Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Stability, convergence and EU2020 compliance: EU member states and Commission

The spring meeting of the European Council 24 to 25 March 2011 (EUCO 10/11, paragraph 2 and footnote 1) outlined the the next steps within the framework of the European semester and endorsed the the priorities for fiscal consolidation and structural reform ”in line with” the Council's conclusions of 15 February and 7 March 2011 and further to the Commission's Annual Growth Survey, while also referring to the synthesis report of 16 March 2011 by the Hungarian presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The conclusions of the Ecofin Council (Economic and Financial Affairs) 15 February 2011 on the European Semester stated that the Stability and Convergence Programmes and National Reform Programmes for the period 2011/2012 were to be submitted by the EU member states preferably by mid-April or end April at the latest (paragraph 1).

During our pre-deadline peek on 22 April 2011 we found both programmes, but mainly in the national languages, from four countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland) plus the Stability programme of Slovenia posted on the web pages of DG Economic and Financial Affairs (Ecfin) of the European Commission.

The next day we looked for updates on the website of the Europe 2020 strategy, but found none.

However, by searching for documents from the EU member states, we unearthed and provided links to the posted language versions of the first Stability Programmes, Convergence Programmes or National Reform Programmes stashed away on the website (Germany, Bulgaria, Belgium and Hungary).

We also provided direct links to the different language versions of the programmes posted on the Ecfin web page.

In part, different sets had been posted on the two Commission websites. At the time, even after combining the EU2020 and Ecfin websites, we still had no programmes from 21 out of 27 EU member states, and only one programme each from two of the six countries posted on the websites of the European Commission. Only Hungary and Finland offered both programmes in English.

Submission deadline

We have passed the 30 April 2011 deadline and we have entered what the Elisabethan writer Thomas Dekker called ”The Merry Month of May”.

The final version of the Stability Programme of each eurozone country or the Convergence Programme from each EU member progressing towards euro adoption, plus the National Reform Programme for every member, is its main contribution towards fulfilling its obligations according to the Stability and Growth Pact, the European Semester and the growth-enhancing reforms in line with the EU2020 strategy.

The drafts were submitted last autumn, but have been under wraps. It is high time for the European public to be able to access the final programmes, the new language versions (especially English) and possible related improvements and updates on the EU2020 and Ecfin websites.

Europe 2020 improvements and updates

The latest updates on the EU2020 website are press releases from the Commission.

If we search for Latest documents, the last addition is from 25 March 2011, namely a link to the conclusions of the [European] Council, which include the agreed text on the Euro Plus Pact.

In other words, the Commission has not improved its presentation since our latest visit.

In my humble opinion, on a pan-EU website such as Europe 2020, all the EU institutions and the member states should be treated on an equal basis.

Forewarned, or inspired enough to search for Member states' documents, you find six NRPs added to the ones we found on our previous visit: from Poland (in Polish), Lithuania (in English), Luxembourg (in French), the Czech Republic (in Czech), Ireland (in English) and the United Kingdom (in English).

Eight National Reform Programmes out of 27 EU member states, but only four programmes in English.

Ecfin improvements and updates

Through the Ecfin web page 'Stability and Convergence programmes (or updates) and National Reform Programmes 2011 – programmes received to date' we find thirteen Stability or Convergence programmes and nine NRPs, but most English versions are not yet available.

The DG Ecfin offers a dedicated web page and the available programmes can be seen at a glance. In addition to the submitted programmes, the page contains space for the later stages: Staff Working Paper, Commission recommendation and Council recommendation.

Clearly, someone has done some thinking. Perhaps the people responsible for the Europe 2020 strategy and website could pay a visit.

The missing Swedish version of the NRP from Finland I remarked about has not been added in the meantime.


Hopefully, we are going to see improvements within the next few days, by the EU member states as well as the Commission, because the deadline for proposed recommendations is approaching (late May, early June).

Ralf Grahn

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