Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Appraisal of the EU 2020 vision


The BBC writes that "the Europe 2020 strategy replaces the EU's Lisbon Strategy, which failed in its aim to make Europe the most dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010." (BBC News, 3.March 2010  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8547420.stm)

Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso acknowledged at the same time that the global financial crisis affecting not only Greece and Ireland, but also all other EU member states and their economies had simply "wiped away" much of the growth and employment generated by the European economy in the past decade.

Since such proposal with a time horizon stretching till 2020 is not self-understood, a need for critical appraisal has to be satisfied. Only then will it be possible to have a further going interpretation. This is said especially in view of most European member states not achieving 'economic growth'. By all indications, the European economy appears to be under achieving.

The claim made by the EU Commission that its proposals would, if adopted, lead to formidable economic growth, and therefore can create jobs and bring about eventually 'full' employment, has to be questioned. Although it is a generally held kind of truism that economic growth brings job, this does not seem to hold within the limits of the existing financial and profit taking system. Especially hedge fond holders seem to be able to drive the system to decisive moments where administrators, including the European Commission no longer wish to be still further going risk takers and consequently cave in at much greater costs to the general public. The leeway the system seems to allow for this virtual game makes institutional settings at both national and European levels appear quite weak. While there is talk about improving economic governance, the position of the European Parliament has, for instance, not been strengthened, but the opposite.

As experts point out besides the ratio employment / unemployment, there are many other hidden categories in need to be observed. One of them is the 'under employed', that is a Ph.D. graduate driving taxis or a well educated doctor forced to earn his living by working in a home for the elderlies requiring more nursing skills than anything else. Another category are the youth who do not enter the labour force and therefore do not acquire in time enough skills and experiences which would allow them to shape the labour market according to an 'intelligible reality' adapting to economic changes and challenges in time. For they can innovate both product and working conditions if they do not fail at the job and can deliver on time. That means the main hurdle for those under performing or not at all is the time limit contracted by expectations, investments and realized outcomes.

Lutz Gelbert would describe such a challenging job as designer of trains, how to stay creative and still remain able to offer solutions within the constraints of the factory. This includes what the manager demands and how the overall performance of the factory is measured in terms of contracts realized when it comes to selling trains or street cars. This means how to get out of a trap or impasse without revolting negatively against the constraints now experienced more as commands or even humiliating comments by management. And there is as well the risk of competitors seeking to take the job one has at the moment. Pressure can amount to even being unable to cope i.e. having a nervous break-down. It is well known that many have great abilities but they simply fail once they stand under pressure and have to deliver something concrete within the next 24 hours.

Quite another matter is, for instance, the need to ensure a sound fiscal basis for the pension system. Besides other social security measures (health, support for single mothers, people with special needs etc.), the welfare system has become questionable once the 'public' cannot uphold payments for rising costs.

There need to be taken still many other police measures if people are to feel secure within the European Union as it has evolved over the past decade. There are many critical voices articulating doubt in this European venture.

As usual the new strategy is accompanied by a certain jargon and reflects in which certain period of time key terms were advanced. Ten years ago it was 'sustainable development' but after 2002 and the failed summit in Johannesburg, a different buzz word started to come into fashion, namely 'smart'. Since then everything has to become 'smart markets' or even 'smart cities'. By 2010 when outlining the vision for the future, this terminology is used to pretend and to claim in having a vision for Europe until 2020:

"We need to invest in smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. We need to concentrate our efforts on the most important levers," EU Commissioner President Barrosso said. Thus he wanted to warn against spreading EU resources too thinly and thus precludes what shall shape especially the regional development policy, namely to promote further specialization within and between the various European regions.

But given the high level of unemployment especially amongst the young people having remained at alarming high level, the EU needs to find much better ways so that member states can work together to achieve economic growth. It is thought by coordinating their fiscal, monetary and social policies and link them to education and culture in a novel and innovative ways. Again the claim is made that everything shall be done to create job markets especially for the young.

Yet how can such a vision work, if many of the youth have not even the chance to earn a steady income? The latter is due to an ever growing tendency to undermine workers' Rights. Greece as part of the austerity measures had to introduce ever more flexible conditions so that companies can hire and fire people easily. It is thought without such flexibility companies would not even start hiring people. But once everything is made dependent upon earnings on a volatile market, the question is especially for young people how can they invest in their future i.e. create families and settle down, if there is no secure income? Moreover how can they sustain civil society if there are no job prospects in the area they grow up in. Consequently they will leave as is the case in the region of Sonderborg, Denmark where ten youth leave and only two come back. It shall leave social structures depleted just as the phenomenon in East Germany is described as 'shrinken cities'. Since modern companies know they can hire only highly qualified people if good schools can be provided for their children and there is a rich cultural offer, it means that complementary policy measures need to be taken if an active job market can be created. It means as well that social structures are just as important for work. People want to be at home in lively communities which can uphold the lives of their families over time and weather out many changes. That is not the case once work is outsourced or workers are replaced by robotnics.

Consequently a work specific ethic which does not uphold civil society, then even an international company like Danford has to cultivate interests in such a future job in its firm by supporting a technology museum and offering scholarships to those who enter on job training educational courses.

Nothing is easy for all the actors involved as some crucial decisions ahead have to be faced and worked through with strategies based on not superficial political assumptions, but realistic ones so that market demands can be met in the most competent way. Yet it goes without saying such a demand would be merely conformistic in cultural terms and may not hold for many who oppose such an industrial engagement especially when this is seen in terms of still further damage to the environment and therefore without a sustainable future.

In all respects policy measures taken at EU level have all kinds of ramifications, and even more once they are diffused and made concrete. Unfortunately the measures taken by the EU Commission conjoin with efforts to make things only visible within existing bureaucratic structures. This leaves the key term of 'partnership' in doubt as those involved with European projects are the ones tuned into a certain terminology which is not accessible to a majority of people.

Clearly it is not enough what has been done so far for Barrosso has to admit that "it is not acceptable in the modern age that nearly 80 million people in Europe live under the poverty line." What poverty means, including the risk to fall under the poverty line, has to be examined in reference to countless work done already on this subject matter.

Also 2010 was a special year designated to fight 'poverty and social exclusion' revealed many interesting empirical aspects as to what constitutes poverty. Since then other dimensions have been added to this discussion. Above all there exists a 'poverty of experience' made especially by those who feel sidelined. Pier Luigo Sacco considers here cultural participation a key to overcome this problem. It can help individuals feeling as if they have not sufficient experiences to overcome a threshold of fear and self limitation i.e. 'hubris'. By becoming active i.e. fully responsible for their actions, they become participants in social processes. This can lead on to fruitful work and still other encounters. All of this can open up to new opportunities while co-operation with others gurantees a safety net. This vital link of social networking (co-operation) and gaining self confidence through 'experiences' has to be perceived as an extra value in these bottom-up processes. They can allow the individual to find not only work, but also to make further going experiences. It will set the terms differently and allow another kind of relationship to human and social reality.

Hatto Fischer




During the election for the European Parliament, there was little or not policy debate taking place. Rather a kind of personalized political alternative was presented in the persons of Schulz versus Juncker. Habermas called it for this reason a first real political election - strange if this means reducing policy options to single persons.

In any case, the EU 2020 vision and what it specifically targets were not subject to any earnest review or a first evaluation by comparing it to the local and regional agendas set up to cope with all the transitions. Especially in Greece, local reform has meant re-drawing the jurisdictions of cities and regions, e.g. Rhodes as city and island has become one single unit. As this refelcts the increasing pressure being applied by the European Commission in the direction of regional specializations, this trend to ever large scale units makes any policy related decision making process ever more remote and subject to abstract models based on strategies which foresee quite another future and therefore lead to justifications of measures in the presence as if this course of action shall promise the creation of jobs and innovation. Both these assumptions have been proven repeatedly wrong but no one seems to notice except the critics who are in turn outside the institutions and structures of governance still adhering to the austerity policy and strict money control for the sake of coping with state deficits and of safeguarding the banks' position. Hence it comes as no surprise, when it is stated that so far the EU policy has been a 'failure':

"The Europe 2020 Strategy was supposed to raise the employment rate to 75 per cent by 2020 and reduce the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion by 20 million. At the halfway point the EU is stagnating, with employment at 68 per cent, the same level as in 2010, and just under 10 million more people at risk of poverty compared to 2009." (1)


1. Björn Hacker „The European Councils’ Strategic Agenda Tries To Be Everything To Everybody“. Social Europe: 08/07/2014- http://www.social-europe.eu/2014/07/european-councils-strategic-agenda-tries/

^ Top

« Implementation process - Culture and Horizon 2020 | EU Research & Innovation »