Politics & Economics

The assessment of the last five years

April 2024
By Gianni Pittella

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With the European elections just around the corner, it’s time to assess the past five years of European legislative session. This has been a session that faced extraordinary times which, on one hand, forced European leaders to make bold and forward-looking decisions, and on the other, highlighted Europe’s persistent inability to act in a global context.

The two most addressed themes by the European Parliament and the Commission have broadly been the green and digital transition. Regarding environmental policies, the most impactful strategy, which has drawn fierce criticism, is the Green New Deal. The Union’s green policies over the last five years have covered various aspects, including climate neutrality, energy policies supporting renewable energies (and in a later phase of the legislature, nuclear energy), the circular economy (consider recycling and reuse initiatives and those aimed at preventing waste), the fight against deforestation, and biodiversity protection.

From a digital perspective, the most significant acts have been the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act. These acts have tackled crucial aspects such as the practices of large tech companies, the promotion of competition, consumer protection, the security of the digital space, the ban on targeted advertising to minors, and content moderation. Towards the end of the legislature, the AI Act was also added, the first international regulation governing the use of artificial intelligence.

This legislature has also seen significant advances in economic governance, as the readers of these articles well know, from the approval of the Next Generation EU to the reform of European budgetary rules. Less significant, however, have been the initiatives for institutional reform, with the Conference on the Future of Europe, whose outcomes are still shrouded in uncertainty, and the failed application of the Spitzenkandidaten system.

In terms of leadership, the European Commission under Ursula von der Leyen has certainly been more recognized and perceived by European citizens compared to previous commissions. However, the Commission’s image has been blurred by recent scandals, such as Pfizergate and Piepergate. Less positive have been the perceptions of the European Council’s Charles Michel, and the ECB’s Christine Lagarde, both of whom were little appreciated by both insiders and public opinion. However, the figure of David Sassoli will always remain unforgettable.