Europe 2020

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Europe 2020 strategy

The Europe 2020 strategy is the key overarching strategy for the European Union for the 10-year period from 2010. It coincides with the start of a new five-year EU institutional cycle (with a newly elected European Parliament and the ratification of the new set of European Commissioners) and will be reviewed at its midpoint when a new five-year cycle will begin.

The European Commission published the Europe 2020 strategy in March 2010. Its broad parameters were endorsed by the heads of the Member States and governments at the 2010 Spring European Council. The 2020 strategy does not define all of the key areas of EU work, but attempts to communicate to EU citizen’s the EU’s key priorities and actions for the coming period. It will be a key driver in the establishment of key priorities for the EU; hence, the importance of ensuring that social policies are integrated into the strategy. It is important to note that social policies were downplayed in the 2005 revision of the precursor to the Europe 2020 strategy – the Lisbon Strategy – which has had an enormous negative impact on the EU Social Inclusion Strategy.

The Europe 2020 strategy establishes three key priorities, sets five targets and provides for seven flagship programmes.


3 key priorities

  • Smart growth: Developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation
  • Sustainable growth: Promoting a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy
  • Inclusive growth: Fostering a high-employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion

5 targets

  • Employment rate of 75% for people between 20 and 64
  • Investment of 3% of the EU’s GDP in research and development
  • The ‘20/20/20’ climate/energy targets met
  • Share of early school leavers under 10%, and at least 40% of the younger generation with a tertiary degree
  • Twenty million fewer ‘at risk of poverty'

The original version of the poverty target proposed by the Commission was contested at the Spring Council and a final version was agreed at the June European Council, which, in addition to the 60% median equivalised income indicator proposed to measure progress towards the target, contains an indicator for material deprivation and for jobless households.

7 flagship initiatives

  • The Innovation Union to improve framework conditions and access to finance for research and innovation so as to ensure that innovative ideas can be turned into products and services that create growth and jobs. This includes social innovation. The Commission aims to improve access to capital and make full use of demand side policies, e.g. through public procurement). It will support a European Innovation Partnership on active ageing.
  • Youth on the Move to enhance the performance of education systems and to facilitate the entry of young people to the labour market. This includes exploring ways of promoting entrepreneurship through mobility programmes for young professionals.
  • A digital agenda for Europe to speed up the roll-out of high-speed internet and reap the benefits of a digital single market for households and firms.
  • Resource efficient Europe to help decouple economic growth from the use of resources, support the shift towards a low carbon economy, increase the use of renewable energy sources, modernise transport and promote energy efficiency.
  • An industrial policy for the globalisation era to improve the business environment, notably for SMEs, and to support the development of a strong and sustainable industrial base able to compete globally.
  • An agenda for new skills and jobs to modernise labour markets and empower people by developing their skills throughout the lifecycle, with a view to increasing labour participation and better matching labour supply and demand, including through labour mobility.
  • European platform against poverty to ensure social and territorial cohesion such that the benefits of growth and jobs are widely shared, and people experiencing poverty and social exclusion are enabled to live in dignity and take an active part in society. EU actions include designing and implementing programmes to:
    • promote social innovation for the most vulnerable, in particular by providing innovative education, training, and employment opportunities for deprived communities
    • fight discrimination (e.g. disabled)
    • develop a new agenda for migrants' integration to enable them to take full advantage of their potential


The strategy: Europe 2020. A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth [1]

Analysis: State of Play of Social Inclusion Policies at the European Level, European Social Watch Report 2010, Fintan Farrell, EAPN [2]