In a letter sent on Monday (21 March) to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and his Commission counterpart José Manuel Barroso, the leaders called for collective action to complete the single market, open the EU to more trade and slash burdens on business.
The letter – also signed by the prime ministers of non-eurozone Denmark, Poland and Latvia, and by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė – warns that failure to make fundamental reforms will lead to "low productivity, high unemployment, lost investment and relative economic decline".
The statement comes amid criticism that France and Germany are hijacking the summit's agenda with a "competitiveness pact" outlined in February, which included controversial plans to raise the retirement age and lock debt limits into national constitutions across the euro zone.
UK Europe Minister David Lidington said that growth would be more important to voters than stability pact issues in forthcoming German elections, a key upcoming test for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat-led coalition.
Speaking to EurActiv in advance of the summit, he said: "If you go around Europe knocking on doors, whether you are doing it in London or Baden-Württemburg, then you will find that it is jobs, growth, investment and living standards which are going to open doors and that – important though the stability mechanism is – that is not going to be the first thing that people talk about."
The letter – also signed by the prime ministers of eurozone members Estonia, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands – called for the European Commission to report "at the earliest opportunity" on steps taken to achieve the opening of the services sector, the reduction of regulated professions, the completion of an internal energy market and the encouragement of online trading.
The leaders called for the European Council and Commission to take all necessary steps to conclude Free Trade Agreement deals with India, Canada, Japan, Mercosur and the ASEAN nations before the end of the current Commission term.
They also pressed the Commission to present concrete proposals by the end of the summer aimed at exempting small businesses from EU regulation, and by the end of the year to deliver proposals for a more fully integrated European venture capital market and an end to the current deadlock over the European patent.
Signatories Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are among a group of countries that were also resistant to funding euro bailouts, when officials sought to secure an agreement on the controversial permanent bailout fund earlier this week in advance of the summit.
According to the letter, successful implementation of the proposals would add €140 billion to the European economy.