Sunday, 25 March 2012

Is the Europe 2020 strategy jinxed?

In the article EU action plan to improve access to finance for SMEs I mentioned the information note from the Danish Council presidency:

European Council - Follow-up by the Council; Brussels, 19 March 2012 (document 7824/12)

The content is described on the front page:

In order to ensure that the General Affairs Council can fully play its general coordinating role as well as its specific role in ensuring the follow-up to European Council meetings, the Presidency has prepared the attached information note. The note outlines steps taken in implementation of the orientations agreed by the European Council at its meetings of December 2011 and March 2012, as well as at in the declaration of the Heads of State and Government of 30 January 2012. This note also sets out how these orientations will be taken forward by the Presidency within the Council until the end of the Presidency period, notwithstanding upcoming discussions to be held in Coreper and Council in respect to the orientations set out by the March 2012 European Council, in particular as regards paragraph 16 of its conclusions.

Peer pressure

So what did paragraph 16 of the conclusions of the spring (March) 2012 European Council say? The EUCO conclusions are available in all 23 official EU languages; here the English text, under Economic policy, which highlights some aspects of single market reform and compliance (although the single market has been mentioned in these and other conclusions as well):

16. The European Council considers that enhanced "peer pressure" can help raise the ownership and responsibility at the level of Heads of State or Government as regards the Council's and individual Member States' role in developing the Single Market and complying with its rules. To this effect, the European Council invites :
− the Commission to provide transparent scoreboards as a basis for appropriate benchmarking;
− the President of the European Council to promote regular monitoring by the European Council of progress achieved on key Single Market proposals in the various Council formations.

Follow-up note

The follow-up note deals with the growth agenda, including:

* the single market, Single Market Act,
* acces to finance for SMEs, the COSME programme,
* the forthcoming employment package,
* the reduction of the administrative and regulatory burden,
* innovation and Horizon 2020,
* the digital single market,
* the internal energy market

Under Economic policy, the following themes were among those mentioned:

* the next steps within the European Semester leading to recommendations on the National Reform Programmes and the Stability or Convergence Programmes of the member states as well as the prevention of macroeconomic imbalances revealed by the Alert Mechanism Report,
* the regulation of financial services,
* the two-pack proposals on euro area surveillance,
* the contribution of taxation to fiscal consolidation and growth,
* piloting European project bonds

Additional themes were the long term budget (Multiannual Financial Framework MFF), Justice and Home Affairs (including Schengen enlargement and governance, the Common European Asylum System), Climate (low-carbon 2050 strategy), Trade and Enlargement.

Jinxed Europe 2020?

Only a few weeks ago the spring European Council reminded itself and others that:

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.

However, yet again we see a paper from one or more member states skillfully evading the main EU2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, despite dealing with certain concrete aspects of it.

It looks improbable that an EUCO president or EU member state can – in good faith - write an eight-page issues paper or equally long information note [edited] about the EU's growth agenda and economic policy, or the five pages of a twelve-country plan for growth in Europe without mentioning the Europe 2020 strategy.

Is EU2020 jinxed, or what?

Europe 2020 is supposed to be the main uniting economic reform strategy for all levels of government in the European Union and its member states, as the heads of states or government reiterated at the beginning of this month.

Have we ever seen or heard an intelligent explanation from the governments of the EU member states, or have the EU members shown us a diagnosis of amnesia?

General Affairs Council

Monday, 26 March 2012, the coordinating General Affairs Council (GAC) meets to discuss two main items, of which the second one is: Follow-up to the European Council 1-2 March 2012 (agenda).

In this respect, the background note for the GAC meeting offers practically nothing in addition to the presidency note 7824/12:

Follow-up to the [December] European Council

The Council will take stock of the follow-up to be given to the European Council meeting held on 1-2 March, on the basis of a presidency note (7824/12).

The meeting focus[ed] in particular on the growth agenda and on economic policy.

The follow-up discussion is not public, so if the General Affairs Council does not make drastic improvements to its conclusions, the presidency note is probably the best thing the public is left with regarding growth and economic policy for a while.

Ralf Grahn
public speaker on EU affairs

P.S. The multilingual already aggregates the posts from 944 Euroblogs. They represent an important part of the emerging European online public sphere, discussion across national and linguistic borders. Erkan's Field Diary is more than a Turkish delight. The anthropologist, Dr Erkan Saka follows and links to global, European and Turkish politics and events, not forgetting human rights, cyberculture and social media. Some of the posts are in English. Recommended reading.

Among the Euroblogs on you find my currently active blog trio, Grahnlaw (recently ranked fourth among political blogs in Finland), the Nordic Grahnblawg (written in Swedish) and Eurooppaoikeus (meaning European Law, in Finnish). I write and speak about democracy and openness in the European Union, but increasingly about the crucial challenges of the global era for Europe: growth (EU2020) and the (digital) single market in the making.