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A new start for the Lisbon Strategy (2005)
A mid-term look at the Lisbon strategy shows the outcomes to be somewhat disappointing, particularly with regard to employment. In order to give the strategy some fresh momentum the Commission proposes a simplified coordination procedure and a focus on the national action plans (NAP). The emphasis is no longer on targets, of which the only one to be retained is the figure of 3% of GDP to be devoted to research and development by 2010. There is a switch of emphasis in the Communication away from the medium and long term in favour of the urgent action needed in the Member States.
Communication to the spring European Council of 2 February 2005 entitled “Working together for growth and jobs. A new start for the Lisbon strategy”. Communication from President Barroso in agreement with Vice-President Verheugen. [COM(2005) 24 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
Taking stock five years after the launch of the Lisbon strategy, the Commission finds the results to date somewhat disappointing, and the European economy has failed to deliver the expected performance in terms of growth, productivity and employment. Job creation has slowed and there is still insufficient investment in research and development.
The Commission based its findings on the November 2004 report by the high-level group entitled "Rising to the challenge: the Lisbon strategy for growth and employment". Requested by the March 2004 European Council, this evaluation of progress achieved with the Lisbon strategy is extremely critical: lack of political resolve and inability to complete the internal market in goods and establish the one for services. The report is also critical of a top-heavy agenda, poor coordination and irreconcilable priorities.
The Commission has therefore decided to focus attention on the action to be taken rather than targets to be attained. The date of 2010 and the objectives concerning the various rates of employment are thus no longer put forward as priorities. This Communication fits into this context as a signal for relaunching policy priorities, particularly with regard to growth and employment.
The Member States, in order to achieve this progress, must focus their efforts on the reforms agreed as part of the strategy and pursue stability-orientated macroeconomic policies and sound budgetary policies. A new partnership for growth and employment is essential in order to give a fresh start to the Lisbon strategy. Accordingly, in order to stimulate growth, the Commission intends to:
- make the European Union (EU) more attractive to investors and workers by building up the internal market, improving European and national regulations, ensuring open and competitive markets within and outside Europe, and lastly by extending and improving European infrastructures;
- encourage knowledge and innovation by promoting more investment in research and development, by facilitating innovation, the take-up of information and communication technologies (ICT) and the sustainable use of resources, and by helping to create a strong European industrial base.
More and better quality jobs
The Commission intends to review the European employment strategy in 2005. The Commission’s new proposal concerning the financial framework for the period 2007-2013 moreover reflects a switch of emphasis in favour of growth and employment. To create more and better jobs, the Commission intends to:
- attract more people to the employment market and modernise social protection systems. The Member States and the social partners must implement policies to encourage workers to remain active and dissuade them from leaving the world of work prematurely. They must also reform the social protection system in order to achieve a better balance between security and flexibility;
- improve the adaptability of the workforce and business sector, and increase the flexibility of the labour markets in order to help Europe adjust to restructuring and market changes. Simplifying the mutual recognition of qualifications will make labour mobility easier throughout Europe. The Member States should remove all restrictions in this area as quickly as possible;
- invest more in human capital by improving education and skills. The Commission intends to adopt a Community lifelong learning programme. The Member States will also submit national strategies in this area in 2006.
The Commission also stresses the need for responsibilities to be shared more clearly and more effectively. Overlapping, an excess of red tape and not enough political ownership are holding up progress. It will put forward a Lisbon action programme in order to clarify what needs to be done.
The Commission will propose simplified coordination with fewer and less complex reports. It is also proposed that the national programmes concerning the Lisbon strategy be presented in a format bringing together three coordination processes:
- labour market policies (the Luxembourg process);
- microeconomic and structural reforms (the Cardiff process);
- macroeconomic and budgetary measures (the Cologne process).
This will enable the European Council to put forward practical guidelines every spring and make it easier for the Commission to monitor progress.
It is also planning to put forward integrated guidelines for both employment and the broad economic policy guidelines in a single document. These guidelines will thus simultaneously cover macroeconomic policies, employment and structural reforms.
The Commission is also proposing that Member States should appoint a “Mr” or “Ms Lisbon” at government level to oversee the implementation of the reforms agreed under the Lisbon strategy.
This new reporting process will provide a mechanism through which the European Council and the European Parliament can focus on key policy issues. There will henceforth be a single Lisbon report at EU and at national level on the progress made.
Further information is available on the dedicated site on Growth and Employment.