With growth stalling, Europe's competitiveness seriously eroded and unemployment rising, more than cheerful rhetoric is going to be needed to turn the tide.
What do the heads of state or government propose to do?
We turn to the three remaining cornerstones in European Council 1-2 March 2012 conclusions (EUCO 4/12, available in 23 languages) to take a look at this Houdini act.
The political leaders remind themselves and others that the European Union has a comprehensive long term strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, Europe 2020 (EU2020):
2. "Europe 2020" is Europe's strategy for jobs and growth and its comprehensive response to the challenges it is facing. In particular, the five targets set out for 2020 remain fully relevant and will continue to guide the action of Member States and the Union to promote employment; improve the conditions for innovation, research and development; meet our climate change and energy objectives; improve education levels and promote social inclusion in particular through the reduction of poverty.
Europe 2020 involves the member state in reform work at EU level with regard to the seven flagship initiatives. The institutions of the European Union and the governments of the member states have jointly agreed on common EU2020 targets. Many of the concrete structural, growth-enhancing reforms need to be carried out in and by the EU member states, by state, regional and local actors, social partners and enterprises. The structural reforms at EU and national level are intended to create synergy effects. The five headline targets have been translated into national targets, which take account of the different situations.
By mid-April (the end of April, at the latest) each EU member state sets out its actions in its national reform programme 2012 (NRP). The European Commission analyses every NRP, as well as the stability or convergence programme of every member state, and issues recommendations.
In the summer, the European Council and the Council (of ministers) are going to conclude the planning circle known as the European Semester by addressing recommendations to all the member states.
There are worrying signs that Europe is sliding more than rising. The loss of international competitiveness and export shares in world markets are root causes of this decline, almost across the board.
Difficult but decisive reforms are needed, but rarely do we see signs of lively national debates centred on the Europe 2020 as a dynamic key to reform policies. Preparing mandatory programmes in the recesses of national ministries of economy, perhaps concerting with the main social partners, leads to paper programmes devoid of life.
The heads of state or government have given themselves a reminder of EU2020, but having returned home from the spring European Council, they have to breathe life into the Europe 2020 strategy process domestically.
They failed during the Lisbon strategy decade, and their EU2020 start has been disappointing, with the results we can see around us.
Especially in the member states lagging behind, divine inspiration looks necessary, but failing that the prime ministers and presidents have to make the Europe 2020 strategy a success in their own countries.
The Europe 2020 reforms concern almost all ministries and levels of government and the social partners, but also individual businesses and citizens. The media need to be woken up, if they don't notice themselves.
speaker on EU affairs, especially digital policy and law
P.S. Between the global issues and the national level, with a tenuous hold on democracy, the European Union institutions and the eurozone coteries shape our future. At the same time we see a European online public sphere emerging. Grahnlaw (recently ranked fourth among political blogs in Finland), Grahnblawg (in Swedish) and Eurooppaoikeus (meaning European Law, in Finnish) are among the more than 900 euroblogs aggregated by multilingual Bloggingportal.eu. Are you following the debates which matter for your future? Is your blog already listed on Bloggingportal?