Right now the best and brightest minds of Brussels are focused on Greece and the economy because of Thursday night’s European Council dinner. The Presidency will have to report on the delivery of two key elements of the comprehensive response to the economic crisis, namely the European Semester and the Economic Governance package. PM Orban will have nothing to be ashamed of there, quite the opposite – we have pushed through the first ever semester exercise without any delay, and we have narrowed down the differences between the co-legislators (European Parliament and the Council) from over 2000 to 1 (hands up if you don't know what rQMV is).
What goes largely unnoticed however is the work on the nuts and bolts of the single market, the nitty-gritty details underpinning the (relatively) free flow of goods and services among 27 member states with very different regulatory traditions. This rightly pisses out our friends in Coreper I, who aim to completely clear the table before the Polish Presidency, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in several second reading dossiers that would have otherwise gone into conciliation (and we know quite a lot about conciliation, dont we)
The pace of legislative action is really mind bogling. Yesterday, we managed to hammer out a deal on food labelling, providing a higher level of consumer protection in the future. Apart from the new rules on more transparent and readable information on ingredients, Kovács will benefit from the ability to spot allergens, such as lactose or gluten, on the packaging of food. Also, we can only cheer on the idea that a cheese will have to be called a cheese and a cheese-like substance not made of milk cannot be called a cheese.
Also yesterday we closed the dossier on the cross border information exchange for traffic offences. In short: the German police can catch you if you zip through the country on your way to Italy. Or anywhere else. We lined up the 27 Member States unanimously behind the final compromise and we hope the EP approves it at the next plenary. Once enacted and implemented, central authorities of Member States will be able to exchange information in the case of 4 „deadly” traffic offences: speeding, DUI, not using your safety belt, crossing on red. It also covers using your mobile phone while driving, driving in reserved lanes and not wearing a safety helmet on a motorbike.
Then there was the Frontex deal, which forms part of the comprehensive response not to the economic crisis, but the comprehensive solution to the migration issue. (There’s an awful lot of similarity between the Euro and Schengen, isn’t there?)
Finally, as a bonus, just today the EP plenary adopted the deal on the Consumer Rights Directive. If you are reading this blog, chances are you have already ordered something on-line, or at least planning to, and then this agreement is good news for you. (Also if you are like my mother and love to order stuff from the now-defunct Otto mail order store. It doesn’t apply to mail order brides though.) In a nutshell, online and distant sellers will have to be more transparent with their conditions and prices, they will have to take back their wares in a longer period and generally make your shopping safer.
The Presidency is not over yet, with quite a lot to be done in just one week, but our colleagues can already start to feel good about what they have done so far.