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European Leaders Discuss Lisbon Agenda and Composition of New Commission

by Franz Pichler

On 4 and 5 November 2004, the European Council, consisting of heads of government of EU member states (MS), discussed a report by ex-Prime Minister Wim Kok on progress toward achieving the Lisbon Agenda.  In March 2000, European leaders committed the EU to become "the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion, and respect for the environment" by 2010. The report of a high-level working group under the chairmanship of Wim Kok criticizes the limited achievements by member states and asks for more focus. Urgent action across five areas of policy is needed, including the creation of a knowledge society (increasing Europe's attractiveness to researchers and scientists, making R&D a top priority and promoting the use of ICT), the completion of the "Internal Market" for free movement of goods, the creation of a better business climate (e.g., reducing the total administrative burden for start-ups), the "Labor Market" (e.g., developing strategies for lifelong learning and active aging) and environmental sustainability through spreading eco-innovations and building leadership in eco-industry.

 

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} Furthermore, the Kok report proposes that the European Council should take the lead in driving forward the Lisbon Agenda, with member states preparing their own national programs to commit themselves to implementation and to engage citizens and stakeholders during the process.
Key recommendations of the report regarding RTD concern the admission of third-country researchers (fast-track work permit and visa procedures), the creation of a "European Research Council" (similar to the National Science Foundation in the United States) and the realization of a European Community Patent.
 
 
On top of these recommendations, member states are asked to spend 3 percent of their GDP for R&D (two-thirds should come from industry) by 2010. Whereas Sweden and Finland today are spending more than 3 percent for RTD (US, 2.8 percent; EU 25, 1.9 percent), Austria could reach this target by 2010 (today, 2.2 percent). Whereas Austria is speeding up its investments in RTD between 1999-2003, 0.7 percent), Germany and France are slowing down (change in France, 0.00 percent). Therefore the report is rather pessimistic and expresses fears that the ambitious goals of Lisbon cannot be reached. The Council retains the date of 2010 and, to achieve implementation by then, recommends faster progress. The midterm review of the Lisbon Agenda will take place in spring 2005, and adjustments can be expected at that time. In any case, it is important for the EU to have ambitious goals.
 
 
Mr. Schröder, Germany's chancellor, links the economic reforms (Lisbon Agenda) and the Stability Pact limiting the actual financial deficit of each MS to 3 percent. Mr. Schröder wants to reform the Stability Pact and is campaigning for investments in "research and development" to be subtracted from the pact's deficit calculations (Financial Times, 8 November 2004).
 
 

The new European Commission, which took office only on November 22—The European Parliament opposed the first proposal of European President José Manuel Barroso—will have to implement these reforms.
 

 
My American readers will be amazed by these problems, but Europe is different. The ongoing fight between the European Parliament and the designated commission is a sign of an awakening European democracy that will help to spur the European integration process.
 
 
The Report from the high-level group chaired by W. Kok is available at:

 

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