Policy Hub:
Framework Strategies

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A number of legal documents (from treaties onwards) and overarching strategies have given shape to EU policies, and/or the priorities of its various institutions, at different points over the lifetime of the EU itself and its predecessor institutions.  This section of the Policy Hub highlights a number of more recent documents and key initiatives which have given direction to that broader evolution and to developments in territorial policies and rural-urban relationships in particular.

The 2007 Lisbon Treaty serves as a useful starting point here with its introduction of the concept of “territorial cohesion” as one of three cohesion-related overarching objectives for an enlarged EU. The EU Strategy 2020 built on much of the content of the Lisbon Treaty and attempted to transform this into a detailed ten-year development plan. Adopted in March 2010 – shortly after most EU countries had been severely hit by the global economic crisis, its focus was very much on growth. Indeed, its preface made its key purpose abundantly clear “2010 must mark a new beginning. I want Europe to emerge stronger from the economic and financial crisis”, as Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed it at the time of its launch. EU2020, (as it became known), held sway for a considerable period, being the framework to which all initiatives were expected to contribute and help deliver against the aims of a set of “flagship initiatives” and other provisons.

Barroso’s successor as European Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker used the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome as an occasion to drive the process and vision further forward beyond the EU2020 with his 2017 White Paper on the Future of Europe setting out five scenarios for the EU by 2025 – in other words trying to promote reflection on the nature and purpose of the EU itself. As an aside, the period before and after the 2017 White Paper has also been punctuated by near-annual (2010- 13. 2015-18, 2020) State of the European Union (SOTEU) addresses. Excepting years where the Commission is between terms, its President addresses the European Parliament on the Commission’s sense of the current situation in geo-political terms and its key priorities in face of its perception of challenges faced.

With the expiry of the EU2020 strategy firmly in mind, the European Council, in June 2019, set out its version of A New Strategic Agenda 2019-24 determining the EU's general policy agenda for the forthcoming five-year term of office of what was to become Von der Leyen’s Commission. Its priorities include: developing a strong and vibrant economic base and building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe.

Von der Leyen herself superimposed upon this what she termed the ”Political Guidelines for the New European Commission 2019-24” as a means by which to deliver upon the priorities set out in the Strategic Agenda itself. It was the content of the Political Guidelines which shaped the form and content of the Mission Letters which Von der Leyen subsequently was to write to the member-state nominated candidates who were invited to join her Commission team (“college”). These letters gave the first detailed indication of just what the different elements of the future EU policy mosaic might look like and who might be expected to do what.

Returning to the Political Guidelines, these are presented as a set of six “headline ambitions”, of which the first three have particular relevance for the ROBUST project:

A European Green Deal

A Europe fit for the digital age

An economy that works for people


As well as strategic level policy frameworks of its own, the ways in which EU policy is shaped and the instruments that are developed and implemented in order to meet its stated objectives, is also directly impacted upon by the commitments that the EU has made to the initiatives of others, of which it is an active partner. The two principal examples of these commitments relate to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its attendant 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the first instance and to the Paris Agreement agreed within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of which the EU is a partner, in the second instance.

Last updated: 6 November, 2020