Wednesday, 6 July 2011

European Council on growth and jobs

The preceding blog posts, including the latest one 'European Council documentation: Ecofin integrated guidelines', left us wondering about the vanishing paper trail (accountability, transparency) and real scope of the endorsement from the European Council ”without any watering down”, as well as from the national leaders ”to do everything necessary”, with regard to Stability or Convergence Programmes and National Reform Programmes (NRPs).

Still, the impetus, political directions and guidelines from the European Council represent the top level signals for the development of the European Union, so we have cause to continue looking at what the summit had to say about economic policy:

European Council 23/24 June 2011: Conclusions (EUCO 23/11; 16 pages)


Economic growth

In paragraph 4 (page 3), the heads of state or government turned to economic growth and job creation, against backdrop of still sluggish and uneven progress:

4. National efforts must be supported by action at European Union level, particularly with the aim of unlocking Europe's full potential for economic growth and job creation. In this context, work should accelerate to deliver the Europe 2020 flagship initiatives and the Single Market Act, focusing on the priorities identified by the Council on 30 May 2011. In particular, the regulatory burden on SMEs needs to be further reduced and where appropriate micro-enterprises should be exempted from certain future regulations or at least be subject to a lighter regime. In this context, the European Council welcomes the commitment of the Commission to assess the impact of future regulations on micro enterprises and to screen the acquis to identify existing obligations from which micro enterprises could be excluded. It agreed to return to these issues at its December 2011 meeting. The Commission is also invited to prepare a roadmap on the completion of the digital Single Market by 2015. The Commission is invited to report in October 2011 on these growth-enhancing areas with a view to progress being achieved by the time of the Spring 2012 European Council.
The paragraph contains several interesting signals, which we need to unlock through brief references omitted by the leaders.


Europe 2020 strategy

The success of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (EU2020) depends mainly on reforms in the EU member states and on the willingness of the countries represented in the Council and the European Council to push for reforms at EU level.

Having pronounced on the public finances and growth-enhancing reforms in the member states, here the European Council addressed the Commission, which prepared and drives forward the seven flagship initiatives dedicated to EU level action: the Digital agenda for Europe, the Innovation Union, Youth on the Move, Resource efficient Europe, the industrial policy for the globalisation era, the agenda for new skills and jobs, and the European platform against poverty.


Single Market Act

Officially, the European Union has an internal market, but the benefits of a real single market beckon. The Single Market Act (SMA) is a step in this direction, entailing proposals promised in twelve areas, in order to support growth and job creation.

The Commission hopes to see the proposals adopte by the end of 2012.

A more detailed view of the intended actions is found in the communication from the Commission:

Single Market Act: Twelve levers to boost growth and strengthen confidence "Working together to create new growth”; Brussels, 13.4.2011 COM(2011) 206 final


Council priorities

In an off-hand manner, but still, the European Council offered a clue by mentioning the priorities identified by the Council on 30 May 2011. This must mean the Competitiveness Council, although it is less clear if the summit endorsement targeted only the Single Market Act, or everything connected to the EU2020 flagship initiatives as well:

3094th Council meeting Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry, Research and Space); Brussels, 30 and 31 May 2011 (10547/11; 22 pages)

Here, let us focus on the Single Market Act, leaving the rest of the issues to readers interested enough to study the conclusions more fully.

We find the following text (with links in the original):

Single Market Act - Council conclusions

The Council held a debate and adopted conclusions on the implementation of the "Single Market Act" (SMA), which is a two-year plan (2011-2012) of 50 initiatives aimed at ensuring continuous optimisation of the internal market and contributing to the successful implementation of the Europe 2020 objectives on stimulating employment and economic growth (13977/1/10).

In the light of the outcome of a public consultation, the Commission submitted on 13 April 2011 a communication identifying the 12 levers that can best contribute to tapping the single market's potential for growth and employment. Moreover, the communication sets out a timetable for the adoption of each lever (9283/11).

The 12 levers for growth and social progress include actions in the areas of workers' mobility, financing for small and medium-sized enterprises, consumer protection, the digital single market, energy taxation and trans-European networks.

Among other things, the conclusions invite the Commission to put forward all these key actions before the end of 2011 and calls on all actors to commit themselves to adopting a first set of priority measures to give a new impetus to the single market by 2012.

10993/11
The links lead to the corrected version of the original communication (13977/1/10), the April communication (9283/11), and the Council priorities (10993/11):

Council Conclusions on the Priorities for Relaunching the Single Market (31 May 2011, 10993/11; 10 pages)

***

This is about enough for the first blog post about the first two sentences of the fourth paragraph.



Ralf Grahn



P.S. The Guardian praises Sir Nicolas Bratza, the new president of the European Court of Human Rights, which ensures the observance of the European Convention of Human Rights (concluded within the Council of Europe).