Europe has realized that it must overcome a number of challenges if it wishes to remain competitive with the rest of the developed and developing world. The Lisbon Strategy, announced at the threshold of the 21st century, expired in 2010, as the worst financial and economic crisis of the past decades raged on the continent. The European Union set the goal of alleviation of damages and recovery. This is why Member States adopted a new European competition and development strategy in a very short time. In developing the Europe 2020 Strategy, questions of management, coordination and implementation of the strategy were given special attention, which the Member States linked tightly with one of the key issues in economic governance, namely the European Semester. The rotating Hungarian Presidency of the Council pays special attention to making sure that the European Semester, a key instrument of the macro-economic surveillance to be applied for the first time under this Presidency, runs smoothly.
The ten-year Lisbon Strategy aiming at the development of European Union competitiveness came to an end in 2010. Just at the time of the global financial and economic crisis, when the steps taken by the EU and the Member States were determined by alleviating damages and accelerating recovery. This was the reason why the Member States adopted the new Strategy at the earliest possible time, at the 17 June, 2010 meeting of the European Council.
The Europe 2020 Strategy applicable in the current decade assessed the weaknesses of the previous strategy and identified three priorities (smart, sustainable and inclusive growth), and also sets five headline targets as new elements:
increasing employment of the 20–64 year old population to 75%, through, among others, higher employment of youth, the elderly, the low-qualified, and through the increased integration of legal migrants;
improving the conditions for research and development in such a way that private and public investment together reach a total of 3% of the GDP ;
improving the level of education, with special efforts made to reduce school drop-out rate to 10 per cent, while at the same time increasing the rate of 30-34 year olds completing higher education, to a level of 40 %.;
promoting social inclusion, above all by reducing poverty and by eliminating the risk of exclusion for at least 20 million people.
Implementation of these targets at European level is made possible by national targets set out in the National Reform Programmes that Member States had to prepare by 12 November, 2010. (Hungary met this deadline.)
The so called European Semester will assure the coordinated and efficient use of the available instruments, which will start for the first time in March, 2011. Within these frameworks, the Council will make an inventory of the general macro-economic situation and on the progress made along the five targets, and then the Spring Meeting of the European Council will give horizontal guidelines. Member States will consider them and they can prepare their stability and growth programmes simultaneously and submit them and their reform programmes to the European Commission in April every year.
Launching the Europe 2020 Strategy and the related European Semester will be an especially important task for the Hungarian Presidency. Council debates must take place while sticking to the very tight schedule so the Member States can make responsible decisions for the sake of smart, sustainable and fast growth. The Hungarian Presidency will especially aim at forming synergies in the cooperation between the Council formations and the work of the European Council headed by the permanent President.