The New Strategic Agenda 2019-2024 approved on the 20thof June by the European Council provides an overall framework and direction for the EU institutions mandate in the next 5 years and it focuses on four main priorities: protecting citizens and freedoms; developing a strong and vibrant economic base; building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe; promoting European interests and values on the global stage.
The protection of citizens, the top priority for the next five years, is outlined by the Council in the same way that you would expect to see it in any of the conservative parties’ manifestos. It is interpreted primarily as the defence of the integrity of the territory and praises patrolling borders as to preserve this integrity. Nevertheless, socialist-leaning governments in the council were rewarded with the mention of the social agenda. The latter wasn’t even mentioned among the priorities to be pursued in the leaked draftcirculated a few weeks back.
Social Europe then, but don’t raise too much your expectations: the necessity of social policies is described as a premise for enhancing the competitiveness of the single market and sustain economic growth to pursue upward convergence.
Similarly, the urgency for tackling global warming is taken into account, yet it doesn’t challenge at any level the governance of global markets, including for trade.
However, a few changes to the draft positively surprised the Civil Society Organisationswho protested after its leak. To start with, the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights is mentioned and attention to social issues is considered essential. Providing opportunities for all is set as a duty for EU institutions, although whether it means equal opportunities remains unclear. What is more, solidarity is mentioned as a principle to drive the overdue reform of the Dublin Regulation, at last included among the strategic priorities.
The breach between citizens and European institutions is also addressed although broadly. To deliver on the priorities outlined in the Strategic Agenda, the Council has said it is important to engage with citizens, civil society and social partners. Here is the chance to make article 11 a reality, not least by mainstreaming civil dialogue and strengthening the funding to civil society organisations instead of pleasing authoritarian-leaning governments in the EU.
Contradictions remain in a document that considers the EU to have a duty to lead the way for the implementation of Agenda 2030 but is too vague on the question of how to do it. This agenda is not expected to identify single policies to pursue the goals, but at least to set out more clearly how governments should aim to reach the goals set.
Overall, the Strategic Agenda shows the efforts to compromise made in the Council between different political views and priorities. For the same reason, it is way too vague to actually become a compass. The Commission to be will definitely have hands free at picking what it accustoms its ambitions without necessarily inform its work plan on the basis of this agenda.