Barroso sets out EU's 2020 growth, jobs strategy
BRUSSELS, March 3
BRUSSELS, March 3 (Reuters) - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso unveiled a new 10-year plan for jobs and growth in the European Union on Wednesday and said member states needed to work far harder on coordinating economic policy.
Setting out the Europe 2020 strategy -- which succeeds a previous 10-year plan largely seen to have failed -- Barroso said his ambition was for the EU's 27 countries to coordinate policies to try to avoid divergences in growth and unemployment and prevent the risk of future financial crisis.
"Divergences between member states have a direct impact on everyone else," he said in a speech laying out the strategy. "We are more interdependent than ever. We need economic coordination now more than ever."
The strategy sets out targets for investment in research and development across the EU, for levels of employment, growth and energy efficiency, and on developing coordinated climate change and trade policies.
"We need to focus on the single market in more areas," Barroso said. "More competition, better trade opportunities. Closing our eyes to the world won't make it go away.
"But there is something that we have to do more that was not there before: coordination, common governance with coherence and persistence, with continuity. Only then can we have a clear European strategy working together."
The plan aims to increase employment from 69 percent to 75 percent of the EU workforce and increase investment in research and development from 1.9 percent to 3 percent of EU gross domestic product. [ID:nLDE621144]
Harmful carbon dioxide emissions should be cut by 20 percent compared to 1990 levels and the share of renewable energy sources in final energy consumption should rise to 20 percent. Energy consumption should fall by 20 percent. [ID:nLDE61N25I]
Targets for economic expansion have not yet been agreed but the broad aim is expected to be a doubling of Europe's annual growth potential to 2 percent.
One of the main challenges will be ensuring member states meet the national targets that will be agreed once the overall plan is approved. The aim is partly to prevent another fiscal crisis like the one faced by Greece. [ID:nBRU010684]
But a major obstacle will be getting all EU states to sign up to the policy, particularly the major economies such as Germany, France, Britain and Italy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has written to Barroso to express her government's concerns, which could slow the plan's progress. In the letter, seen by Reuters, she said a proposal to link surveillance closely to adherence to targets in the EU Stability and Growth Pact could make the process very political. (Reporting by Luke Baker, editing by Dale Hudson)
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