In Lisbon in the year 2000 the European Council had set the strategic aim for the European Union for the next decade: to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.
After a decade of insufficient reforms, dismal results, growing disappointment and increasing lack of credibility, the heads of state or government sit amidst a severe financial crisis, a sharp economic downturn and rising unemployment.
Still, the process to create the strategy for the following decade is in full swing. Friday 15 January 2010 was the last day for contributions on the Commission’s consultation paper for the EU 2020 strategy:
Commission Working Document: Consultation on the future “EU 2020” strategy; Brussels, 24.11.2009 COM(2009) 647 final (13 pages)
The Commission laid out the following general priorities for the EU 2020 strategy (page 4), although they were presented in more detail later:
(1) Creating value by basing growth on knowledge. Opportunity and social cohesion will be enhanced in a world where innovation makes the difference in both products and processes, harnessing the potential of education, research and of the digital economy;
(2) Empowering people in inclusive societies. The acquisition of new skills, fostering creativity and innovation, the development of entrepreneurship and a smooth transition between jobs will be crucial in a world which will offer more jobs in exchange for greater adaptability;
(3) Creating a competitive, connected and greener economy. The EU should compete more effectively and increase its productivity by a lower and more efficient consumption of non-renewable energy and resources in a world of high energy and resources prices, and greater competition for energy and resources. This will stimulate growth and help meet our environmental goals. It will benefit all sectors of the economy, from traditional manufacturing to new hi-tech start-ups. Upgrading and inter-connecting infrastructure, reducing administrative burden and accelerating the market uptake of innovations will equally contribute to this goal.
When Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero flew a kite, calling for sanctions against non-reforming countries, his idea was quickly shot down. But butchering the idea of the head of government of Spain, the member state holding the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, did nothing to make the problem go away.
As far as we know, the process towards the new EU 2020 strategy is going to occupy three summits. President Herman Van Rompuy has convened an extraordinary (informal) European Council 11 February.
The spring European Council is traditionally engaged with all aspects of the economy. This time it is going to meet on 25 to 26 March 2010.
Final adoption of the EU 2020 strategy is foreseen for the last meeting of the European Council during the Spanish Council presidency, on 17 to 18 June 2010.
The European leaders have exactly five months to find the resolve to turn the European Union into an economic power-house, instead of a decaying industrial museum.
Will they find it?
Their credibility and our future are on the line.
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