The spring European Council gave the Commission green light to prepare the thematic programmes of the Europe 2020 strategy for jobs and growth:
The Commission will further develop and submit to the Council the actions it proposes to take at the EU level, notably through the flagship initiatives.
Conclusions of the European Council 25/26 March 2010 (document EUCO 7/10; point 5(f), page 3)
The first flagship to cast off was the Digital Agenda, which was given a favourable nod by the summer European Council (point 7, page 4):
7. Further to the presentation by the Commission of the first flagship initiative on a 'Digital Agenda for Europe', the European Council endorses the establishment of an ambitious action agenda based on concrete proposals and calls upon all institutions to engage in its full implementation, including the creation of a fully functioning digital single market by 2015. The Commission is invited to report on progress achieved by the end of 2011.
A fully functioning digital single market in five years echoes the TTE Council conclusions, but if the European Council really intends to replace 27 national markets by a single European one in five years, it is dynamite.
The June European Council also called for the rest of the planned flagship initiatives before the end of 2010 (point 8, page 4):
8. The European Council looks forward to the presentation of the other flagship initiatives before the end of the year.
See the conclusions of the European Council 17 June 2010 (document 4 EUCO 13/10).
Let us not be too harsh on commander José Manuel Barroso, if his flotilla has been endowed with seven flagships. We all tend to be carried over board, at times.
The main thing is that the thematic reform vessels deliver the goods.
Let us inspect the fleet, as briefly presented in the executive summary of (pages 5 to 6):
Commission: EUROPE 2020 - A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth; Brussels, 3.3.2010 COM(2010) 2020 final (35 pages)
Christopher Columbus had only three small ships to discover the New World, so at least we can be numerically impressed by seven flagships, presented like this:
The Commission is putting forward seven flagship initiatives to catalyse progress under each priority theme:
– "Innovation Union" to improve framework conditions and access to finance for research and innovation so as to ensure that innovative ideas can be turned into products and services that create growth and jobs.
– "Youth on the move" to enhance the performance of education systems and to facilitate the entry of young people to the labour market.
– "A digital agenda for Europe" to speed up the roll-out of high-speed internet and reap the benefits of a digital single market for households and firms.
– "Resource efficient Europe" to help decouple economic growth from the use of resources, support the shift towards a low carbon economy, increase the use of renewable energy sources, modernise our transport sector and promote energy efficiency.
– "An industrial policy for the globalisation era" to improve the business environment, notably for SMEs, and to support the development of a strong and sustainable industrial base able to compete globally.
– "An agenda for new skills and jobs" to modernise labour markets and empower people by developing their of skills throughout the lifecycle with a view to increase labour participation and better match labour supply and demand, including through labour mobility.
– "European platform against poverty" to ensure social and territorial cohesion such that the benefits of growth and jobs are widely shared and people experiencing poverty and social exclusion are enabled to live in dignity and take an active part in society.
Not content with its flagship flotilla, the Commission wants shipyards to mushroom all over Europe, with the European Council as the naval architect and master shipbuilder (page 6):
The European Council will have full ownership and be the focal point of the new strategy. The Commission will monitor progress towards the targets, facilitate policy exchange and make the necessary proposals to steer action and advance the EU flagship initiatives. The European Parliament will be a driving force to mobilise citizens and act as co-legislator on key initiatives. This partnership approach should extend to EU committees, to national parliaments and national, local and regional authorities, to social partners and to stakeholders and civil society so that everyone is involved in delivering on the vision.
The Europe 2020 priorities, headline targets and flagship initiatives were then presented in detail from page 10 in the Commission proposal.
Will the flagship flotilla deliver the goods, or is it going to going to run aground like the Lisbon armada?