The first one hundred
March 4th 1933 marks the inauguration date of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, and the first one to use the term ´first hundred days´ in a political context. Since then, following both praise and criticism, the first hundred days in office have been a benchmark for the performance of high-ranking officials and a testimony of their ambition and leadership.
Fast forwarding to five days and eighty-seven years later; March 9th 2020 will mark the one hundred day in office of the current setting of the European Commission, under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen. How will the new Commission perform, and will the symbolic first act define the rest of the mandate?
While technically having a large part (over 90%) of the mandate left beyond March 9th, the political environment of the new institution for the first hundred days is quite challenging – Brexit and the future relations with the UK; diverging views on the future of the EU accession process; a different-than-usual composition of the European Parliament; demographic challenges; sustainable development concerns; major legislative files, including in finance, up for review – are just a few.
On the positive note, and despite the circumstances, the ambitions of the new Commission have been high. According to the Political Guidelines published in July 2019, the VDL team is set to roll out several flagship initiatives within the first one hundred days. The four most prominent ones, highlighted in our own NFU calendar, include:
– The European Green Deal: an initiative that supports EU´s ambition to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Announced on December 11th, it consists of actions and timed-out policies that are reinforcing the Commission´s commitment to tackle climate change and environmental challenges, in service to citizens and in support of Agenda 2030. While addressing rising and urgent environmental concerns, we need to see more on how the Deal will live up to the social cause it claims to serve, as without a well thought out social backbone, environmental initiatives miss the mark of sustainability.
– A fair minimum wage, with respect to national traditions and collective agreements: this initiative is to a certain extent connected to the Commission’s aspiration to bridge the gender pay gap, another pivotal initiative, by exploring pay transparency measures. The overall issue and its potential impact on the Nordic model is a discussion that we follow closely, and that is yet to set its form and clear direction on cross-sectorial level.
– Coordinated European approach to Artificial Intelligence (AI): an inherited priority from the previous Commission, the question of AI has faced three challenges in EU – AI investments (in which EU has been falling behind); AI ethical considerations and AI social effects, which have not been sufficiently explored and we find very essential for the discussion. By March 2019, we should witness further developments in AI, exploring both the human and social considerations, and the possible need for further AI regulation.
– Giving voice to citizens through the Conference on the Future of Europe: although not a legislative initiative, the Conference set out to start in the beginning of 2020 and run until 2022, giving citizens the possibility to come forward with proposals on improving EU now, and for the future. There is a willingness to follow up on the initiatives with legislative changes and even Treaty changes if needed, a rather bold commitment by the VDL team.
Beyond these highlighted four, many more initiatives have been outlined. In the context of the finance sector, completing the Banking Union and Capital Markets Union are the ones to follow closely, as well as sustainable finance, anti-money laundering measures and the foreseen regulatory reviews. If and to what extent these plans will come to life is yet to seen once the Commission´s Work Programme is published early next year.
For us at NFU, new beginnings are new opportunities and we look forward to continuing our work as an active stakeholder in the EU policy discussions, representing Nordic finance sector employees and trade unions, and having a good and constructive dialogue with the Commission, within and beyond the first one hundred days.