25th Mar 2023

EU business leaders criticise 2020 consultation procedure

European business organisations have voiced strong criticism over the recently expired consultation period for the EU's 2020 Strategy, a process designed to give European stakeholders a say in the bloc's new 10-year economic plan.

With original expectations for an October 2009 start, the consultation period eventually kicked off on 24 November last year, allowing organisations and individuals a total of seven weeks to make submissions via the internet before the 15 January deadline.

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  • The consultation period was designed to enable stakeholder input (Photo: &y)

Eurochambres, a Brussels-based umbrella organisation representing some 200 European chambers of commerce and industry, said the process was both too short and poorly organised.

"We are furious about the whole consultation procedure," director of European affairs Ben Butters told EUobserver in an interview. "It's been amateurish."

Describing the commission document accompanying the process as "not very tight" and failing to "ask specific questions," Mr Butters also said the truncated consultation period was made even shorter by the Christmas recess.

"It's a risky game to launch into a key policy plan like this without engaging key stakeholders," he said.

Business Europe, a Brussels-based European association of industries and employers, was also unimpressed by the consultation paper.

"In general we thought it was extremely weak, especially in the area of governance," the association's 2020 project leader, Joana Valente, said of the 12-page document, which outlines a list of potential measures to achieve a "sustainable social market" and "greener" economy over the next decade.

Commission defense

The European Commission has defended the sounding-out process however, saying over 2,000 submissions have been made from a broad spectrum of backgrounds including 22 EU governments, NGOs, academics, professional associations and individuals.

"This is an encouraging and impressive response which shows the level of interest in these proposals," the commission spokesman for the strategy, Mark English, told this website, stressing that the consultation document was intended to "consult, not proscribe."

With officials now poring over the entries, the commission intends to publish a summary of the consultation trends in late February, with the broad themes also feeding into the commission's communication on the EU 2020 Strategy, expected around the same time.

Following repeated delays, the EU executive's new team of 27 commissioners is also likely to take over the reigns sometime next month. Mr English firmly rejected suggestions the late changeover would prevent the new team from taking ownership of the 10-year economic blueprint for sustainable European growth.

The strategy was amongst the topics discussed during three 'seminars' for potential members of the new team in December, he said. Already spending considerable amounts of time in Brussels to prepare their cabinets and make contacts, officials indicated the incoming commissioners were playing an active role in the shaping of next month's highly anticipated communication on the strategy.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is set to outline the broad components of the communication to EU leaders when they meet for an informal summit on 11 February, with further discussion on the actual document set for the regular March summit.

The conclusions of the March meeting will give a clear indication of the direction member states wish to take, with the final plan expected to be rubber stamped at the June European Council.

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