The Commission earlier this week published an overview of 1,500 submissions received as part of a public consultation process on the EU 2020 strategy (EurActiv 02/02/10).
The report revealed that stakeholders specialising in social issues used the consultation process to repeat their criticism that the draft strategy is "too narrow" in scope.
But it also added that they broadly support its proposed priorities.
Not so, Conny Reuter, president of the Social Platform of European NGOs, told EurActiv.
"We represent 42 pan-European social NGO networks, and find that the overview of the responses to the EU 2020 consultation totally mischaracterises the position of our sector. It claims that we 'broadly support the Commission's proposed priorities,' yet our response to the consultation explicitly said the opposite: that the proposed text represented a step back for social cohesion and social inclusion in Europe," he said.
Reuter went a step further, arguing that the overview paper even contradicts itself. "How could social NGOs 'broadly support' a text while considering it to have a 'weak, if not absent' social dimension as the paper states," he demanded.
Commission's 'rosy picture' is wrong, says green NGO
The social lobby is not alone in this stance. The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) yesterday (4 February) said that the Commission was misrepresenting its EU 2020 criticisms in a similar way.
EEB Secretary-General John Hontelez described the Commission's summary as giving "too rosy a picture" of the environmental responses to the consultation.
"Environmental organisations appreciate the Commission's recognition that in the next decade 'conserving energy, natural resources and raw materials' have to be central in the EU 2020 strategy. However, the Commission puts this entirely in the context of 'the future competitiveness of our industry and our economies'. This is a narrow and dangerous approach, making us the hostage of business lobbies who will insist that only those measures which bring immediate profits are acceptable."
NGOs bypass Commission, appeal to EU leaders
The Social Platform believes the overview paper is "clearly an attempt to gloss over the positions of stakeholders that contradict the Commission's view, presumably to influence the outcome of the Informal European Council" on 11 February.
In response, they will write to EU heads of state ahead of the informal summit, making them aware of their reservations, and will call on Council President Herman Van Rompuy and the European Parliament to organise their own consultations with civil society – effectively bypassing the Commission.
The EEB, likewise, implored EU leaders to "not rely on the Commission's summary but study the full contributions" to gain a clearer, less distorted understanding of what social and environmental stakeholders really think.