National Reform Programme - Belgium 2011

This national Reform Programme covers priority actions undertaken by the Federal Authority, the Regions and Communities to address the social and economic concerns pinpointed in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy. These actions are designed to achieve the five Europe 2020 strategy objectives and are consistent with the European priority objectives highlighted during the 24-25 March European Council and the Euro Plus Pact (see Annex I). The actions featured in the National Reform Programme complement the stability programme in terms of the macro-economic component and complement the sustainable development strategy in the case of the overall strategy.

The National Reform Programme (NRP)

By means of the National Reform Programme, Belgium intends to follow up the Europe 2020 strategy, the renewed European strategy for growth and employment.  The strategy was set out by the European Council on 26 March 2010 and follows the Lisbon strategy which oriented the socioeconomic policy in the UE between 2000 and 2010.

In March 2010, the heads of State and of Government agreed on the main thematic areas of the strategy: competitiveness, productivity, growth potential and economic convergence. In this respect, five quantitative targets have been set for Europe as a whole. The strategy also provides for that the Member States have to draw up two reports: the Stability and Growth Pact and the National Reform Programme (NRP). In the NRP, each Member State sets its national targets as well as the actions it will undertake to achieve them. In the NRP, the Member States ensure the transposition of these European targets to the national level.

The essence of the Europe 2020 strategy

The European Council has set five headline targets for the EU to be reached by 2020:

  • Employment : 75% of the 20-64 year-olds to be employed
  • R&D / innovation : 3% of the EU’s GDP to be invested in R&D/innovation
  • Climate change / energy :  greenhouse gas emissions 20% lower than  in 1990;  Share of 20% of energy from renewables;    20% increase in energy efficiency 
  • Education : reducing school drop-out rates below 10%; at least 40% of 30-34–year-olds completing third level education
  • Poverty / social exclusion: At least 20 million fewer people in or at risk of poverty and social exclusion

In order to achieve these goals, the European Council approved a new set of integrated guidelines for economic and employment policies in June 2010.  The policies carried out by the Member States are supposed to match the integrated guidelines. Each year, the European Council issues country-specific policy recommendations to encourage them to adjust their policies. Europe has identified new engines to boost growth and jobs. The areas are addressed by seven flagship initiatives.

Economic governance is strengthened and is based on the following principles:

  • Tighter budgetary discipline
  • Broader economic surveillance
  • Greater economic policy coordination
  • Setting up of a framework for crisis management
  • Institution building

The European Semester (roughly the first six months of the year) has been set up to ensure a tighter monitoring of the economic and financial situation of Europe and its Member States. The Euro Plus Pact is in continuity with the Europe 2020 strategy and the European Semester. It aims at a greater convergence of the euro area and of the countries outside of it (on a voluntary basis). With all these initiatives, the EU intends to improve its global competitive position, to create employment, to place public finances on a sustainable path and to reinforce its financial stability.

What does the NRP deal with?

The NRP is part of the European obligations within the framework of the Europe 2020 strategy. The NRP constitutes the sister document of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). Whereas the SGP deals with public finances, the NRP treats structural economic and employment policies. Both programmes are based on the same macroeconomic environment.  The NRP identifies bottlenecks and socioeconomic responses for the following fields:

  • Macrofinancial stability;
  • External equilibrium and competitiveness;
  • Labour market 
  • Social protection and inclusion

For each of these fields, the situation is analysed and a policy is proposed to address the identified problems. Moreover, each Member State sets its own national targets and details actions to achieve those targets. Finally, the Member States also report on their obligations resulting from the Euro Plus Pact approved in March 2011. In November 2010, a draft of the National Reform Programme was drawn up and the first NRP was finalised in April 2011.