Just in the midst of the Europe 2020 strategy (2010), the time has come to see how member states and the EU are advancing towards the 2020 targets set in the strategy. In March, the European Commission issued a communication “Taking stock of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”.
The trends observed so far show a mixed picture: significant progress is visible in education, in climate and energy targets, whereas employment, R&D and social goals - inclusion and poverty reduction - do not bring much optimism, according to the EC’s communication:
- Employment target - to increase employment rates to at least 75%: contrary to the targets, unemployment has risen and the expected slow recovery may lead to a 10.4% unemployment rate in 2015.
- Innovation/R&D target - to increase investment in R&D to 3% of GDP: regarding the investment in R&D, forecasts stand at 2.2% of GDP by 2020, or at 2.6% in case member states meet their national targets. This is still far from the 3% target.
- Education target - to increase dropout rates to less than 10% and increase the number of tertiary degree holders to at least 40%: the rate of early school leavers was 12.7% in 2012 and half of member states have reached or are reaching their targets with a similar, though slower-paced trend expected in future as well. There was a rise by almost 8% for the share of tertiary degree holders between 2005 and 2012. Currently at 35.7%, the figures are expected to continue going up and reach the target by 2020.
- Climate target - to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% of the 1990 levels, increase the share of renewable energy and to increase energy efficiency, both by 20%: the greenhouse gas emissions reduction achieved so far is 18%, which brings the 2020 target quite close. The other two targets are highly achievable according to the progress made so far, which, according to the report, makes the EU the world’s leader in terms of global investment in renewables.
- Social target - to lift at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion: unfortunately, the social target is even further away with 124 million people at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 2012. This is an increase by 10 million since 2009. According to estimations, by 2020 the number might be around 100 million, which is almost 4 million more than the set target.
The stocktaking communication is to prepare the ground for an EU-wide public consultation following later on in spring and ending in autumn 2014. The consultation will look into the lessons learned so far and future steps towards the 2020 targets, after which the Commission will make a proposal on the continuation of the strategy.