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“Time to move up a gear” - Commission President Barroso presents Annual Progress Report on Growth and Jobs

Commission Européenne - IP/06/71   25/01/2006

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IP/06/71

Brussels, 25 January 2006

[Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

“Time to move up a gear” - Commission President Barroso presents Annual Progress Report on Growth and Jobs

The European Commission has today published its new Annual Progress Report on the Lisbon Strategy, the partnership between the EU and Member States for growth and more and better jobs. The Annual Progress Report is designed to reinforce momentum and force the pace of delivery. There are three main elements in the Progress Report. First, the Report provides an analysis of the 25 new National Reform Programmes submitted by Member States in October 2005. Second, it identifies the strengths in different national programmes with a view to promoting the exchange of good ideas. Third, it highlights areas where there are shortcomings and proposes concrete action at EU and national level to deal with them. Four priority action areas are identified: investment in education, research and innovation; freeing up SMEs; employment policies to get people into work; and guaranteeing a secure and sustainable energy supply. For each of these areas, the Commission’s Spring Report makes clear proposals for European leaders to commit to when they meet at the March Summit in Brussels and to implement by 2007 (see below).

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: “My overall message is clear, it is time to move up a gear. There has been a wind of change moving though the corridors of Brussels and national capitals since we re-launched the Lisbon Strategy last year. There has been a step change in activity. We’ve come a long way since last year and the right foundations are now in place. The fact that there are 25 national reform programmes on the table speaks volumes about a new level of national commitment. Now the spotlight moves to delivery. Now Member States must get in the driving seat and speed up reforms. 95 percent of what is in these reports is common sense, Member States must make it common practice. They must find the political will to match words with deeds – it’s time to move up a gear."

“Our ambition is clear. We are aiming for top-class universities, highly trained and educated workforces, strong social security and pensions systems, the most competitive industries and the cleanest environment. To those who say that it cannot be done I say, a decade or so ago who would have thought that Ireland would have become one the most prosperous countries of the European Union, or that productivity in Poland would be higher than in South Korea? We can and must go the extra mile for growth and jobs.”

The four Priority Action Areas where European Leaders are being asked to commit to additional measures (national and European) at the March EU Summit

1. Investing in education and research

- Investment in higher education should by 2010 be stepped up to 2% of GDP from the current 1.28%, including by removing barriers to universities seeking complementary private funding.

- Already this March, every Member State should set a clear target for overall R&D expenditure for 2010.

- A greater share of state aids (25%) and structural funding should be spent on R&D.

- There should be a European Institute for Technology by the end of 2007.

- To raise the marketable skills base of all citizens, the teaching of mathematics and foreign languages should be given greater priority in schools.

2. Freeing up SME’s and unlocking business potential

- By 2007, Member States should each set up a “one-stop shop” to assist future entrepreneurs and so that businesses can fulfil all administrative requirements in one place.

- The average time for setting up a business should be cut by half by the end of 2007 and then to one week or less.

- Entrepreneurship education should be provided as part of the school curriculum for all pupils.

- Every Member State should set up a system to properly measure administrative burdens. The Commission will launch a major exercise of its own to identify and propose how to reduce costs arising from EU rules or their implementation at national level.

- The Commission will remove the obligation to notify certain categories of small state aids, which should help SMEs.

3. Getting people into work

- To help increase employment rates and to finance pensions and health care for an ageing population, Member States should adopt a lifecycle approach to employment, with people of all ages offered the support they need.

- Every young person who has left school or university should be offered a job, apprenticeship or additional training within six months of becoming unemployed by the end of 2007, and within 100 days by 2010.

- There should be stronger efforts to meet national targets for the provision of affordable high-quality childcare and measures to achieve greater gender equality at work and to promote a work-life balance.

- “Active ageing” should be implemented, with more training for those over 45, financial incentives for prolonging working lives and use of part-time work.

- The Commission will organise an extraordinary social summit and present a report by the end of 2007 on the balance between flexibility and employment security (“flexicurity”).

4. Efficient, secure and sustainable energy

The Commission pledges in the Report to galvanise Europe to meet the challenges of rising oil and gas prices and of cutting pollution. It delivers a blunt message to EU leaders: energy is a global issue that needs a European response. That means:

- Better coordination between Europe’s electricity grids and gas pipeline systems, better regulation of energy markets and more competition.

- More tax and other incentives to promote sustainable energy use and boost research into energy efficiency, clean energy and renewables.

- Europe “speaking with one voice” in negotiations with the external suppliers who will supply more and more of our energy.

- The Commission will publish a Green Paper with detailed proposals in early spring 2006.

Background information

The National Reform Programmes (NRPs)

The Commission assesses in the Spring Report each of the NRPs drawn up by Member States for the first time. The NRPs share a common basis, the single set of 24 Integrated Policy Guidelines agreed by the Council (see MEMO/05/123). Exploiting every Member State’s knowledge, experience and good ideas so that each can learn from the others is at the core of the partnership approach and a key way to make a real difference on the ground. The Commission will identify areas where the scope for mutual learning is greatest and help Member States take up promising policy ideas from each other’s NRPs.

On the NRPs’ President Barroso said: “Inspiration is close to home. All the Member States are bringing to the party ideas that others can adapt and adopt and I congratulate them. But progress is still uneven and the Commission will step up its efforts to drive the process. This Report already shows we won’t be a silent partner. We’ll give credit where it’s due and constructive criticism where it can help.”

The Next Steps

The Commission’s Report will go to the Spring European Council in March, where the Commission will urge heads of state and government to make the commitments required.

The Commission will work with Member States to support their efforts to implement their NRPs, to discuss how programmes can be strengthened and to ensure that other EU instruments like cohesion funding are used effectively to support Growth and Jobs.

Finally, the Commission will update the Community Lisbon Programme (see IP/05/973). More than half of the EU level measures envisaged have already been adopted by the Commission, though they will only produce practical effects once also approved by the European Parliament and the Council.

For further details on the Spring Report and on the specific annexes on macro-economic, micro-economic and employment issues see MEMO/06/23
For the full text of the Report – considerably streamlined in comparison with previous years - see the Commission’s Growth and Jobs web site at:

http://ec.europa.eu/growthandjobs/index_en.htm
For a full set of National Reform Programmes, please see:

http://ec.europa.eu/growthandjobs/pdf/nrp_2005_en.pdf


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