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10 March 2014

Europe 2020 strategy off target for employment and poverty goals

Europe 2020

The European Commission presented last week a mid-term evaluation of its Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The stock-taking exercise shows that the EU is not on track to reach its goals of increasing the population’s employment rate and reducing poverty.

The Europe 2020 strategy was launched in 2010 as the EU’s new ‘growth’ strategy. Seen as a partnership between the EU and its Member States, the strategy set out five headline targets to be achieved by 2020 and complemented this with seven flagship initiatives for areas seen as important levers for growth (e.g. digital Europe, resource efficiency, skills and jobs, platform against poverty etc.).

In its paper of 5 March, the Commission evaluates the 2020 strategy against the background of financial and economic crisis and prepares the ground for a debate with all stakeholders on new ‘post-crisis’ priorities for the second half of the decade.

It admits that progress towards the Europe 2020 targets has been “mixed”. “The EU is on course to meet or come close to its targets on education, climate change and energy but not on employment, research and development or on poverty reduction”, says the report.

Target   Results
Employment: increasing employment rate of population aged 20-64 to at least 75%   Employment rate was 68.4% in 2012
Innovation: Increasing public and private investment in R&D to 3% of GDP   The level of R&D was 2.06% in 2012
Greening: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% compared to 1990, increasing renewable energy to 20% and increasing energy efficiency by 20%   GHGs: already 18% reduction by 2012
Renewables: already 14.4% by 2012
Primary energy consumption fell by 8% between 2006 and 2012
Education: reducing school drop-out rates to less than 10% and increase share of people in tertiary education to at least 40%   Share of early school leavers fell from 15.7 in 2005 to 12.7% in 2012
Young people in tertiary eduction went up from 27.9% in 2005 to 35.7% in 2012.
Poverty: lifting at least 20 million people out of risk of poverty and social exclusion   Number of people at risk increased from 114 million to 124 million in 2012

Although the Commission draws no policy conclusions and makes no policy recommendations, there are a few passages in the communication which come close.

In its diagnosis of the crisis and its impact on the Europe 2020 strategy, the Commission clearly states that “seeking to return to the growth ‘model’ of the previous decade would be both illusory and harmful”. It also admits that the EU can no longer be seen as a “convergence machine”. “This convergence process has slowed and even gone into reverse in parts of Europe as a result of the accumulation of imbalances and under the pressure of the crisis.

It sees, on the contrary, a “growing gap between the best and least well performing Member States and a widening gap between regions inside and across Member States” plus “growing inequalities in the distribution of wealth and income”.

This analysis confirms the trends observed in the ETUI’s 2012 and 2013 annual Benchmarking Working Europe reports which had ‘inequality’ and a ‘diverging Europe’ as its main themes.

This year, the Benchmarking Working Europe report for 2014, will provide its own stock-taking of where Europe is “half-way through a lost decade”. It will officially be launched on 24 March.

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