EU 2020 seeks to balance green growth and jobs

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Governments, industry and stakeholders have weighed into the debate on the EU's new growth strategy, urging a stronger social dimension and the completion of the internal market.

A number of member states have called on the European Commission to develop links between economic, social and environmental elements of the plan, as well as demanding better links between EU '2020' and existing social policy.

According to the EU's overview of the 1,500 submissions received as part of a public consultation process, several governments have stressed the need for new investment in fresh sources of growth.

There is widespread concern that the jobs crisis is continuing to deepen, making the need for a comprehensive roadmap to recovery even more pressing.

The role of manufacturing industries and SMEs in job creation is highlighted by a number of member states, and there is a degree of consensus on the need for robust governance structures to ensure the EU 2020 strategy is implemented.

Social NGOs move beyond GDP

Stakeholders specialising in social issues used the consultation process to repeat their criticism that the draft strategy is "too narrow" in scope.

They also suggest setting targets that foster delivery, suggesting the indicators used to measure success should move "beyond GDP".

The research community stressed the need to develop the European Research Area while welcoming the imminent appointment of a Chief Scientific Advisor.

According to the Commission, most academics agree with the challenged identified in the draft EU 2020 strategy and broadly support the thematic priorities. However, several academic contributors argued that Europe's current growth model is unsustainable and that the benefits of growth should be shared more fairly.

Submissions were also received from beyond the EU, with governments from Japan and Norway expressing support, while the IMF and the American Chamber of Commerce emphasised the importance of creating a pro-market environment and improved competitiveness.

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Ben Butters, director of European affairs at Eurochambres, said the new plan should be more robust than the last.

"The 2000-10 Lisbon Strategy was strong on ambition, but weak on action. Today, it is clearer than ever that reform is not an option, it is essential, so the EU 2020 Strategy must be built on firmer foundations than its predecessor, based on strong ownership, effective implementation and robust monitoring and coordination."

He described the open method of coordination as "heavily flawed," saying it needs to be reinforced and re-branded to ensure implementation.

EU 2020 should also be endorsed by all stakeholders from Brussels down to local level, according to Eurochambres, which says an effective communication strategy will play a big role in securing support for the new roadmap.

Eucomed, which represents the medical technology sector, wants to see more incentives for innovation in the strategy.

In its submission to the European Commission, the group says it applauds the objectives of the plan but stresses the need for all policies to be consistent with EU 2020.

"It is important that procurement procedures are driven to incentivise innovation and are designed to particularly help SMEs unleash their innovation potential to launch new products on the market. This also applies to reimbursement schemes which do not always recognise the entire care process and long-term patient outcomes,” said John Wilkinson, chief executive of Eucomed.

The European Builders Confederation (EBC) expressed disappointment with the consultation document published by the European Commission, which it says lacked several elements that will be fundamental to the EU policy agenda for the next decade.

The EBC – which represents small firms and craft workers in the construction sector – said EU 2020 should embrace the Small Business Act (SBA) rather than adding new, unclear priorities.

"The SBA, which recently turned one year old, is set aside by new and unclear priorities. We believe that the three axes of the SBA - less administrative burden, better access to finance and better access to markets for SMEs - must be maintained and reinforced in all future EU legislation and policies, always based on the 'Think Small First' principle," said Andrea Marconi, EBC president.

The European Students' Union welcomed the attention given to education in the draft EU 2020 strategy.

"ESU is, however, concerned that the document will fail to capture the essence of the strategy unless specific targets are drafted", says Ligia Deca, ESU Chairperson.

The Union wants student mobility, changing skills needs and public investment in high education to be considered by policymakers charting a long-term course forward for Europe.

BEUC, the European consumers' association, supports the proposed EU 2020 objectives, whilst advocating a stronger focus on social inclusion and consumer rights. It also takes the view that more should be done to empower citizens. The single market should be deepened and consumer protection made a cross-cutting priority in the new strategy.

Several national consumer organisations also contributed to the consultation. They share the general views expressed by BEUC on the importance of consumer policy in the new strategy. They equally underline the importance of guaranteeing adequate legal protection.

ETUC (the European Trade Union Confederation) said the Lisbon strategy took "too liberal an approach" and wants this to be changed by reinforcing the EU's "social profile," calling for the development of a social programme (built around deepening the social acquis and demand-side labour market policies).

It wants short-termism in corporate governance to be tackled without delay, and calls for a focus on green and smart growth.

All social partners agree on improving education and developing skills.

Both UEAPME and BusinessEurope are calling for the removal of the remaining internal market barriers, further reductions of the administrative burden on businesses. They wans policymakers to 'think small first' when designing regulation, access to finance and 'flexicurity'. BusinessEurope advocates far-reaching structural reforms to secure growth, jobs and viable public finances.

UEAPME highlights the challenges SMEs face and calls for better market access (internal market and third countries' markets), fair competition and a level playing field. Referring to the Small Business Act, it emphasises the importance of implementing policy commitments effectively.

The Eurosystem submitted a contribution fully supporting the integration of social and environmental objectives into the EU 2020 strategy, while maintaining its overall focus on growth and jobs. Particular attention should be given to a well-functioning labour market, internal market policies, competition and innovation, sound financial systems and the strict implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact. Social and environmental objectives should rely, as far as possible, on market-based instruments.

The Eurosystem broadly agrees with the governance structures proposed by the Commission.

The European Centre for Development and Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) believes the EU 2020 strategy should include detailed policies on innovation and creativity and in particular on education and training, including vocational education and training. Partnerships between businesses and research bodies should include education and training authorities to help match skills with jobs.

The European Research Council (ERC) underlines the importance of generating knowledge leadership as a basis for innovation, greening the economy, competitiveness and prosperity. It calls for the development of world-class knowledge infrastructures and the retention and repatriation of top scientific talent from the EU and beyond.

European standards organisations (CEN, CENELEC, ETSI) highlight the role standardisation can play to support the objectives of the EU 2020 strategy and in particular the further development of the single market.

Klaus Klipp, Secretary General of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) said the process should take a "bottom-up approach", involving regional actors in defining and implementing governance structures.

The EU has been preparing a strategy to replace the Lisbon Agenda for Growth and Jobs, which expires this year (2010).

A new document, EU 2020, was presented for consultation. A broad range of perspectives have emerged, amid criticism that the time allotted for feedback was too short. The European Commission received over 1,500 responses from stakeholders.

The new plan comes at a time of rising unemployment in Europe following a deep recession that wiped out billions in wealth. EU 2020 also takes on a greener hue than the Lisbon Agenda, focusing on sustainable growth through innovation.  

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