Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Romania takes aim at 'Europe 2020' strategy

Published: 27 April 2010

Romanian President Traian Basescu has criticised the European Commission's proposed ten-year economic strategy for lacking commitments to pursuing the EU's goal of bridging regional development gaps and promoting "unattainable" targets, such as allocating 3% of GDP to research and development. EurActiv Romania reports.


The EU's new strategy for sustainable growth and jobs, called 'Europe 2020', comes in the midst of the worst economic crisis in decades.

The new strategy replaces the Lisbon Agenda, adopted in 2000, which largely failed to turn the EU into "the world's most dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010".

The new agenda puts innovation and green growth at the heart of its blueprint for competitiveness and proposes tighter monitoring of national reform programmes, one of the greatest weaknesses of the Lisbon Strategy.

The Commission blueprint identifies five targets, which member countries will be asked to translate into national targets reflecting their different starting points:

75% of the population aged 20-64 should be employed.
3% of EU GDP should be invested in R&D.
The '20/20/20' climate/energy targets should be met.

The share of early school leavers should be under 10% and at least 40% of the younger generation should have a degree or diploma. 20 million fewer people should be at risk of poverty.

"We are against the re-distribution of the cohesion funds for attaining the Europe 2020 strategy objectives," said Basescu, speaking at a conference in Brussels dedicated to the EU's draft ten-year economic strategy, called 'Europe 2020'.

The Romanian president spoke in critical terms about the strategy's predecessor, the Lisbon Agenda, which largely failed to meet its stated objective of turning the EU into "the world's most dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010".

He also criticised the non-compliance of eurozone countries with the Maastricht criteria for economic convergence and questioned whether Europe could be competitive in the future as it is bound by social commitments.

The EU's regional policy, Basescu said, is the "most important Community instrument" for successfully implementing Europe 2020.

"Without internal cohesion, [the EU] is not competitive; it does not count in global competition. Romania appeals for accelerating the process of reducing the gaps between the older and the newer members of the EU," he stated.

East European leaders have expressed disappointment that regional "cohesion" was not listed as a target in the Europe 2020 plan. But they appear to have recognised that there will be "practically no time to discuss that sufficiently" before the June summit, when the new strategy is expected to be adopted (EurActiv 25/03/10).

Basescu also expressed doubt about his country's ability to attain the strategy's objective of investing 3% of GDP in research and development.

"This is an objective that we cannot meet," he said, adding that on 3 May, Romania will consult the Commission on how to identify national objectives under the strategy's broad headline targets. The state, he said, will contribute to 1% of this target, while the private sector will be called upon to meet the remaining 2%.

He also indicated that even if Romania were able to mobilise 3% of its GDP for infrastructure, it would still be extremely difficult to effectively absorb those funds in his country and "obtain results".

Romania's investment in R&D currently amounts to 0.5% of GDP, he said.

Next Steps:

3 May: Romania to discuss national targets with Commission officials.
15-16 June: EU summit to agree on Europe 2020 targets.

European Union Commission: Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth

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