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19th Jan 2020

Brussels starts work on new 10-year economic plan

  • NGOs say the consultation period should be extended (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission launched a public consultation period on Tuesday (24 November) on a new 10-year economic plan for the European Union.

Still grappling with the fallout from the global financial crisis, the EU hopes the plan will help tackle pressing issues such as rising unemployment and return the bloc to solid economic growth in the longer term.

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The final date for submissions is 15 January 2010, after which the commission will then finalise a detailed proposal to be submitted to EU leaders at the European summit next March.

"Europe reduced unemployment from 12 percent to 7 percent in the decade to 2008. We now need new sources of growth to replace the jobs lost in the crisis," said commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in a statement.

In line with Mr Barroso's political guidelines for the next five years, the consultation paper points to the importance of greener and socially inclusive growth.

The need for policies to improve education, align worker skills with employer demands and the promotion of green technologies are some of the issues stressed in the consultation document.

Implementation

Tuesday's consultation paper suggests that EU leaders set out "integrated guidelines" in their spring conclusions, which member states would then transfer into national objectives.

The finalised plan will replace the much-criticised previous blueprint – the Lisbon Strategy – approved by member states in 2000 and set to expire at the end of next year.

While welcoming the general themes in the paper, Eurochambres – an association that represents European Chambers of Commerce in Brussels – stressed the need for improved monitoring of member state implementation.

"Part of the blame lies with the 'Open Method of Co-ordination,' which leaves implementation to the goodwill of member states," said Arnaldo Abruzzini, Eurochambres Secretary General.

"This method should be reviewed in the future 2020 strategy, and include more incentives for member states to deliver on their targets," he added.

The Open Method of Co-ordination is a monitoring system devised in the 1990s, under which member states "peer review" each other's progress in reaching targets. It is frequently cited as an important reason for the limited success of the Lisbon Strategy.

One way to improve implementation levels without the use of formal sanctions is by using the EU budget as a reward system, says Andre Sapir, a senior fellow with Brussels-based think-tank Bruegel.

"I think instead of sticks we need some carrots," he told EUobserver, outlining how member states that reach agreed targets could be rewarded under the EU budget.

"If you want to have a have better EU involvement, there needs to be a redirection of the EU budget towards the fulfillment of the plan's goals in general, and in some areas use some money to reward behaviour," he said.

Civil society

The consultation paper comes amid accusations from NGOs that the new plan is in danger of being devised by member states behind closed doors and without a proper consultation with civil society.

In a letter sent to Mr Barroso last week, the Social Platform of European NGOs said the seven-week consultation period did not leave enough time for a proper debate on a plan that will decide the course of Europe's economy for the next 10 years.

"Not properly engaging citizens and civil society in discussing the Europe they want would be a missed opportunity to generate ownership, public acceptance of EU future strategy," reads the letter.

The group would like to see a longer consultation period with agreement by EU leaders at the December summit next year.

However, the commission rejects the idea that seven weeks is not enough time, stressing the need for haste in the current economic environment.

"It is not possible to have delays considering the fragile nature of the economy," commission spokesman Amadeu Tardio told this website.

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