Brussels readies plans for EU ‘2020 strategy’


The European Commission will propose plans for a wide-ranging strategy to lift the EU out of recession next week, inviting member states to lead Europe towards a green, knowledge-based economy by 2020, according to a draft paper seen by EURACTIV.

A consultation on the strategy will be launched next week (24 November), with a final proposal to be released in January next year once the new European Commission is in place, EURACTIV has learnt. 

The new strategy is due to replace the EU’s flagship Lisbon Agenda for growth and jobs, which was adopted in the Portuguese capital in 2000 and expires next year.

EU leaders are expected to adopt the revised strategy in March 2010.

Next week’s consultation document takes the economic and financial crisis as a starting point, saying the EU’s first task in the coming years will be to emerge from the recession.

“The remaining problems in the financial system need to be solved swiftly in order to raise the EU’s growth potential,” the paper argues. “Access to credit and efficient financial market supervision will be crucial for the recovery.”

Commission spokesperson Mark English said there will not be any detailed proposals to come out of the discussion paper because the EU executive is still acting in a caretaker capacity before a new team is nominated in January next year.

“You know the institutional situation has been very uncertain,” English told this website, referring to delays in ratifying the Lisbon Treaty. “We are not in a position to make concrete proposals for now.”

Exit strategy

Nevertheless, the Commission document already lists a number of key challenges. The first will be to balance the “continued need for fiscal support” for economic growth in the short term with “the need to restore sustainable public finances and macroeconomic stability” in the long run, the Commission warns.

The stability and growth pact, which limits public deficits in the member states to 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), “will play an important role” in returning to sustainable growth levels, the EU executive stresses. 

Although the current draft gives no indication as to the timetable for reforms, the 2020 strategy is therefore effectively seen as the EU’s exit strategy from the economic crisis.

“Member states will need to redirect public expenditure towards the thematic objectives of EU 2020 so that the necessary investments in Europe’s future can be made,” the Commission says, arguing that “room can be found to invest in sustainable growth” despite the current strain on public finances.

EU member states firmly in control

The new strategy places EU member states firmly in control of the agenda, saying the European Council of heads of state should “fix a small number of headline objectives and define the corresponding policy action to be pursued at EU and member state level in partnership”.

“The cornerstone of the future strategy should be the European Council since it is the body which at European level ensures the integration of policies, manages interdependence between member states and the EU.”

For each objective, member states would “set their individual targets for five years corresponding to their national situations and their starting points”. The Commission would monitor implementation every year, with both a thematic and country review. 

The European Parliament could also take on a greater role by expressing its views on the 2020 strategy before March next year, the Commission adds.

Four key priorities

The paper defines four key priorities for 2020:

  • Innovation and knowledge: The “engine for sustainable growth” is knowledge and technology, the Commission argues, saying the EU needs to move to “a value economy”. “In a fast-changing world, what makes the difference is innovation in both products and processes.”
  • Fighting exclusion: With unemployment set to hit double-digit figures in 2010, the Commission recommends “empowering people” in order to create new jobs. “The transformation of the EU towards a greener, knowledge-based economy will boost new job creation and help reduce high levels of unemployment,” it argues. Transition between jobs and training periods will require a major effort to prevent people falling out of the system, and to ensure social cohesion, it says.
  • Green growth: With higher energy prices and greater competition for natural resources, European businesses need to adapt, the Commission warns. “More efficient use of resources, energy, and the application of new, greener technologies will stimulate growth, create new jobs and services and help the EU meet its environmental and climate goals,” it argues.
  • Digital Europe. Developing a “smart, upgraded transport and energy infrastructures to improve competitiveness”.

In a set of recommendations for the revised strategy, the Socialist and Democrats  in the European Parliament (S&D) said the economic and financial crisis had created "historic difficulties" for the EU.

"One lesson from [the global economic crisis] is that we cannot afford to separate economic strategy from a wider vision of society," the S&D group said, arguing that such a vision had in the past led to a society "reshaped in the interests of the economy," a vision which it said had "delivered less, not more growth than in previous decades".

"Europe's strategy for the next decade should focus not only on rates of growth and employment but also on how growth can hop build a better, fairer society," it said.

The S&D group believes the priorities for the next decade must surely include the following:

  • A new deal for sustainability.
  • High quality full employment with decent work and social inclusion for women and men.
  • The fight against poverty, inequality and insecurity.
  • A high-productivity knowledge economy.
  • Social and territorial cohesion.

"We call for these to be the core objectives of the EU 2020 strategy," the S&D group said. 

In 2000, the EU launched its ambitious 'Lisbon Strategy' to become "the world's most dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010".

After five years of limited results, EU leaders re-launched the strategy in March 2005, placing greater emphasis on growth and jobs and transferring more ownership to member states via national action plans (see EURACTIV LinksDossier).

With the 2010 deadline drawing nearer, the European Commission and national governments have begun to reflect on replacing the strategy.

  • 24 Nov. 2009: Commission expected to launch consultation on EU 2020 strategy.
  • Jan. 2010: New European Commission to table final proposal for EU 2020 strategy.
  • March 2010: EU summit to approve strategy.

On 8 September, Fondation EURACTIV held a workshop on the priorities for the next Commission and the replacement of the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs (
see programme here
). As the new Commission settles in, EURACTIV will continue to cover the review of the Lisbon Agenda in its 
EU Priorities section
 and during 'special week' coverage of the Spanish EU Presidency (
see programme here

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