Getting Europe Back on Track: Europe 2020

How will Europe look like in 2020? The answer to this question might not be easy: much will depend on the outcome of next May’s European elections, which will change the heads of the EU’s main institutions: the Parliament, the Commission and the Council.

But even during electoral periods, the European Union does not act on a day-to-day basis. On the contrary, it has a clearly outlined strategy of what Europe should be by the end of the decade. This strategy for growth even has a name: Europe 2020.

Launched for the first time in March 2010 by the European Commission and approved by all Member States, Europe 2020 has a double objective: not only hastening Europe’s exit from the crisis, but also building the first blocks for a sustainable growth in the future.

The strategy also aims to put together the economic, social and environmental agenda. In particular, and as a response to those criticizing the EU institutions as too broad and lacking efficiency, the plan identifies five main targets to be met in different sectors by 2020.

These are very precise targets. To make them real, the Strategy has introduced a series of measures and policies, regrouped under 7 “Flagship Initiatives”, as they are called by the Commission, aiming at steering legislation towards the priority targets, each one focusing on one specific objective.

Europe 2020 | Create infographics

Click on Europe 2020 below the infographics to see it bigger.

How does such a complex strategy go from the general vision to the practical policies?

Actually, the implementation follows a top-down pattern: the European Council is in charge of driving the process, on the basis of proposals by the Commission. Then, every initiative is put into place by the Member States according to their specific needs and translating it into national targets.

In this process, local authorities and private actors have a role as well, by, in particular, integrating European funding programmes at the local/regional level. Given their complexity and importance for our readers, UNITEE will devote three articles on European funding programmes (COSME; Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs; European Social Fund).

Concerning the control system, it is the European Commission that monitors the initiatives’ actual implementation at the Member States level (cf. European Semesters) and formulates recommendations. If Member States do not act upon these recommendations on time, policy warnings can be issued by the Commission, and sanctions can be foreseen.

Almost four years after its first introduction, it is difficult to evaluate the strategy Europe 2020. If it is true, as some critics point out, that it has not helped to overcome the crisis, there is also no denying that many of its positive impacts will be evident only at the end of the decade-long process.

The European elections will be an opportunity to increase the discussion on this topic. With one thing in mind: so far, the European public discourse has been focused on how to emerge from the crisis. From May on, let’s hope it focuses more and more on growth. Only in this way can Europe 2020 actually become real.


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