The Europe 2020 objectives and targets were adopted in 2010 on the assumption that Europe could achieve a quick return to growth after the financial crisis that hit the EU in 2008, following the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States. In 2010 three main scenarios for Europe’s economic outlook were considered : strong growth, sluggish recovery and a lost decade scenario. Six years down the road, the reality is somewhere between the second and the third scenarios, which makes many of the targets very difficult to attain.
The benefits of the Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020) mostly failed to materialise. There is almost stagnation in many areas. The conclusion from the 2010-2013 data is that the current economic governance and austerity policies do not help to fulfil the objectives of Europe 2020. The Europe 2020 strategy should remain the guiding approach of EU policy-making as the five headline targets are still appropriate and reflect Europe’s current key challenges.
After several years of painful crisis and after the recent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals with 2030 as a target date, the European Union needs to relaunch its growth and employment strategy with a real ambition for the future. Reducing unemployment and social inequality is crucial for the success of European integration, now more than ever, as Europe prepares to deal with larger scale immigration. But additional and better jobs can only be delivered if necessary investments are made to boost the transition towards an innovative carbon neutral, circular and digital economy.
This transition to a new growth model must be consistent with the principles of sustainable development: economically, socially and environmentally. Any employment strategy has to be based on the creation of high-quality and sustainable jobs, not just on reducing unemployment per se. A new growth model has to be based on social justice. At the same time, to reach the growth target it is necessary to focus on R&D, innovation and creativity to invent new products, methods and potential services, including accessible goods and services, in both traditional and emerging sectors.
But to make innovative products and services, a well-educated work force is needed, which must be one of the tasks of the education system. At the same time companies need access to capital in order to encourage development and production of new products and services. This is why it is important to include long-term financing in the EU2020 strategy.
A new growth model also needs to recognise the importance of the single market, as set forth in the Lisbon Treaty, as a fundamental tool to aim for a social market economy where the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital must be balanced against social policy objectives.
Furthermore, the decisions about this strategy need to be taken with stronger democratic involvement from European citizens, as was shown by the public consultation organised by the Commission in 2014.
Regarding the funding of EU policies, two years after the start of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020, the situation in which the current framework applies has changed, with new crises and priorities emerging. In fact, the resources available in the current MFF over the coming years are likely to be insufficient to tackle the number of crises or to finance priorities for EU2020 to a desirable extent. Hence, there is a genuine need for a mid-term revision of the MFF.
In addition, the EU2020 priorities, as well as any other priority which may be decided at the highest EU political level, should be accompanied by a binding financing plan, including an assessment of its impact on the EU budget. Otherwise, there cannot be either real commitment or real success.
Given the new challenges the EU is facing on its external front – closely interlinked to the challenges the EU has internally – and given that progress at the global governance level (environment, energy, finances, taxation, etc) is essential to renew and support our internal model, the EU needs to concentrate its efforts and step up its policy coherence.
We must encourage our partners to converge with us, taking the same direction, taking into account their specificities, culture and civilisation. All the instruments of the EU’s external action (strategic partnership, trade agreements, multilateral and bilateral co-operation and intercultural dialogue as a soft power) should be mobilised to reach both improved global governance and wide convergence.