|The EU 2020 strategy: analysis and perspectives|
At the Spring summit, on 25 and 26 March 2010, EU Heads of State endorsed the European Commission’s proposal for a Europe 2020 economic strategy. Replacing the much-criticized Lisbon strategy, Europe 2020 is the centerpiece of EC president Barroso’s new mandate. Intended to correct the main failures of its predecessor, and aiming to bring together a comprehensive roadmap for the EU’s economic recovery and growth for the next ten years, the strategy has been praised by some but has also raised a number of doubts and criticisms.
The objective of the Lisbon strategy, launched in 2000, was to make of the European Union ‘the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010’. At the time already, it was recognised that the reform agenda needed to achieve this very ambitious objective could not be pursued at EU level alone, but that reforms at Member State levels were also necessary as, in many of the policy fields involved, competence remained at national level. Midway through its lifespan, in 2005, the strategy’s failures were already very visible: an overly complex structure with multiple goals and actions, an unclear division of responsibilities and tasks, a too weak leadership by the European Commission, and a lack of political engagement from the Member States. This harsh mid-term assessment led to the 2005 re-launch of the strategy focusing almost exclusively on growth and jobs, and with a slight adaptation of the governance model enhancing the partnership between the EC and the Member States. For many commentators, however, the overall direction of the strategy was still flawed, and it was too late to shift its course. The 2007 financial and economic crisis was the final blow to the Strategy, bringing back the EU growth and unemployment numbers to historically low figures.
The EU still being mainly an economically driven project, expectations for the new economic strategy were therefore extremely high. How could the EU address the current crisis in a pragmatic way, but also pave the way for the future, and take stock of the Lisbon failures?
As presented by the European Commission on 3 March and adopted by the European Council at the Spring Summit, the main objective of the Europe 2020 strategy is to bring together the economic, social and environmental agendas of the EU in a more structured and coherent way. The idea is to mainstream some fundamental political objectives both at EU level (through the use of funding programmes and policy initiatives), as in the context of EU driven national reforms. The 2020 strategy aims at enhancing policy synergies and, at the same time, reinforcing the European integration process by offering a stronger vision and governance model.
Europe 2020 is subtitled ‘A European strategy for smart, green and inclusive growth’. The EC’s proposal is to continue to promote EU growth based on knowledge and innovation, aiming at high-employment, but still delivering social cohesion, and in a sustainable perspective (both in competitive and environmental terms).
Five measurable targets:
The strategy lays out five targets to be achieved by the European Union by 2020:
- a 75% employment rate for the 20-64 age group;
- a 3% investment rate in Research and Development;
- 20/20/20 climate and energy targets (the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20%, a share of final energy consumption coming from renewable energy sources increased to 20%, and an energy sufficiency of 20%);
- an improvement of education levels (a reduction of school drop-out rates, and an increased share of the population having completed tertiary or equivalent education);
- a promotion of social inclusion including a reduction of poverty.
If the first three targets were already the drivers of the Lisbon strategy, and were therefore adopted without major debate by the Member States, the education and social objectives are new, and were not attributed measurable targets yet. If commentators agree that future plans for EU’s growth cannot ignore a common agenda in the fields of education or social protection, our governments are still extremely reluctant to let the EU drive their policies in those domains. Indeed, in the education and social fields, competences remain at national level – and sometimes regional, such as in Germany for education. In addition, educational and social starting points are very uneven depending on the country, and some governments are therefore very reluctant to agree on binding common targets that could be a lot more difficult to attain for some countries than others.
Member States are supposed to define the education and social targets at the next European Council on 17-18 June, and this discussion will certainly be the first main test of the real will of Member States to invest the European project with more than just economic interests.
Policies and actions:
In addition to measurable targets, the 2020 strategy also introduces a series of actions and policies grouped under three main headings: smart growth, green growth, and inclusive growth.
The 9 EU flagship initiatives proposed by the Commission are the following:
1) ‘Innovative Union’
2) ‘Youth on the Move’
3) ‘A Digital Agenda for Europe’
4) a ‘Low-carbon, resource efficient Europe’
5) ‘Clean and efficient energy’
6) ‘An industrial policy for the globalization era’
7) ‘A New Jobs Agenda’
8) ‘New skills for New Jobs’
9) a ‘European Platform against poverty’
In the 2020 paper, the Commission is still vague in describing the tools and programmes the Commission can use to attain the stated objectives. Heads of States asked the Commission to detail its action plan for each flagship initiative by October 2010, and the EC announced in its 2010 work programme a series of Communications to be published in this context.
The last important element of the Europe 2020 strategy is the reform of the governance model that had been heavily criticized in the context of the Lisbon strategy, and blamed as one of the main reasons for its failure.
So, in governance terms, the 2020 strategy introduces two important innovations:
- the European Council is now clearly in charge of driving the process, on the basis of Commission’s proposals;
- and the European Commission has a new capacity to issue ‘policy warnings’ if a Member State fails, after a number of notifications and at the end of an agreed time-frame, to deliver on objectives (this new European competence was introduced by the article 121.4 of the new Lisbon treaty).
The reporting system on the Member States’ efforts to achieve the 2020 targets will also be better coordinated with the Stability and Growth Pact reporting system, dealing with the legally binding obligation for Member States to report on their reforms in the domains of macroeconomics and public finances. If the two processes will still remain separate, those almost simultaneous reporting procedures will hopefully push Member States to better coordinate their macroeconomic reforms with the thematic initiatives expected to be driven by the 2020 strategy.
How to position arts and culture in this new framework?
For the arts and culture sector, following closely the implementation of the 2020 strategy in the months and years to come will be of crucial importance. We know that the strategy will be at the center of EU action, and that it will strongly influence almost all upcoming EU policies and initiatives. The EU is still mainly an economic project, and it is through economic perspectives that Member States are most likely to accept to develop their actions and co-operation at EU level. So what does this new policy environment means for arts and culture? How should we analyze this new framework, and which advocacy positions should we develop to strengthen our position of influence in this economic strategy, without reducing the importance of arts and culture to a solely economic argument?
In the last few years, the word creativity has become more and more prominent at EU level. In 2007, one of the three objectives of the European Agenda for Culture was culture and economic growth, and Council conclusions on the contribution of the cultural and creative sector to the Lisbon strategy were adopted. 2009 was labeled European Year for Creativity and Innovation, and new Council conclusions were published in this context - entitled Culture as a catalyst for Creativity and Innovation.
In the EU 2020 consultation document published by the European Commission in November 2009, ‘creativity’ was also given an important role, associated to innovation in the education and research contexts. In the EC final proposal for the Europe 2020 strategy, however, the word and any associated actions have almost completely disappeared.
All too frequently arts and culture have been marginalized when discussed in overarching political or economic frameworks. When arts and culture are put on the agenda of DGs other than Education and Culture, or by other Council configurations than the Culture Council, negotiating positions harden. This seems to have happened again in the Europe 2020 context. Despite a strong contribution from Culture Action Europe to the consultation, and a concerted effort on the part of social and environmental NGOs (the Spring Alliance), the European Commission and the EU Heads of State have taken once again a conservative stance at the time of shaping its new economic strategy. The promise of a real shift towards a more social approach towards EU development has once again been hollow.
If culture and creativity are not included as such in the 2020 strategy, we can still see potential areas of development for EU actions in the culture and creativity fields. During the EC conference organised in Brussels last 23-24 March to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the European Capitals for Culture, for example, EC president Barroso urged national and local authority leaders to ‘make sure that culture is firmly anchored in the long-term development strategies’. He also recognised the necessity to ‘move towards an economy based on creativity, knowledge and innovation’ and that ‘boosting the creative industries in Europe’s cities’ was a ‘key element of the European 2020 strategy’. At the European Forum on Cultural Industries of 29-30 March, EU Ministers of Culture also pleaded for ‘putting culture at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy’, and made some concrete demands concerning cultural industries in particular.
So on the basis of the Europe 2020 strategy as it stands today, but also on the potential development areas we just underlined, our action should be twofold:
We should first develop our understanding of and influence within the Europe 2020 framework. We have to deepen our reflection around the ‘creativity paradigm’. We have to validate the fact that associating arts and culture with economic growth strengthen our position within education, economic and industrial policies.
On the other hand, we have to be wary of seeing EU support to arts and culture only channeled through economic strategies. To do so we have to engage in an informed way in the overarching EU economic and social debates. We have to promote a European integration process valuing economic growth but also democracy, sustainability, social inclusion and solidarity. And we have to reach out to new partners, within civil society and beyond, that share our views and promote the same values.
Europe 2020 strategy
Spring Summit conclusions on Europe 2020
Europe 2020 timeline
Europe 2020 architecture
Public consultation on EU2020 strategy
Culture Action Europe’s contribution to the consultation
The Spring Alliance
Public consultation - Overview of responses
Lisbon strategy evaluation
EurActiv Europe 2020 dossier
EC President Barroso’s speech, Cultural Capital conference, Brussels, 23 March 2010
Informal meeting of the EU Culture Ministers, Barcelona, 31 March 2010