What is “Europe 2020”?

, by Dr. Joachim Würmeling, translated by Lina Ohltmann

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What is “Europe 2020”?

The European Commission presented its “vision of Europe’s social market economy for the 21st century“ on 3rd February 2010 with the concept for „Europe 2020“. At the centre of the Commission’s suggestions are how “to go out of the crisis” and “prepare the EU’s economy for the next decade”. For this, “smart growth, sustainable growth and inclusive growth” are essential. The European Council will agree to this strategy at its June meeting, after it had agreed to a number of changes in its March meeting. From then onwards it can be expected that the strategy is the political base for the way in which the Union will act in the coming years.

Called a comprehensive “battle for growth and jobs” it needs, according to the Commission, “mobilisation from all actors across the EU”. With this, the Union of European Federalists in Germany (Europa-Union Deutschland) is certainly meant too. UEF Germany already argued on 6th December 2009 at its Annual General Meeting in favour of a “new, sustainable model of competition” as successor to the Lisbon Strategy and demanded a common European approach.

“Europe 2020” follows the Lisbon Strategy that expires this year. Compared to the Lisbon Strategy, “Europe 2020” plans, given the current challenges of globalisation and the economic and financial crisis, to reach a programmatic, substantial and institutionally completely new degree of economic integration. While the Lisbon Strategy was restricted to give the aspect of competition a higher rating in national and European politics, the aspiration is now towards forming and implementing a “vision for Europe’s social market economy in the 21st century”. Through this, the Commission moves away from the global “benchmarks” upon which it rested for the Lisbon Strategy. Instead, Europe should stand its ground with autonomous development and should play on this basis a leading role in the “shaping of the future world economic order in the G-20”.

The new strategy is based on three elements: three “priority areas”, measured against five “representative headline EU-level targets” and seven “flagship initiatives” in specific action plans:

The three priority areas are:

•Smart growth, developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation

•Sustainable growth, promoting a low-carbon, resource-efficient and competitive economy

•Inclusive growth, fostering a high-employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion

The five representative headline EU-level targets are:

•75 % of the population aged 20-64 should be employed

•3% of the EU’s GDP should be invested in R&D

•The “20/20/20” climate/energy targets should be met

•The share of early school leavers should be under 10% and at least 40% of the younger generation should have a degree or diploma

•20 million less people should be at risk of poverty

The seven flagship initiatives are:

•Innovation union - re-focussing R&D and innovation policy on major challenges, while closing the gap between science and market to turn inventions into products. As an example, the Community Patent could save companies 289€ million each year

•Youth on the move - enhancing the quality and international attractiveness of Europe’s higher education system by promoting student and young professional mobility. As a concrete action, vacancies in all Member States should be more accessible through out Europe and professional qualifications and experience properly recognised

•A digital agenda for Europe - delivering sustainable economic and social benefits from a Digital Single Market based on ultra fast Internet. All Europeans should have access to high speed internet by 2013

•Resource-efficient Europe - supporting the shift towards a resource efficient and low-carbon economy. Europe should stick to its 2020 targets in terms of energy production, efficiency and consumption. This would result in €60 billion less in oil and gas imports by 2020

•An industrial policy for green growth – helping the EU’s industrial base to be competitive in the post-crisis world, promoting entrepreneurship and developing new skills. This would create millions of new jobs

•An agenda for new skills and jobs – creating the conditions for modernising labour markets, with a view to raising employment levels and ensuring the sustainability of our social models, while baby-boomers retire

•European platform against poverty - ensuring economic, social and territorial cohesion by helping the poor and socially excluded and enabling them to play an active part in society

An efficient process of controlling should supervise the implementation. The heads of state and heads of government with their high authority levels should take the political responsibility for the strategy.

Image: Europe 2020 on the European Commission website.

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