Spring European Council: What do you tell the unemployed?

European Union leaders may wonder at total US nonfarm payroll employment increasing by 236,000 in February (in professional and business services, construction, and health care), and the unemployment rate edging down to 7.7 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The European road into recession, mass unemployment and bleak prospects for children and young people has been paved with good intentions.

Recovery is the anticipatory buzzword from the Irish presidency of the Council of the EU, although the European Economic Forecast Winter 2013 from the Commission’s DG Ecfin again postponed perceptible growth prospects in the euro area and the EU27, now until 2014 and with hoped for jobs growth trailing.

European growth agenda

The European growth agenda does not lack aims, declarations or programmes: the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, with the seven EU2020 flagship initiatives (see also brochure), plus related programmes such as for international trade (Commission report) and internal market reform (Single Market Act I & II); the Euro Plus Pact EUCO 10/1/11 REV 1 (Annex I) and the Compact for growth and jobs EUCO 76/12 (Annex).

European Semester and credibility

This time around, are the heads of state or government going to send a credible message to the growing numbers of the unemployed on the road to long term joblessness and social exclusion?

Next week the European Council meets (14 to 15 March 2013) to take stock of how they have done and what needs to be done to get the European economies moving. The national leaders are soon halfway through the European Semester, started by the Annual Growth Survey 2013 package from the EU Commission.

Credible means that agreed reform aims lead to swift adoption at EU level, but yesterday we saw the EUCO president Herman Van Rompuy lamenting the slow progress on the key internal market proposals (modest as they are, in my humble view).

Despite progress in some areas, the Eurostat publication Europe 2020 Strategy – towards a smarter, greener and more inclusive EU economy? tells us that credibility requires shifting gear on domestic growth-enhancing structural reforms as well, to be set out in the new National Reform Programme (under the Europe 2020 strategy) of each EU member state and then put into practice by the government.

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