The EU’s 2020 strategy to build a sustainable future beyond the current economic crisis is too short-termist and fails to address the fundamental problems of the current growth model, Philippe Herzog, founder of the Confrontations Europe think-tank, told EURACTIV in an interview.
Herzog, a former French MEP for the far-left GUE group in the European Parliament, was speaking after a two-day Confrontations Europe conference in Brussels exploring “investment in human capital and long-term financing” to pull the EU out of recession.
What is required, the conference argued, is an entirely new growth model based on long-term investment, be it in education, infrastructure, or the so-called ‘green economy’, which will entail deep changes in the way Europeans produce and consume.
Nothing less will do if the EU is serious about ending short-termism and looking towards long-term investment. This, Herzog said, involves restructuring the public sector and having incentives and different types of finance in the private sector.
Herzog believes the way the European Commission is preparing its new ‘2020 strategy’ for economic, social and environmental policies is “very problematic”.
First of all, the public consultation period has been far too short, he claimed, and furthermore the draft strategy fails to take a more long-term view as regards investment.
“Concretely, you don’t see any policy prescriptions for restructuring in the next two or three years,” he said. What is required is “a complete review of productivity in the EU,” outlining which parts of the productive sector should be sustained.
At the same time, there should be a huge retraining operation, the former MEP argued. “It was very evident at our conference that we not only lack skills at a very high level in Europe – entrepreneurs and engineers of a very high quality – but we also face a huge lack of technicians. So we’d like to have massive funds devoted to the re-qualification and up-skilling of workers, and this isn’t present in the 2020 agenda as yet,” he said.
As regards the evolution of the EU social model, Herzog believes the social dimension of these questions is a “major worry”. The Confrontations Europe founder believes radical action is needed, and immediately.
For example, he argued that the Globalisation Adjustment Fund should be transformed into a fund for restructuring the industries that will be hit hardest by the crisis. “These types of funds should have governance whereby the social partners, and especially the trade unions, have a say,” he said.
Likewise, to achieve a genuine EU-wide ‘flexicurity’ model, “we need co-operation to be built between schools and enterprises, and also improved cross-border co-operation – for example, between national unemployment services,” he said.
If the EU fails to take the medium and long-term into account while devising these new strategies, it will continue to rely on social devices of the past, meaning that the EU workforce will not be prepared for the future and more people will quit the labour market altogether.
“At the moment, in my opinion, public authorities do not see this properly, which is a great shame,” Herzog concluded.
Herzog was speaking to Olof Gill.