Europe 2020 is the EU’s growth strategy from 2010 to 2020. Its aim is to help the EU to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy with high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion. It is the successor to the EU’s Lisbon Strategy, which ran from 2000 to 2010.
The Europe 2020 strategy contains five concrete objectives – in the areas of employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy - to be reached by 2020 as follows:
- an employment rate of 75% of 20-64-year-olds;
- 3% of the EU's GDP (public and private combined) to be invested in research and development/innovation;
- a 20%, or 30% if the conditions are right, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, 20% of energy from renewables and a 20% increase in energy efficiency;
- a reduction in school drop-out rates to below 10% and at least 40% of 30-34-year-olds completing third-level education; and
- at least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion.
These targets are translated into national targets so that Member States can check their own progress towards these goals.
Linked to these targets, Europe 2020 contains seven flagship initiatives. In the employment and social policy field, the relevant initiatives are:
- youth on the move. This initiative focuses on improving education and training systems at all levels, strengthening policy aimed at improving youth employment, and increasing youth mobility for the purpose of learning and on the labour market as a whole;
- an industrial policy for the globalisation era. This initiative includes actions such as competitiveness proofing of new legislation, fitness checks of existing legislation, supporting the creation and growth of SMEs, supporting sector-specific innovation performance, and annual reports on the EU’s and Member States’ competitiveness, industrial policies and performances;
- an agenda for new skills and jobs. This initiative aims to step up reforms to improve flexibility and security in the labour market (flexicurity), to equip people with the right skills for the labour market, to improve the quality of jobs and ensure better working conditions, and to improve the conditions for job creation; and
- European platform against poverty. This initiative includes actions that will aim to improve access to work, social security, essential services (such as healthcare and housing) and education, better use of EU funds to support social inclusion and combat discrimination, more effective and efficient social support, and new partnerships between the public and the private sector.
The monitoring of the Europe 2020 strategy is carried out on the basis of the ‘European semester’, which is an annual cycle of economic and fiscal policy coordination. This begins in January, when the Commission presents its Annual Growth Survey, which includes reviews and forecasts. The spring meeting of the European Council then takes place, reviewing the overall macroeconomic situation, progress towards the five strategy targets, and progress under the seven flagship initiatives. Member States then present their medium-term budgetary strategies in their Stability and Convergence Programmes, setting out actions in areas such as employment, research, innovation, energy and social inclusion in their National Reform Programmes. These documents are sent to the Commission in April.
The Commission issues country-specific guidance to Member States in June/July, enabling the Member States to finalise their draft budgets for the following year. If Member States do not act on recommendations within the given time-frame, the Commission can issue policy warnings and there is also an option for enforcement through incentives and sanctions in the case of excessive macroeconomic and budgetary imbalances.