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Tracking the progress towards the Europe 2020 targets

This month, the Eurostat released the latest figures regarding the evolution of the European Union (EU) and its 27 member states towards the objectives defined in the Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020). The EU2020 lies on the principles of “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”, which are reflected in five targets at the EU level in the areas of employment, climate change and energy, poverty and social exclusion, education, and research and development.

Regarding the areas of interest of ACA, research and development (R&D) and higher education, the results published by Eurostat indicate that the EU is gradually approaching its targets. Regarding R&D, the EU benchmark is set to an expenditure of 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in R&D by 2020. The data now released indicate that whereas between 2000-2006 the EU expenditure on R&D remained rather stable (from 1.83% to 1.88%), between 2007-2009 it grew substantially, from 1.85% to 2.01%, stabilizing at 2.0% in 2010. Especially noteworthy is the fact that in the period from 2000 to 2010 Estonia, Portugal and Cyprus increased twofold their expenditure in R&D, although Estonia and Portugal still need to increase the percentage of GDP allocated to R&D in order to attain their national targets. Finland, Sweden and Denmark had, already in 2010, reached or surpassed the target of 3% of GDP expenditure in R&D.

In the area of education, two targets were defined in the EU2020 strategy: the share of those aged 30-34 having completed tertiary education or equivalent by 2020 should be at least 40%; and the proportion of early school leavers should be under 10%. In the period from 2000 to 2011, attainment of tertiary education increased from 22.4% to 34.6% at the EU level. During this timeframe, some countries doubled the proportion of their population with tertiary education, namely Romania, Slovakia, Portugal, Slovenia and Luxembourg. Of these countries, Luxembourg has already reached its national target, along with other 7 countries (Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Denmark, The Netherlands, Estonia and Latvia).

The proportion of early school leavers (population aged 18-24 with at most lower secondary education and currently not enrolled in education or training) has also dropped from 17.6% in 2000 to 13.5% in 2011.