Monday, 9 January 2012

Growth and jobs: Denmark's EU Council presidency

Prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the rest of the Danish government presented the presidency programme Friday:

Europe at work: Programme of the Danish Presidency of the European Union 2012, 1 January to 30 June 2012 (61 pages)

The programme is available in Danish, French and German as well through the presidency web pages.


Priorities

The government of Denmark offers four wide headings as its priorities for the first six months of 2012:

* A responsible Europe
* A dynamic Europe
* A green Europe
* A safe Europe

The introduction presents the themes in a nutshell (pages 4-6), with more detail added for each of them in the general part of the programme (pages 7-22).

I already commented in Swedish (Grahnblawg) on A responsible Europe facing the financial and economic crises in the euro area.

After the macroeconomic section, in this blog post I turn to the second prioroity A dynamic Europe, on pages 10-14.


A dynamic Europe

The catchwords are growth and jobs, and the means include revitalising the single market (the Single Market Act). The reform of the European patent system is mentioned as a concrete measure. A digital single market requires a number of actions.

The Danish government underlines the social dimension(s) of the single market. Simplified rules for public procurement, effective standardisation, as well as better framework conditions for companies and consumers are outlined, together with an internal market for energy.

The next generation of EU programmes for education, research and innovation is treated under the headline A competitive single market for knowledge, which includes the programme Horizon 2020.

Social aspects regarding mobile workers and eHealth have already brought some Danish nuances to the fore, and the same can be seen in relation to the subheading Sustainable growth and development throughout the EU, which gravitates around cohesion policy as an important part of the next long term budget (Multiannual Financial Framework).

The programme takes account of the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (2012), discussing the health of older people as well as their participation in the labour market. Gender equality and labour market flexibility can be seen as Danish highlights.

Denmark wants to see fewer boys dropping out of school and more young women enrolling in education programmes in growth areas. Legal immigration of qualified labour is seen as essential for the future, as is freer movement for services and workers within the EU.

The programme aims at promoting external trade with the EU neighbourhood and other countries.


Comments

The Danish presidency programme is very much in line with the purposes of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (although the EU2020 strategy is explicitly named just a few times).

Most Council presidencies have mentioned knowledge, social aspects, labour market flexibility, gender equality, sustainable growth etc., but my feeling is that these are among the areas where the government of Denmark wants to export some of its ideas, solutions and experiences to the European Union as a whole.

Denmark's combination of competitiveness, equality and functioning institutions make it one of the success stories in the light of international comparisons, so most EU countries could profit.

All in all, despite some emphasis with country colouring, the Danish presidency programme gives the impression of being quite mainstream: an honest broker diligently carrying the torch for a period of six months.


Media

Perhaps the next priority, A green Europe, goes a bit beyond that, as the Espacio de Ideas blog by Pau Solanilla comments (in Spanish).

The CTA Brussels Office Blog has reported briefly on the priorities and the Open Europe blog has compared the (slim) presidency budget with others.

On the European Voice, Simon Taylor offered some background to the Danish EU Council presidency: a country outside the eurozone and a government from the left.

If we believe that ”no news is good news”, we can conclude that the Danish presidency has caused few ripples in media dedicated to European affairs. Perhaps Danish design evokes sinister plots much less than it does sleek form and function.



Ralf Grahn