Europe 2020 is the European Union’s ten-year growth and jobs strategy that was launched in 2010.
It is about overcoming the crisis from which our economies are now gradually recovering, but also about addressing the shortcomings of the European growth model and creating the conditions for a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
The strategy has five headline targets and it is supported by seven ‘flagship initiatives.’ They provide a coherent framework for policies and actions in the areas of innovation, digital economy, employment, youth, industrial policy, poverty and resource efficiency.
Because it targets many areas of shared competences between local and regional authorities, member states and the European level, the development of a clear vision of economic outlooks of European cities and regions and their successful integration into the Europe 2020 strategy would be a crucial MLG objective for all European stakeholders.
An MLG initiative to convey this message: Strategy monitoring at the local level
The CoR's Europe 2020 Monitoring Platform is a group of over 170 cities and regions from the 28 EU Member states, which monitors how Europe 2020 is implemented on the ground, promoting the exchange of good practices.
The Platform members and other local and regional authorities contribute to the CoR's consultative works with their knowledge and expertise through surveys and consultations.
By participating to the Platform's surveys, they have an opportunity to:
- make their voice heard in Brussels (reports are always forwarded to key stakeholders and feed into the EU decision-making process in the given policy field);
- contribute to an annual CoR Monitoring Report on Europe 2020;
- share their experience with others (i.e. through a section on "good practices" included in reports);
network and participate in events aiming at the presentation of survey results.
The current state of play – not quite satisfactory
These two documents summarise one year and a half of monitoring and assessment activities involving more than 1500 local and regional authorities as well as officials and experts. The Committee of the Regions has found that the unsatisfactory progress of Europe 2020 is due not only to the crisis but also to the architecture and governance of the strategy. The lack of territorially-differentiated targets and the lack of multi-level governance are the main factors preventing the Europe 2020 strategy from delivering up to its promises.
What can be done?
The CoR stresses that to overcome the economic crisis boosting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the renewed Europe 2020 strategy should be based on the following principles, presented in the "Athens Declaration" of the CoR (7 March 2014):
- Giving the strategy a territorial dimension, by territorially differentiated objectives and targets;
- Designing and delivering National Reform Programmes in partnership between all levels of government;
- Making multi-level governance the standard approach;
- Aligning the European Semester with longer-term Europe 2020 goals and investment needs;
- Using the Europe 2020 Flagship Initiatives for enhanced policy coordination;
- Mobilising funding for long-term investment, ensuring better spending;
- Strengthening administrative capacity for more effective implementation.
In order to spread the MLG approach and to anchor it in the European semester, the CoR calls for a revisions of the governance mechanisms and drafting processes of the key documents.
First of all, the CoR calls for the Member States to involve their local and regional authorities as partners in multi-level governance arrangements. They are those who actually implement policies and their knowledge and proximity to the citizens should be fully used in the design and implementation of Europe 2020.
This approach should be the same as the one in the preparation of the Partnership Agreements for the European Investment and Structural Funds 2014-2020, aligned with Europe 2020 objectives, which are currently being finalised.
The goals and objectives included in the National Reform Programmes have to be set under a mixed, top-down and bottom-up approach. The National Reform Programmes should entail a specific 'multilevel governance' section to highlight the involvement of regions and cities and reflect the territorial dimension in the programmes' actions/measures.
Secondly, the Committee of the Regions calls for the European Commission to monitor the implementation of its guidelines for requesting the participation of local and regional authorities in the preparation of National Reform Programmes. In preparation of this step, the European Commission should include a specific multi-level governance section in the Annual Growth Survey. The Committee also calls for the European Commission to carry out an annual assessment with the Committee of the Regions as to whether the priorities set in the AGS are appropriate for local and regional authorities. At the end of the annual European semester cycle, a specific multi-level governance section should be included in the Country-Specific Recommendations. It should take into account the actual division of powers and competences in the different Member States and highlight the policy areas where multi-level governance may be further improved.
Last but not least, local and regional authorities are also addressed in the Athens Declaration. Multi-level governance relies on the skills, competence, experiences and knowledge of different levels of government. Insufficient institutional capability proves to be a crucial obstacle in many cases, hitting harder lagging regions. Therefore, LRAs must take their responsibilities and strengthen their administrative capacity. In so doing, they also need to be supported by the EU and the Member States, also by mobilising EU instruments and promoting award schemes.
The European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) label, attributed yearly to reward regions having shown an outstanding and innovative strategy, also contributes to spread good practices for an MLG approach of the Europe 2020 strategy – starting from and in partnership with LRAs.