If Summer started with the publication of the massive “Fit-for-55” package by the European Commission, brace yourself for a hot Autumn/Winter policy season in Brussels: after this legislative heavyweight, a number of key initiatives will be published by the European Commission starting in September. To review them together, here is a list of selected EU policy and legislative initiatives planned for the second half of 2021.
The Health Emergency Response Authority (HERA) proposal will come out in mid-September and it’s going to be a hot topic among health policy enthusiasts. The idea of a new European health authority initially spurred some confusion as to what the fate of the European Medicine Agency would be and speculation about doubling efforts (and budgets). Most of such doubts have been swept away as the Commission clarified on several occasions that two agencies will have clear and distinct roles. While the EMA will stay the designated body evaluating and authorising medicinal products, HERA’s task will mostly focus on better coordinating efforts with regard to preparedness, management, and response to serious cross-border health threats, whereas member states cannot individually do so in an effective way. This will happen e.g., through demand and supply monitoring, supply chain security, optimised public investments, in view of full availability and equal access to medical countermeasures. But pay attention not dismiss HERA as “yet another EU agency”: it will become a key building block in the Commission strategy for a European Health Union, a strategic objective which will reshape the landscape of Health policies and competences in the EU.
The Commission will publish the proposal on Sustainable Corporate Governance in late October, after pushing it back from June. This initiative touches on two main aspects of corporate social responsibility: the due diligence of companies along their value chain; and the responsibility of corporate boards of directors in the definition an implementation of due diligence and corporate social responsibility. The proposal has already proved to be divisive in nature, with some Member States fearing their own national rules will be jeopardised; companies afraid of excessive administrative burdens; and NGOs suspicious that the new rules won’t have a strong enough impact on the ground. While this file has been pushed back, the European Parliament has not been sitting with arms crossed: already in April, the Legal Affairs committee adopted their own recommendations for a directive, helmed by Dutch Socialist MEP Lara Wolters.
Sustainable Products Initiative
The legislative package on the Sustainable Products Initiative (SPI) will be published in December. The package builds on the exploratory work initiated by the Juncker Commission to revamp the Product Policy Framework to make production and consumption more sustainable in the EU. The initiative includes three main actions. The first one is the review of the Ecodesign directive. So far limited to field of energy-related products, the review of the directive will aim to extend the scope of the legislation to the widest possible groups of products and lay down requirements to reduce the overall life-cycle climate and environmental footprint of the products placed on the EU market and contribute to the shift towards a circular economy. It will do so by aiming to achieving longer product lifetimes for example through more durable and reparable products, increasing circular material use rate, reducing waste and achieving higher recycling rate.
The second element of the package is the directive on empowering consumers in the Green Transition. This proposal aims to ensure that consumers obtain reliable and product information, e.g., on repair options and expected lifespan).
Thirdly, the Green Claims proposal will fight greenwashing practices by manufacturers and retailers by setting a standard for the provision of product-related environmental information, most likely following the Environmental Footprint initiative criteria.
Finally, the package may include actions related to the Digital Product Passport (DPP), a digital ID where information about production, processing, and product’s characteristics can be stored as the product moves along the value chain from raw material down to consumers.
The SPI is among the most ambitious packages under the Circular Economy Action Plan, but many ends are still loose: how will the EU Ecolabel and PEF cohabitate under the SPI? Will the Green Claims ensure a level playing field and actually drive consumers’ purchasing behaviour? Will the DPP be able to rely on a harmonised and technology neutral model? What will be the role existing traceability and labelling schemes?
Nature and biodiversity
The Commission is also set to publish its proposal on binding nature restoration targets, as promised in the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The aim of the proposal is to restore EU degraded ecosystems to protect biodiversity and better adapt to and mitigate climate change. Friction is expected between NGOs and businesses, as a number of trade organisations are calling for voluntary targets for more realistic and concrete results. Beside this proposal, the Commission will also publish a soil strategy, a revision of the Environmental Crime Directive, and a proposal on managing the risks od deforestation and forest degradation.
At Lykke Advice we will be following all these and more policy files to help our clients sail Brussels’ turbulent waters. If you seek help to monitor and influence the EU policymaking, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our tailored services.