In recent weeks, measures have been proposed to support growth and jobs in the EU. The Commission's proposals have focused on reprogramming "unspent" structural funds and on deploying "action teams" to help the European countries with the highest youth unemployment rates to deliver effective National Reform Plans by mid-April.
A large number of Member States have also finally put forward concrete
proposals, such as the letter of 20 February from 12 governments to the EU,
which focused on completing the single market in all strategic sectors,
"debureaucratisation" and labour market reforms.
Regional and local authorities are considering each of these proposals with
great attention in a spirit of cooperation. We are actively supporting these
efforts, by using our direct knowledge of the specific needs of local
communities and by identifying best practices from three years of tough
Nonetheless, EU citizens are suffering more and
more from the recession and the effects of austerity measures. They expect
democratic institutions at all levels to produce new, effective initiatives to
improve their situation. This pressure can lead to a barrage of announcements
and proposals that may serve to hide a lack of substantive action, since the
conviction remains that the overall priority is still financial
In this light, President Barroso's words to the last CoR plenary are
particularly relevant. "Europe already has its own growth strategy, namely the
Europe 2020 strategy" he said, adding that "we cannot reinvent the wheel every
day, even though it would be easier to announce a miracle every morning".
This reminder of the relevance of the Europe 2020 strategy is more than
welcome. If followed by consistent initiatives, it could help to overcome some
of the obstacles that have until now prevented the strategy from really taking
First, despite some efforts to bring the new strategy onto the political
agenda, it has not been possible to achieve real ownership by all Member States
and all European institutions. If the moment has come to take this challenge
seriously, regional and local authorities are ready to give their full
commitment and contribution.
Such a contribution is also crucial to overcome a second set of obstacles,
related to the implementation of the strategy. Each Member State is required to
prepare a National Reform Plan, committing it to achieve clear targets through
selected and effective measures. So far, the preparation of these plans has
generally been a sort of technocratic exercise, managed by the Commission and
the central governments without any real public debate and without sufficient
involvement of regional and local authorities.
If those National Reform Plans do not succeed, there is a danger that most of
the recently announced measures for growth, as well the new austerity rules
adopted through the fiscal compact, will be largely ineffective. That is
why there is an urgent need for the Member States to put into practice the
commitments that they have assumed under the Europe 2020 strategy, with the
active support of local and regional authorities.
In recent years, regional and local authorities have made a major
contribution to defining and promoting that strategy. They have started actions
and established networks to ensure its implementation and are committed to
agreeing an EU budget for the period 2014-2020 that will be equal to the task of
delivering the strategy's objectives.
The main solutions to the crisis are already within reach. To succeed, they
need consistent, agreed National Reform Plans and sufficient funding from the
current and future financial frameworks as well as the timely introduction of
innovative tools such as project bonds and the financial transaction tax.
In this context, the way out of the crisis is by working together to take all
the steps necessary, every day, to implement the strategy we all