Thursday 3 February 2011

European Semester and Annual Growth Survey: Governance by mushroom principle

The impact of these heartening messages from president Herman Van Rompuy would be even more positive if the (European) Council did less to keep EU citizens in the dark.

Annual Growth Survey

When the Commission presented the ”clear direction on where Europe should be heading in the next year, with ten pressing actions focussed on macro-economic stability and fiscal consolidation, structural reforms and growth-enhancing measures” (IP/11/22), it told us that the Annual Growth Survey consists of different parts:

1. Communication of the Commission: "Annual Growth Survey: towards a comprehensive response to the crisis".
The first part focuses on urgent key messages, which cover the fiscal, macro-economic and "thematic" areas. They represent a selection of issues, which should be addressed as a matter of priority by the Heads of State or Governments when they meet at the March European Council.

2. Progress Report on Europe 2020
It reviews the situation as regards the EU headline targets, the draft NRPs and the reform path envisaged by the Member States.

3. Macro-economic Report
It provides the macro-economic outlook and pinpoints measures that have the highest potential of delivering positive growth-enhancing effects.

4. Joint Employment Report
It reviews the employment situation and labour market related policies. It is also the basis for the "Joint Employment Report", to be adopted jointly by the Commission and the Council in accordance with article 148.5 (TFUE).

The Annual Growth Survey is accompanied by a:

5. Proposal for a Council Decision on employment guidelines.
This is a technical extension of the Employment guidelines adopted only a few months ago, to comply with a legal obligation of adopting such guidelines annually.

Finding the information

The first part, the communication from the Commission, is easy enough to find. On the legal portal Eur-Lex, 22 language versions are available, and among them in English:

Annual Growth Survey: advancing the EU's comprehensive response to the crisis; Brussels, 12.1.2010 COM(2011) 11 final (10 pages)

GAC: Findings and proposals

Monday, the General Affairs Council (GAC) took stock of implementation of the ”European Semester”, as a part of reformed EU economic governance. The Commission presented main findings of its first annual growth survey (Council document 18066/10) and the Hungarian presidency made proposals for implementation during the first part of the European Semester, while there is still need for added detail concerning the second phase, from 25 March 2011 (page 9):

3064th Council meeting General Affairs; Brussels, 31 January 2011 (document 5640/11)

It did not seem to trouble the ministers that the proposals and draft proposals were not presented to the public.

If we search the Council website, only the first part of the package is public, i.e. the communication COM(2011) 11 (Council document 18066/11), although even here the Council caused a raised eyebrow. At some point, for some reason, the communication had been reclassified from ”Limite” to ”Public”, meaning it too had been under wraps.

The other parts of the annual growth survey, the annexes dated 14 January 2011, and which are of real public interest, are not accessible:

Annex 1 Progress report on Europe 2020
Annex 2 Macro-economic report
Annex 3 Draft joint employment report

So much for openness and transparency. Instead of stimulating discussion about real issues and mobilising engagement for EU2020 and other economic reforms Europe sorely needs, the Council inexplicably continues to apply the mushroom principle, keeping EU citizens in shit and in the dark: Belgian EU Council presidency legacy (6 January 2011).

Sancta simplicitas!

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The Hungarian presidency of the Council of the European Union runs a fairly active blog, written in English by two officials, Urkuti György and Ódor Bálint. The two latest posts are relevant to the upcoming European Council meeting tomorrow, Friday.

P.S. 2: I am happy if you want to read my Euroblogs, which aim to discuss legal and political issues relevant to European enterprises, jobs, employers and employees, consumers and citizens, especially in cross-border situations. Internal market reform (Single Market Act) and the Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020 flagship initiatives) are going to be among the main themes, upstream on Grahnlaw (in English), Grahnblawg (in Swedish) and Eurooppaoikeus (in Finnish), as well as downstream on the trilingual Grahnlaw Suomi Finland. If you are interested in European business, we can get acquainted on Facebook and on Twitter @RalfGrahn.

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