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EU history repeated: Will EU politics 2015 be just like 1995?

Twenty years ago, in January 1995, Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the EU, and a new Commission President (from Luxembourg) was about to take office. Clearly a reason to look back today and see what has changed since then – just to be sure history is not repeating itself.

To do so, I use one of my favourite resources for historic EU documents: the Archive of European Integration (AEI), of which I follow the latest documents RSS feed to see what’s new.

Today, they published the Commission Work Programme for 1995 (COM(95)26), which offers a little sneak peek 20 years into the past of  EU politics. If you compare it to the 2015 Commission Work Programme (COM(2014)910), you can see how we have clearly (!) moved on since then.

For 2015, Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg) and his newly appointed team state in their work programme that:

The new economic narrative of the Commission is built around three main strands – boosting investment, pursuing structural reforms and fiscal responsibility. […] [T]he Commission has proposed an important Investment Plan to give a new boost to jobs, growth and investment in Europe.

The comparison with the 1995 programme by newly appointed Commission President Jacques Santer (from Luxembourg) shows that much has changed since then:

The road to a more employment-intensive pattern of growth requires a combination of sound macro-economic policies and fundamental reforms of Member States’ employment systems in order to ensure that growth delivers the maximum number of jobs possible.

Noticing the striking differences between the two, it feels absolute right that the 2015 Commission Work Programme is titled “A New Start“, which was just borrowed by this year’s Chaos Communication Congress in its motto “A New Dawn” (lots of interesting stuff to re-watch!).

Why mention the CCC? Because the 1995 work programme also listed a future “Directive on the protection of personal data and privacy in the context of digital telecommunications networks“, while in 2015 Juncker wants to conclude the “common European data protection reform and the Regulation on a Connected Continent“. Very timely, this 1995 initiative, seeing what was discussed at the CCC in Hamburg!

Speaking of new starts, new dawns and the evolution of the digital sphere, there’s another quote from the section “Transparency” in the 1995 work programme that might still resonate well after 20 years in today’s ears (Michael will like this one, too):

The Commission believes that communication can play a vital part in bringing the Union and its citizens closer together. It therefore intends to be more responsive to public demand and the needs of the user. Information will be more in tune with what the ordinary citizen wants and will be presented in straightforward language, explaining the reasons for the Union’s priorities. (my highlights)

The Juncker Commission in 2015 could not have said this better, and so no comparable quote can be found in this year’s Work Programme. However, we can rely on Juncker’s personal vision and priorities for the next five years:

The gap between the European Union and its citizens is widening. One has to be really deaf and blind not to see this. Very often, the European Union finds itself with some explaining to do, and many times under pressure to deliver when it comes to explaining Europe better.

In this sense, I wish all of you EU-nerds, EU-geeks, EU-researchers, EU-lovers, EU-haters, EU-ignorants and EU-topians a Happy New Year 2015 that probably will be like 1995, just with more internet. It’s on you and me and the European Commission to use this internet to explain Europe better, politically and academically – this blog will continue failing in doing so!

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