Thursday 1 March 2012

European Council and the quest for growth

Some additions have been made to the materials ahead of the European Council 1-2 March 2012, since I described the sewing circle level of governance and pointed at the synthesis report about the implementation of the European Semester.

There is now a fairly meagre background note about the EUCO spring meeting. The invitation letter from president Herman Van Rompuy to the heads of state or government has also appeared, but his thoughts on reforms have not.

A plan for growth in Europe

If we go outside EUCO central, we find some interesting input. Twelve national leaders wrote to Van Rompuy and the Commission president José Manuel Barroso with A plan for growth in Europe (20 February 2012), listing eight priority areas for economic growth and job creation.

This year Barroso, who may have noticed the information vacuum preceding the spring summit, has been busy proselytising the Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020) for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, as well as related Commission initiatives. He also replied to the EUCO members by a flowery letter (MEMO/12/146), but the birth of pre-summit discussion between the leaders is a small sign of improvement.

The Annex: Overview of state of play on initiatives referred to in the letter 'A Plan for Growth in Europe' offers a factual and useful check-list against the letter of ongoing reform projects aiming at economic growth. Let us lift the eight main headlines from the Barroso Annex:

1. Single Market
2. Digital Single Market
3. Energy
4. Innovation
5. External dimension of growth
6. Reduction of administrative burden
7. Employment
8. Financial sector legislation

Are the leaders prepared to achieve a seamless Single Market, a borderless Digital Single Market and all the rest, or is Europe turning into the new Atlantis?

Ralf Grahn
speaker on EU affairs, especially digital policy and law

P.S. For better or for worse, between the global issues and the national level, the European Union institutions and the eurozone coteries shape our future. At the same time we see a European online public sphere emerging. Grahnlaw, Grahnblawg (in Swedish) and Eurooppaoikeus (in Finnish) are among the more than 900 euroblogs aggregated by multilingual Is your blog already listed among them? Are you following the debates which matter for your future?


  1. Commission growth strategy irrelevant. Role of ECB infinitely more important but debating that is anti-European.

  2. CJWilly

    If the EU2020 strategy feels irrelevant, it is a danger signal for Europe in the world economy and for the livelihood of Europeans.

  3. Why? It's more a wish-list than strategy. It has no budget worthy of the name and as a result growth strategies are national by definition. The EU, instead of promising what it can't deliver, should "first do no harm" and not make growth impossible, which evidently cannot be changed given this single currency regime.

  4. CJWilly

    Throwing money at something is the normal answer to all problems, but not necessary the right one.

    Naturally, priorities are important in budgets.

    Many of Europe's ills require European solutions and qualitative reforms, such as a seamless Single Market instead of decade upon decade of internal market harmonisation.

  5. I don't know. Australia, Canada, South Korea and many other nations are prospering without being part of a massive bloc. Even Japan is doing rather better than us considering its massive ageing problem.

    I'm just rather bored with the EU-world assumption that Europe's fate/success in the world necessarily is dependent on whatever happens in Brussels. Obviously a better single market can theoretically help, but I've a feeling its growth potential has largely been exploited, and instead talk of it, Europe 2020 and other growth initiatives serve mainly to distract Europeans from the real sources/obstacles to growth posed by the EU (e.g. austerity über alles, the fiscal compact, the ECB). (Just as the Lisbon Strategy was also basically empty.)

    See this shambling wreck of deception presented at the previous EU summit for example:

    If we are serious about growth. We should talk about the euro's over-valuation at $1.30 (if lowered would be a massive 30-40% boost in competitiveness for the south) and about the ECB's refusal to act like the Fed and be a lender-of-last-rest. Unfortunately, both of these cannot be discussed openly because the ECB is "independent" and even mentioning one often gets taxed of being "anti-German".

  6. @CJWilly

    Thank you.

    You brought up many interesting viewpoints.

    I'll try to keep them in mind when I write new posts, of which the latest one may challenge some of your assumptions.


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