There were no real surprises to his hit list given how widely they had been leaked but that did not stop some MEPs booing and shouting “shame” when the air and waste package were singled out. He promised that this was just the start of a dialogue with Parliament and Council and that they would wait for their views before formalising the withdrawals. Well the majority of MEPs and at least eleven member states have made quite clear their views on the risk of downgrading the environmental commitment and it doesn’t seem to have had much impact. The legislative initiative rests squarely with the Commission and there seems little prospect of a Yuletide reprieve. Quite what the Environment Committee are going to do with all the spare time on their hands remains to be seen but an early session with Timmermans seems a good start.
There was a certain irony in the Commission borrowing the Parliament’s own election slogan and stating “This time, things really are different”. If you’re a number cruncher they certainly are – José Manuel Barroso averaged 130 new initiatives a year compared to the 23 outlined by Juncker. Will the gamble pay off? If the slimmed down approach delivers the jobs and growth promised there will be few grumbles and there seems a willingness to accept Timmerman’s argument that just because an issue is important doesn’t mean that the EU has to act on it.
Palestine hit the headlines with a hard fought compromise between left and right on recognition of Palestinian statehood “in principle”, rather leaving the door open for all sides to interpret what that really means. Turkey was also in the firing line following the arrests of journalists and breaches of freedom of expression. But there was dancing in the streets of Moldova as the parliament agreed to open the EU market to their apples, grapes and plums.
There was an element of end-of-term prize giving to the plenary session. Martin Schulz was all smiles having been named as the Charlemagne prize winner for 2015 as “an outstanding mentor of a united Europe”. He succeeds last year’s winner Herman Van Rompuy and the 2006 laureate Jean-Claude Juncker. There seems to be a pattern there. It was also a good week for Polish film director Pawel Pawlikowski, whose film Ida won the LUX prize for cinema. The black and white film tells the story of a young novice nun who goes on a road trip to discover the dark secrets of her past. Not your usual PG festive viewing with the family but the prize includes subtitles in all 24 EU official languages and it will be shown in every member state.
Which leaves me space to simply wish you a very merry Christmas and an action-packed 2015.