-making and programming. This requires gender mainstreaming in all external policies and sectors, as well as a rights-based and intersectional approach focused on changing gender roles. As part of this, the EU has committed that by 2025, at least 85% of all new external actions will include gender equality as a key objective. The second pillar focuses on promoting the EU's strategic engagement at multilateral, regional and national levels and strengthening the effective implementation of GAP III in each partner country and region. This will require more coordination, cooperation and transparency. In addition, the EU should strengthen its leadership role in achieving gender equality, empowerment and the role of women and girls at the multilateral level and help advance this agenda in international fora. The third pillar of the action plan concerns focusing on thematic priority areas. These include protection against all forms of gender-based violence, strengthening the economic and social rights and empowerment of girls and women, etc. The EU measures are intended to contribute to combating sexual and gender-based violence, among other things. Fourth is the EU's plan to lead by example by creating gender-balanced leadership at the highest political and management levels in the EU. Last is the reporting and communication of results. Provision is made for the establishment of a quantitative, qualitative and inclusive monitoring system to strengthen public accountability, ensure transparency and access to information, and improve the EU's outreach to the world on the results of its actions.

Trade Policy


Non-legislative act: On the 18th of February 2021 the European Commission published a Communication on a Trade Policy Review – An Open, Sustainable and Assertive Trade Policy (press release).

Problem: Trade is seen as a supporting pillar for a dynamic internal market and decisive external action for the EU. Rapid global changes, such as a shift in the geopolitical balance of power, the challenges posed by the transition to a climate-neutral economy or the digital transformation, require a review of the trade policy strategy in order to meet these changes.

Objective: The Communication sets out strategies for adapting the EU's trade policy for the coming decade to take account of the challenges named above.

Subject Matter: First, the Communication refers to trade policy in the context of the Union's open strategic autonomy. According to this, trade policy shall contribute to the objective of open strategic autonomy, i.e. the EU's ability to make its own decisions and to help shape global governance structures with its strategic interests and values. In the course of this, trade policy must be aligned with the values of openness and transparency in order to contribute to diversified, rule-based and sustainable global value chains. Furthermore, this trade policy shall also contribute to strengthening the resilience and sustainability of value chains by providing a stable framework, enabling diversification of sources of supply and providing cooperation frameworks for access to critical goods. In addition, trade policy shall continue to support the EU's geopolitical interests of multilateralism. In this context, transatlantic relations, trade relations with the African continent as well as with China play a central role. In addition to the framework of open strategic autonomy, the medium-term orientation of trade policy is described in the Communication, by identifying six areas of action. First, reforming the WTO is one of the key measures of trade policy in order to restore its full functioning, especially in the area of dispute settlement. Second, trade policy should also support the Union's environmental transformation and the promotion of responsible and sustainable value chains. Measures in this area include commitments on climate neutrality and the promotion of climate and sustainability aspects in the WTO. Third, trade policy shall provide support for the digital transformation and trade in services, for example through the Commission's pursuit of a comprehensive WTO agreement on digital trade. Fourth, the Union will continue to strengthen its regulatory impact, thus removing barriers to trade and gaining a competitive advantage. To this end, the Commission will strengthen intergovernmental dialogue with like-minded partners in strategic areas. Fifth, the EU's trade partnerships with neighbouring and enlargement countries and Africa will be strengthened. This includes efforts to deepen trade relations with other European states and African countries or their regional economic communities, especially with a focus on the ecological and digital transformation. Sixth, there should be a stronger focus in the future on implementing and enforcing trade agreements and ensuring a level playing field. Key measures in this area include, on the one hand, consolidating partnerships in key growth regions such as Latin America, and on the other hand, efforts to protect and promote European businesses, especially SMEs and farms, for example through possible new online tools.

ZEI Related Publications

Western Balkans and the European Union

Ermir I. Hajdini, Nikola Jokić, Teodora Lađić, Ksenija Milenković, Denis Preshova, Flandra Syla

ZEI Discussion Paper C 258 / 2020

Nach einem Jahrzehnt der Vernachlässigungen und Versäumnisse ist die Zeit gekommen, um die vollständige Einbeziehung aller Länder des westlichen Balkan in die Europäische Union voranzutreiben. ZEI Alumni aus der Region, alle unterdessen in eindrucksvollen Positionen in ihren Staaten und Gesellschaften, bringen ihre Frustration, aber auch die Hoffnung zum Ausdruck: Die neue EU Führung muss die unvollständig gebliebene Agenda der EU Erweiterung in den nächsten Jahren komplettieren um sich nicht den Vorwurf einzuhandeln, die Jugend des westlichen Balkan verloren zu haben.

Rechtsstaatlichkeit in der EU als Schlüsselfaktor für eine resiliente Außenpolitik gegenüber Autokraten

Robert Stüwe

In: Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik, Vol. 13, Iss. 3 (2020), S. 271-285. DOI: 10.1007/s12399-020-00817-6

Rechtsstaatsfeindliche Regierungsparteien in der EU buhlen um die Gunst autokratischer Großmächte wie China oder Russland und machen die Union so anfälliger für deren Einflussnahme. Das Zusammenwirken undemokratischer Kräfte von innen und außen untergräbt dabei nicht nur den Rechtsstaat, sondern legt auch zentrale außenpolitische Machthebel der EU gegenüber Drittstaaten – die Erweiterungs- und Außenhandelspolitik – lahm. Zudem verfestigen sich staatskapitalistische Strukturen, welche die Funktionsfähigkeit der gemeinsamen Energiepolitik einschränken. Der Beitrag analysiert diese Entwicklungen und erörtert, was die EU der Autokratisierung entgegensetzen kann.

A Stronger Europe in the World

Stephen C. Calleya

In: Robert Stüwe (ed.): ZEI Future of Europe Observer. Von der Leyen: Europe's New Deal Despite Corona?, Vol. 8 No. 1 April 2020, S. 10-11.

Diese Ausgabe des ZEI Future of Europe Observer bildet den Auftakt für das neu ausgerichtete Forschungsprojekt des ZEI zu den jährlichen Arbeitsprogrammen der Europäischen Kommission. Das ZEI-Projekt baut auf der bisherigen Arbeit des ZEI zur Juncker-Kommission auf. Zur Veranschaulichung des Stands einzelner Gesetzesmaßnahmen der EU soll die ZEI-Monitor-Ampel dienen. Im vorliegenden Heft analysieren unsere Research Fellows die sechs politischen Prioritäten der von der Leyen-Kommission und werfen einen Blick auf die anstehenden Aufgaben.

A Stronger Global Actor - Strengthening the Global Role of Europe

Andreas Marchetti

In: Stüwe, Robert / Panayotopoulos, Thomas (eds.): The Juncker Commission. Politicizing EU Policies (Schriftenreihe des Zentrum für Europäische Integrationsforschung, Bd. 79), Nomos: Baden-Baden 2020, S. 181-191. ISBN 978-3-8487-5597-4.

Das primäre Erkenntnisinteresse des Buches besteht darin, Strategien der Europäischen Kommission beim Umgang mit dem Phänomen der Politisierung in der EU‐Gesetzgebung zu erforschen. In einer Fallstudie zur Amtszeit von Präsident Jean‐Claude Juncker analysieren die Autoren des Sammelbandes, wie die EU‐Kommission zwischen 2014 und 2019 bestimmte politische Schwerpunkte gesetzt hat, um ihre Agenda voranzutreiben. Gegenstand der Analyse sind die zehn politischen Prioritäten der Juncker‐Kommission aus den jährlichen Arbeitsprogrammen seit 2014. Ausgangspunkt der Studie ist das von Juncker proklamierte Selbstverständnis als „politischer Kommission“. Die Bewertung der „Politisierung“ integrationspolitischer Vorhaben fällt dabei ambivalent aus: Auf der einen Seite hat die Juncker Kommission politisierte Themen gezielt aufgegriffen und als Gelegenheiten zur politischen Führung sowie zur Schärfung des eigenen institutionellen Profils genutzt. Auf der anderen Seite sah sich die EU‐Kommission zuweilen gezwungen, bei Krisen und Kontroversen Schadensbegrenzung zu betreiben.


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