Friday 18 June 2010

European strategy for jobs and growth: Credible implementation? (European Council 17 June 2010)

In the previous blog post we saw the European Council 17 June 2010 confirm the five headline targets of the Europe 2020 strategy.

In addition, the European Council politically endorsed the integrated guidelines for economic and employment policies (Conclusions point 3, page 3):

The guidelines will continue to be the basis for any country-specific recommendations that the Council may address to Member States. These recommendations shall be fully in line with relevant Treaty provisions and EU rules and shall not alter Member States' competences, for example in areas such as education.

After the wasted Lisbon strategy decade, is this going to ensure real growth-enhancing reform in the member states, especially those with the worst track record and the greatest need?

How is it going to be different between now and 2020?

National Reform Programmes

According to the European Council, the National Reform Programmes (NRPs) are – as before – the main vehicle to turn words into action. Regular review was part and parcel of the Lisbon strategy, so are there indications of credible improvement?

The conclusions of the European Council state (point 4, page 3):

Member States must now act to implement these policy priorities at their level. They should, in close dialogue with the Commission, rapidly finalise their national targets, taking account of their relative starting positions and national circumstances, and according to their national decision-making procedures. They should also identify the main bottlenecks to growth and indicate, in their National Reform Programmes, how they intend to tackle them. Progress towards the headline targets will be regularly reviewed.

Ecofin overview

The preceding conclusions by the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin) on 8 June 2010 on the European 2020 strategy go some way towards offering a picture of the whole and updating information on the state of play (document 10881/10).

Ecofin presented a summary of what the Europe 2020 strategy is about (point 2, page 2):

At the core of the new strategy is a framework for enhanced co-ordination of Member States' economic policies building on widened country surveillance which covers all relevant macroeconomic and structural policy areas in an integrated fashion. This strengthened framework should facilitate the immediate launch of exit strategies and address the urgent need for fiscal consolidation both in the short and over the medium term, through growth-friendly budgetary consolidation strategies focused on expenditure restraint, and be combined with the implementation of long-term policies to tackle bottlenecks to growth.

Ecofin mentions widened, enhanced, strengthened, reinforced and more integrated coordination of economic policies and the Europe 2020 strategy, but are we able to discern decisive new factors ensuring future success?

Seeing is believing

After the Lisbon strategy, the joint credibility account of the member states, the Council and the European Council is in overdraft.

The European Council’s conclusions on the new European strategy for jobs and growth, including the Europe 2020 strategy and the integrated guidelines for economic and employment policies, fall short of changing the perception.

I am ready to believe in improved surveillance, when I see concrete reforms put into practice.

In his invitation letter to the heads of state or government, president Herman Van Rompuy promised to outline to some ideas on what the forthcoming meetings of the European Council should achieve, in order to optimise their preparation.

Can we expect fresh “impetus”?

Ralf Grahn

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