Europe 2020 will address social issues

A new economic strategy which aims to help the European Union exit the recent recession and guide the economy over the next decade also promises to have a significant impact on social issues, such as poverty and inclusion.

The main building blocks of the Europe 2020 Strategy were agreed by the European Council on March 25 and 26. The decision to back the Commission’s proposal on the new strategy comes in the wake of the worst financial crisis the EU has faced in a generation.

Building on the work of the Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs, Europe 2020 promises closer economic policy coordination to help Member States put their economies back on track and address global challenges in a coherent and effective way.

Smart, sustainable - and inclusive

Europe 2020 sets out three interlinked priority target areas, or drivers for growth, which will be implemented through actions at EU and national level.

  • Smart growth, which will be about nurturing an economy based on knowledge and innovation;
  • Sustainable growth, which will promote a competitive, low carbon economy that uses resources efficiently; and
  • Inclusive growth, through which Europe will foster high employment and help people acquire skills while addressing the fight against poverty and exclusion.

Progress towards these objectives will be measured against five EU headline targets:

  • 75% of the population aged between 20 and 64 should be in work;
  • 3% of the EU’s GDP should be invested in research and development;
  • Community climate and energy targets must be met;
  • Levels of education must be improved, which will include efforts to reduce school drop-out rates and increase the share of people in tertiary education;
  • Promotion of social inclusion, particularly through poverty reduction. The message here is that growth should benefit everyone and nobody should be left behind.

Implementation and architecture

To meet these targets, Europe 2020 establishes a series of flagship initiatives – a number of which reflect the EU’s desire to build a competitive economy that addresses social need.

For example, a "European platform against poverty" has been proposed to support economic, social and territorial cohesion by helping poor and socially excluded people to live in dignity and play an active role in society.

An agenda to create new skills and jobs seeks to modernise labour markets, raise employment levels and ensure Europe’s social model remains sustainable and inclusive.

A process of country reporting will help Member States to define and implement strategies that will help them exit the economic downturn and restore stability.

A thematic approach will be used to review and monitor progress towards the agreed Europe 2020 headline targets. Member States will report on the actions they have taken via their national reform programmes.

Member States will have to carry out an assessment of the main challenges they face, especially in terms of ensuring sound public finances and avoiding excessive levels of debt. Reporting on these issues will be conducted through the stability and convergence programmes.

Reports prepared via this twin-track approach should be submitted to the Commission and other Member States during the final quarter of the year.

Every year the Commission will assess and report on how the Member States are implementing their 2020 programmes, highlighting steps forward while flagging-up any weaknesses and delays.

In addition to offering a comprehensive overview of each country’s progress towards the 2020 thematic priorities, the Commission’s reports will provide information on economic, employment, budgetary and financial conditions.

The European Council will make an overall assessment of progress achieved both at EU and at national level in implementing the strategy. Policy recommendations will be addressed to Member States in the context of the country reporting as well as under the thematic approach of Europe 2020. Those recommendations will be precise and provide a timeframe within which the country under scrutiny must act.

Source: European Commission