Following recent election results in Greece and France the slow shift away from an austerity strategy to an agenda with a more significant emphasis on growth has accelerated markedly. There was an initial Council meeting in Brussels on 23rd May to prepare for a growth pact to be unveiled in late June. However, the outlines of a European growth agenda remain all too vague. Beyond catch-all terms such as a “European Green New Deal” or a “European Marshall Plan”, very few detailed aspects have been debated in the necessary depth.
One fault line in the discussion is already becoming apparent: growth by means of structural adjustment vs. growth through investment. It is clear that there need to be sustainable budget consolidation plans through growth, structural adjustments as well as investment initiatives to generate employment. But there are many unresolved questions surrounding these dimensions of a growth agenda. If there are to be structural adjustments, what should they entail? Can they be supportive of growth or do many of them just represent an attack on social achievements? If there is a strong investment component in a European growth strategy, where does the finance come from? What could be the role of the European Investment Bank (EIB), the instrument of project bonds, a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) or unused EU Structural and Social Funds? Is there scope for more borrowing for investment? These are just a few questions surrounding a European growth strategy.
On a broader level, what areas should Europe focus on in order to position itself for the new type of global economy we are moving into? Do we need improved infrastructure and if yes where? What role do the technology and energy sectors play? What kind of industries and services should Europe focus on? What can be done on the European level and what on the national level? How do we build up a European portfolio and thus improve the European economy as a whole? What must be done in the short-term, mid-term, and long-term? There is a myriad of unanswered questions and a real demand for input in the process of elaborating a European growth strategy.
For this reason, Social Europe Journal in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the IMK of the Hans Boeckler Stiftung and the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) would like to conduct an expert sourcing process running for several months from June 2012. The more pressing dimensions of the growth agenda ought to be addressed in the run-up to the Council meeting in late June, the more strategic and mid- to long-term aspects will be dealt with after the political summer break.
The project partners started by creating an intellectual matrix of all important dimension of a European growth agenda. From today onwards we will source experts dealing with these dimensions and by doing so we are putting the European growth puzzle together, piece by piece, creating a comprehensive body of analysis and ideas; this is our idea of “expert sourcing”. The contributions will contain articles as well as video interviews. We also seek to work any feedback we might get into the process.
The creation of a positive European growth agenda is one of the most pressing political issues and we hope to make a useful intellectual contribution towards achieving it.