The European Commission has outlined a swathe of new policy proposals, with some greatly enhancing the power of the bloc, at the expense of national governments.
There is a proposal to prevent member states from employing veto powers to block legislation in areas that usually demand unanimous agreement — instead, the EU commission is pushing for qualified majority voting, based on Article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty, in an effort to break deadlocks.
Some of these areas have historically been seen as exclusively national prerogatives — and many states have used their veto power to prevent EU-level reforms being imposed on their respective statute books.
The proposals follow Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union address in September, in which he said he wanted decisions in the Council “to be taken more often and more easily by qualified majority.”
Areas currently requiring unanimity to pass include financial issues (such as taxation), the distribution of resources, harmonization of social security and welfare policy, family law, police and judicial policy, police cooperation, common foreign, security and defense policies and cooperation and citizenship (such as granting of new rights to European citizens, anti-discrimination measures).
Unanimity is also required in membership policy — both in respect of accession negotiations, and withdrawal (or restriction) of membership status — meaning states that fall foul of Brussels can be more easily penalized, and cannot rely on allied member states to block censure.
Among other proposed plans were requiring internet giants such as Google and Facebook to pay more tax, ending secret deals between big businesses with national tax authorities in Luxembourg and elsewhere, and creating a European monetary fund to prevent a repeat of the Greek financial crisis.
Elsewhere, the Commission also seeks to set up a “democratically accountable” permanent European minister of economy and finance, and increase recycling across the bloc, with restrictions on the reuse and recycling of plastics, as well as regulation on the minimum quality requirements for reused water.
Ministers also aim to finalize trade agreements with Japan, Singapore, and Vietnam, and advance talks with Australia and New Zealand.
While the Commission’s plan will be floated next year, it has a 2025 launch date.