Requirements for Europe2020 – an overview

, by Dr. Eva Högl, translated by Lina Ohltmann

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Requirements for Europe2020 – an overview

The European Commission’s initiative to build a new, common strategy for the development of the European Union in the coming decade after the entry into force of the Lisbon Strategy has generally been welcomed. The not very successful Lisbon Strategy mainly failed because of its non-binding headline goals, because its wording was kept too general and because of the poor coordination of the member states. A new strategy must therefore operate with binding headline goals and must punish violations of the contract. The close coordination and harmonisation of all member states must be transparent in all its steps and must be ensured in the planning and implementation of the strategy.

It is furthermore important that any suggestions from the European Council are heard and acknowledged. The consultation process can only have been the start of a fruitful discussion on Europe2020. Apart from the need for a stronger social and ecological dimension as well as for more concrete sanction measures, the missing consideration of the agricultural sector or the ensuring of enough food supplies have for example been criticised in the Commission’s proposal. Further criticism includes the fact that there was not enough time to allow discussion as the entire strategy was already accepted in June and there was only little time for consultation in March. Such a tight schedule contradicts the idea of a new strategy, which was to be carefully researched, balanced, transparent and developed with the intense inclusion of the public. It would have been desirable to have less closed talks and more open debate on the new European strategy.

Besides the weaknesses in the actual implementation process, it has to be said that it was in particular the too narrow focus of the old strategy that flawed it. Growth and competition were the only criteria according to which the process of growth in the Union was to be measured. This understanding is outdated. We have to wave goodbye to growth concepts if we want to lead Europe out of the crisis and at the same time put it in a condition that shows it is ready for the future. Growth is not a strategy and if the Commission is talking only of intelligent, sustainable and integrated growth, we know that is not enough.

Europe2020 must be the vision of 500 million Europeans.

Europe 2020 must be the vision of 500 million Europeans. The strategy must develop the European economic and social models further, make them ready for the 21st century. It must also maintain the achievements of the past and be the answer to the challenges of the future. For this, we need a strategy that gives the same importance to ecological, economic and social headline goals and can implement those through an integrated system of political, economic and social measures. In today’s globalised world, our industrial societies cannot follow an economic model that is based on numerous ending resources and on the never-ending increase of numbers in production. Instead we need a new way of thinking. How do we measure progress? How do we measure success? We need arrangements for improved education and an effective control of the financial markets. We need improvement in the quality of work. We need to fight against poverty. Lastly, we need to commit to the environment - all as equal components of such a strategy.

A successful economic strategy requires social progress. People who can live off their wages and can provide for their families while having planning security and feeling comfortable in their workplace are the best guarantees of success for companies and businesses. Therefore we need specific social measures such as minimum wages or actual equal pay for men and women in the entire European Union. Politics must bring an improvement of the quality of life for all Europeans. The first thing must be the prevention and fight against poverty. The EU cannot accept that almost 80 million people in Europe live below the poverty line. The European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion is an appeal to both politics and the public. The fight against poverty is active welfare policy to improve the quality of life in the European Union, not a marginal note in a Sunday Speech.

The same goes for the protection of the environment, climate and nature. Only with ambitious ecological objectives are we able to sustain and expand Europe’s comparative advantage in the innovation of renewable energies, environmental technology and other sustainable technologies. Apart from the tremendous potential for growth and employment that comes with these innovations, our industrial societies require this change due to fewer fossil resources and the need to lower carbon emissions. Therefore we need a modernisation and alternate routing of the traditional industries as core element for an ecological economic policy. Europe must be the clear driving force in this area. By preserving and going easy on natural resources in Europe, we make at the same time a commitment towards future generations.

No less important is the fact that success in this innovative and integrated strategy for sustainable development in Europe would enable us to bring positive impetus on a global level. Starting with international cooperation in environmental and climate protection to closer work on development and the promotion of human and civil rights. If the European Way of Life brings about integrated societies in a sustainable economic system with a high quality of life, this will automatically become a role model for the world.

But first we have to convince the Europeans of this new strategy. The European Parliament, the national governments and parliaments, trade unions, organisations, companies and the civil society must work together to make the Europe2020 strategy a reality. The basis for success is the acceptance and inclusion of Europe’s citizens. With the Lisbon Treaty we can dare to ask for more democracy in Europe. Let’s give it a try!

Image: Europe 2020 on the European Commission website.

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