European Union Highlights of 2017

The European Commission, the Parliament, and the Council have been dealing with a lot this year and a lot has been achieved. For many projects and future initiatives, the work is still going on, such as the Digital Single Market, strengthening the monetary policy, managing external partnerships and much more. But let’s go over the main events that took place this year:


  • New president of the EU Parliament. Martin Schulz (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) was president of the European Parliament for two consecutive terms, being elected as President of the European Parliament for the first time in the beginning of 2012 and then in January 2014. He was succeeded this year by Antonio Tajani (European People’s party). Therefore, the leadership shifted from a center left ideology to a center right leader.


  • Birthday party! The Treaty of Rome was first signed back in 1957 on the 25th of March and instituted the European Economic Community, which focused on the economic integration of member states and the creation of a common market area. Since then, the European Community was incorporated by the EU institutions we know nowadays. This year, the European Union turned 60 years old.


  • Erasmus programme turned 30. The famous student exchange programme that has by now become a cultural phenomenon was established back in 1987. During the first year of the project 3,200 European students took part in the project, while now on average over 300,000 students get involved each year, for a total of over 9 million people that have benefited from Erasmus in the last 30 years.


  •  No more roaming fees. Since 2007, roaming prices have decreased by more than 90%. On June 2017, EU negotiators obtained a significant result as all roaming charges were abolished, so now Europeans travelling within the European area will pay domestic prices for SMS, international calls and use of data.


  • Fines to big companies for breaking competition rules. The Commission established a fine for Google to pay €2.42 billion for abusing dominance as search engine by giving illegal advantage to own comparison shopping service. Also, Amazon has been asked to pay €250 million over unpaid back taxes.


  • Care for the planet. The EU has committed to the Paris Agreement and specifically to keeping the temperature rise 2 degrees below above pre-industrial levels, to the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, as well as to their reduction.


  • Brexit. Article 50 of Lisbon Treaty got pretty famous this year, as it is being put in practice for the first time after the referendum held in UK in 2016. The UK officially notified the European Council on 29 March 2017 about its intention of leaving the Union, with the immediate result of starting the negotiations. There are of course many consequences. Among these, two EU agencies are moving out of London: the European Medicine Agency is transferring to Amsterdam and the European Banking Authority to Paris. But how about participation in Horizon 2020?
    • The UK will continue to participate in the Union programmes financed by the MFF 2014-2020 until their closure. It was agreed that the eligibility to apply to participate in Union programmes and Union funding for UK participants and projects will be unaffected by the UK’s withdrawal from the Union for the entire lifetime of such projects.
    • The UK stated that it may wish to participate in some Union budgetary programmes of the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) as a non-Member State.


The idea of a European Innovation Council was launched by several leaders this year and High-Level Group has been established to further develop it. So, let’s see what the EU bodies are up to in the upcoming year. In the meantime, what were the highlights of 2017 for you?