The European dream is getting a bit of a kicking at the moment, and with all the negative news stories circulating about the region it would be good to know if it has a plan to get the good times back on track. Yes, of course there is a plan, and it is called the 'Europe 2020 strategy'. 

Approved in 2010 on the back of the global recession, it is eminently worthy, seeking smart, sustainable and inclusive growth by 2020. Its targets include getting 75% of the EU working age population in employment; investing 3% of EU GDP in R&D; meeting the 20/20/20 climate/energy targets; reducing the proportion of early school leavers to less than 10%; ensuring 40% of school leavers secure a tertiary degree; and transferring 20 million people out of poverty risk. 

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The 'annual growth survey' allows the European Commission to review progress on this agenda, and the 2016 survey makes better reading than most would expect. The EU is experiencing a moderate recovery with overall employment rising by 1.1% in 2015; none of the EU countries reported a decrease in output in 2015; and fiscal policy in the euro area is becoming more supportive of growth.   

Productivity growth, however, remains slow and new investment has not been sufficient to provide a strong driver for recovery. Private consumption is the main growth driver at present. So lots still to do, and set within the context of a worsening global economy, uneven economic performance and structural reform implementation across the EU, and the unprecedented inflow of refugees and asylum seekers.

It is worth remembering, however, that the EU is a big beast. It is the world’s largest trading bloc and the leading location for FDI, and Europe can achieve great things when it works collectively. So in these difficult times it needs to work in unison and continue to follow the plan. Let’s stick together and tough it out to the happy end.       

Douglas Clark is director of Location Connections, consultants for economic development innovation. Email: douglas@locationconnections.com