EU Friday – 8 March

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EU Friday

Welcome to Better Europe’s weekly update on EU Affairs.


One day before the formal confirmation of Ursula von der Leyen as the EPP’s lead candidate for Commission President, the European Commission on Wednesday published “The story of the von der Leyen Commission”, a 56-page document showing how the Commission ensured “Keeping our promise to Europe”. The timing of the paper raises eyebrows, even if a similar document was published together with the incumbent President’s last state of the Union speech last autumn. In fact, the Code of Conduct of Commissioners prevents standing Commissioners to use any human or material resources for electoral campaigns, but here’s the catch: unlike some other Commissioners, von der Leyen is not running for election as an MEP in Germany – she is simply indicating her interest in a second term as European Commission President. Commissioners that do want an EP seat as a career move or a political backup have to abide by von der Leyen’s Guidelines on the participation of Commissioners in election campaigns issued in January, which state that a Commissioner who plans a significant involvement in terms of visibility and intensity of engagement with the electorate should withdraw from their institutional work. Conveniently, the guidelines do not specify what happens if the President herself decides to play an active role in a campaign for a second term.

For more details about the recent electoral developments, check out our latest blog.


Earlier this week, the Parliament and Member States agreed on a political compromise on the EU’s new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR). The law aims to tackle unnecessary packaging by setting new binding re-use targets for 2030 and an annual collection rate of packaging of at least 90% by 2029. In principle this must be achieved through deposit return systems, although countries with an efficient working return scheme such as Belgium with its famous blue bags visible every day in the streets of Brussels, are exempt if they can demonstrate a separate collection rate of above 80%. The non-binding requirement to introduce deposit schemes may have something to do with another highly contested law, currently disputed by member states. Rumour has it that to encourage more member states to change their vote to vote in favour of the CSDDD, concessions might have been made on other files, including the PPWR. The practice of exchanging national interest between files is not in fact that uncommon in Brussels, but often limited to bilaterial deals between Member States supporting each other on a file that is a big issue for the other country.


Monday’s voting session in the Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee confirms the avalanche of votes still awaiting MEPs in the coming six weeks, in terms of the number of files on the agenda, but also in terms of votes postponed last-minute. In normal days, Parliament committees actually use procedural tricks to ensure allocation of meeting rooms and translators, including scheduling a vote in Strasbourg to trigger an extraordinary meeting only to postpone the voting part of the agenda last-minute. But in the last weeks running up to the election, votes are essentially postponed because internal compromise negotiations or talks with the Member States are in a decisive stage and need a few more weeks, such as ECON’s work on the digital euro where the gap between the EPP rapporteur and the centre-left shadow rapporteurs could be closed in the coming weeks. As usual in politics, deadlines are not that hard as initially announced and even agreements found in early April can still be set in stone during the final plenary on 22 to 25 April, in particular when it comes to files that will only move to the trilogue negotiation stage when the new Parliament is in place.