Is Europe2020 the right consequence after the failure of the Lisbon Strategy?

, by Reinhard Bütikofer, translated by Lina Ohltmann

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Is Europe2020 the right consequence after the failure of the Lisbon Strategy?

It is obvious that the Lisbon Strategy did not succeed, as the EU has surely not become the most competitive global region. Many critics claim that Europe2020 will not be successful either.

Europe2020 goes beyond where its predecessor had by using three adjectives “smart, sustainable and inclusive” as a way of describing the quality of growth and the headline goals in the areas of science, eco-efficiency and social matters. It still has to be determined in which form the headline goals proposed by the European Commission emerge from the results of the European Council meeting. The Council has so far not been very ambitious in this matter, instead slowing it down.

Furthermore, the Council is still in control of the breaks in relation to the second major difference between Europe2020 and the Lisbon Strategy: the question of governance. This part of the proposed paper by Commission President Barroso is going in the right direction as the central role of the Council is linked to the new instruments of the Commission, which it gained through the Lisbon Treaty.

This should be supported as a voluntary coordination, it has become clear, is not enough to achieve real results.

In the European Parliament, the Commission’s draft was criticised as not ambitious enough to get to terms with today’s problems. Apart from a discussion on the question if in the area of competition a headline goal on resources efficiency should be included, it is essential that the political debate ensures a straightforward version of the strategy is passed.

To achieve more success compared with the Lisbon Strategy, Europe2020 has to set a goal for a qualitative growth and it has to be more ambitious and more binding in governance agreements compared to the Lisbon Strategy.

Europe2020 is decided upon in the capitals of Europe’s member states

The European Council has to make the final decision on Europe2020. The Council has to decide with a view towards the future, whether the goals and structures are built to bring our Europe forward. If Europe’s capitals do not want a smooth ride but want to slow the strategy it down, Europe2020 cannot succeed. After it is passed however, member states will have to show initiative for the actual implementation of the strategy. Once important strategic partners, especially in Germany, are scared away when they hear the term “economic union” instead of acknowledging the opportunities a closer economic and political cooperation and integration can mean, Europe2020 is failed before it has even started. In Germany, one further has to add that the engagement of the Länder and their powers as well as responsibilities have to be taken into account and should not become the stumbling block for Europe2020. In particular for the social and educational headline goals.

Germany therefore has to become one of the political driving forces for Europe2020.

Democratic participation in the development and implementation of Europe2020

The European Parliament has given the Commission’s proposal roughly the attention of a cheerleader in sports: pretty to engage the audience but not active in the game itself. The European Council has found some polite and non-binding phrases on the involvement of parliaments but in Germany not much of this has been noticed so far. Without systematic and active inclusion of parliaments and the public, any executive decision may be rendered lame. This will later translate to the implementation of the passed strategy.

Council and Commission must therefore ensure a systematic inclusion of the parliaments in the development and implementation of Europe2020 and further need to include the broader public in the discussion on the strategy before it is passed.

Image: Europe 2020 on the European Commission website.

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