Engagement with the Eye on the Next Policy Cycle

A brief calm permeated the Eurobubble around the Easter break, which saw policy wonks spread to various exotic or less exotic locations for a brief (or not so brief) holiday. With the return of business as usual, we had the last flurry of activity, as the European Commission scrambled to publish its last outstanding legislative proposals so that the co-legislators can – hopefully - go through them before next year’s European Parliament elections. The 25th of April officially marked the publication of the last proposals making up the Digital Single Market, signaling the end of this Commission’s work on this priority.

This means that the European Commission is already slowing down its rhythm and, instead of drafting new legislation, will be focusing on the next Commission. Indeed, some departments and units have since the start of the year been seeking the next big thought leadership piece as they are developing their policy priorities for the 2019-2024 policy cycle.

It is no secret that in EU policymaking, the earlier one enters the game, the better the chances of success. When the new Commissioners sit in their desks around September 2019, they will already be presented with a long reading list of things they must decide how and whether to implement. This means that a fairly good share of policy priorities will have been set before the new Commission begins publishing its and Work Programmes.

And there are, indeed, quite a few pointers as to what will likely be on the plates of Commissioners, at least in the digital sphere. For starters, how to deal with illegal content online, on which we have already seen multiple consultations, data gathering exercises and Commission outputs. Will Commissioners choose to go for a wholesale review of the E-Commerce Directive, which enshrines the limited liability of online platforms for posted content, or choose to chip away at the current regime with targeted initiatives for specific types of content?

Artificial intelligence will also certainly be on the agenda, most likely as a cross-cutting issue for different policy areas. A strategy was published on the 25th of April and a code of ethics on AI is expected before the end of the year. But some kind of legislation, horizontal or sectoral, can be reasonably expected in the next policy cycle. Copyright, a fairly contentious issue, and blockchain are also likely to have their time in the spotlight.

Stakeholders are thus presented with a dilemma going all the way to the core of how they see their government relations function. Will they choose to be proactive or reactive; shape the agenda or react to the output of the institutions? This is a question each organisation active in EU policymaking must answer for itself and depends on a range of factors. Nevertheless, experience has shown that once the main outlines of a proposal have been shaped at conception stage (which will be in the coming year or so), making substantial changes or blocking legislation altogether is far more of an uphill struggle. A wise strategist knows that terrain can be the tipping point between success and failure, so choosing where (and when) to do battle counts for a lot.

Eurobubble players will find out that working now to get their ideas included in the regulatory priorities of the incoming Commission and appropriately framing these priorities can save them substantial effort, time and money over the course of the next five years. The time for engagement and constructive ideas is now.


Elias Papadopoulos


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