03 November 2004

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Call for EU to issue report cards on Lisbon agenda goals

The European Commission, powerless to regulate the European Union's Lisbon agenda to promote competitiveness, should issue quarterly report cards on members' performances and "name and blame" the laggards, a report headed by former Dutch prime minister Wim Kok says.
The experts' report on the 10-year Lisbon strategy, adopted in 2000 to make the European Union the world's most competitive economy, is on the agenda at a commission meeting on Wednesday and an EU summit on Thursday and Friday.
"Too many targets promise to be seriously missed," the report warns. "Halfway to 2010 the overall picture is very mixed and much needs to be done to prevent Lisbon from becoming a synonym for missed objectives and failed promises."
Noting that many of the competencies called for in the Lisbon strategy relate to EU members and not to the bloc itself, the experts wrote: "The key obstacle has been the lack of political commitment and determination."
That was why "the European Commission must be prepared to name and blame those that fail as well as 'fame' those that succeed.
"Too much is at stake to respect the sensibilities of those who hinder the pursuit of the common European good."
The EU executive arm should use the 14 key indicators concerning the Lisbon agenda's principal objectives to produce quarterly updates "in the format of league tables with rankings (1 to 25)" to rate the 25 member states' performances.
After a first chapter reaffirming the Lisbon agenda's solid foundations and explaining that "Europe in short cannot afford Lisbon to fail" because "the viability of its civilisation" was at stake, the report outlines in a second chapter what it calls "key recommendations."
But a senior member of the outgoing commission said that, as was so often the case, diverging opinions among the experts had watered down the recommendations. "The Kok report, that's a camel designed by a committee," she quipped.
For Paul Hofheinz, president of the Lisbon Council, an independent think tank dedicated to promoting the Lisbon strategy, the "analysis remains extremely superficial" and the remedies are too timid.
For example, he said, the report insists on the critical need for Europe to get back to work, particularly its senior populations, but "what about removing the incentives to early retirement?"
"Unions' representatives within the group would never agree," he explained.
The report's recommendation on the problem, critical with regard to Europe's ageing demographic profile, addresses in general terms the need for "a radical policy and culture shift away from early retirement."
The EU, where the employment rate - the proportion of the working age population that is actually employed - is sharply lower than that of the United States, has set itself a target of raising the rate to 70 percent by
Since the launch of the Lisbon agenda, the employment rate in the 15-state bloc, before 10 states joined last May, has climbed to 64.3 percent from 62.5 percent, with the creation of six million jobs.
An additional 11 million jobs must be found to meet the 2010 target.
In principle, the Kok report should allow the commission and the member states to make decisions about a relaunch of the Lisbon agenda at the European Council meeting in the first half of 2005.
Kok, in presenting the report to EU commissioners on Wednesday, had hoped to meet with the incoming commission headed by Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, which has made EU competitiveness a top priority.
The Barroso commission was to have taken over on Monday. But the president-elect withdrew all his nominees last week under the threat of a no-confidence vote by the European Parliament, which has to ratify the new commission.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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