In March 2000, the EU Heads of States and Governments agreed to make the EU “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010”. Although some progress was made on innovating Europe’s economy, there is growing concern that the reform process is not going fast enough and that the ambitious targets will not be reached.
In March 2000, EU heads of state and government agreed on an ambitious goal: making the EU "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion".
In particular, it was agreed that to achieve this goal, an overall strategy should be applied, aimed at:
- preparing the transition to a knowledge-based economy and society by better policies for the information society and R&D, as well as by stepping up the process of structural reform for competitiveness and innovation and by completing the internal market;
- modernising the European social model, investing in people and combating social exclusion;
- sustaining the healthy economic outlook and favourable growth prospects by applying an appropriate macro-economic policy mix.
The Lisbon Summit was designed to mark a turning point for EU enterprise and innovation policy: it saw the high-level integration of social and economic p olicy with practical initiatives to strengthen the EU's research capacity, promote entrepreneurship and facilitate take-up of information society technologies.
The main issues for the realisation of the Lisbon agenda were:
- the necessary investment in R&D, that is three per cent of GDP;
- reduction of red tape to promote entrepreneurship;
- achieving an employment rate of 70 per cent (60 per cent for women);
However, nearly half-way through the implementation period, many critics complain that not much progress has been made on achieving these ambitious goals. After the recent global economic downturn, governments seem to have been reluctant to push through difficult and unpopular economic reforms or to focus on increasing their national budgets for research and innovation. Many economists claim that, as a result, the EU has lost valuable ground on its main competitors, the US and Japan.
In its traditional Spring Report, which served as a basis for the Spring Summit in March 2004, the Commission set out to assess the progress made towards the Lisbon goals. This report was accompanied by the Implementation Report of the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines 2003-2005, the Joint Employment Report, and the Implementation Report on the Internal Market Strategy. All these reports paint a dire picture of the state of the EU's competitiveness.
The Commission has therefore urged governments to give the Lisbon strategy fresh impetus. In particular, it outlined three priority areas:
- Investment in networks and knowledge: starting the priority projects approved in the 'European Growth Initiative';
- Strengthening competitiveness in industry and services: stepping up efforts in the areas of industrial policy, the services market and environmental technologies;
- Increasing labour market participation of older people: promoting active ageing by encouraging older workers to work for longer.
At their Spring Summit meeting in Brussels on 25-26 March, EU leaders adopted conclusions on strategies to meet the Lisbon targets. "The European Council reaffirms that the process and goals remain valid. However, the pace of reform needs to be significantly stepped up," reads the paper. Moreover, governments pledged to "demonstrate the political will to make this happen", and they appointed the former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok to head a high-level expert group to give new impetus to the Lisbon strategy.
The group's mission was to assess the instruments and methods used to date and to involve Member States and stakeholders more closely to ensure the Lisbon objectives can be delivered. The Kok Report was presented to the European Commission and the European Council at the beginning of November 2004 (see EurActiv 3 November and 4 November 2004). It paints a gloomy picture on the progress made in the last four years, stating that the “disappointing delivery” is due to “an overloaded agenda, poor co-ordination and conflicting priorities”. However, the report puts the main blame on the lack of political will by the member states.
(January - June 2004) will use the mid-term review to:
- take stock of the strategy;
- refocus priorities;
- improve the governance and implementation of the strategy;
- implement a specific communication strategy by target groups.
The Presidency is committed to preserving the strategy of developing synergies between the economic, social and environmental pillars to achieve the aims of the Lisbon strategy. Moreover, it wants to confirm the target of 2010 as the date by which the Member States as a whole, in each area of the strategy, will have implemented the reforms in a self-sustaining manner demonstrating a notable change of trend.
Furthermore, the Presidency endorses the Kok Report's suggestion to create national action programmes to improve the governance of the Lisbon process, and it proposes to discuss a streamlining of the Open Coordination Method. The Presidency believes that the sound functioning of the Open Coordination Method will be judged when the national achievement of objectives as defined in Community action plans converge.
European industry and employers federation UNICE has pointed out that the EU's failure to make progress towards the Lisbon goals is mainly due to insufficient economic reform in Member States. In particular, industry believes that excessive costs and regulation stand in the way of getting Europe's competitiveness back on track, and UNICE has therefore called to "Free Gulliver" by cutting red tape for businesses. For industry, the focus must be on:
- better regulation with compulsory business assessment for new legislative proposals;
- reforms of social security systems;
- increased investment in R&D and innovation by Member States, universities and industry;
- reductions of company tax levels;
- better education on entrepreneurship;
- more flexible regulation of labour markets;
- implementation of internal market legislation.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) supports a discussion on growth and employment-friendly reforms provided that reforms "benefit workers, respect social dialogue and unlock the social dimension of Europe". However, ETUC has emphasised that structural reforms will not be enough to deliver on the Lisbon objectives: policies also have to ensure that growth occurs effectively. Trade unions reject the one-sided use of the Lisbon strategy to legitimise "neo-liberal policy approaches", saying that "the Lisbon Strategy must be implemented in a manner that is economically, socially and ecologically balanced."
Eurochambres, the association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry, maintains that Member States must repair credibility in the Lisbon process. In particular Eurochambres urges governments to
- introduce more immediate focus to the process at national and European levels;
- review the open method of co-ordination;
- strengthen the position of the Competitiveness Council.
UEAPME, European Crafts and SMEs employers association, has stressed the need for EU decision makers to make policy making more coherent and competitiveness-minded in order to create the right regulatory framework for Crafts, SMEs and business in general and revitalise the Lisbon Strategy. Saying that intrinsic weaknesses of the Open Method of Co-ordination has contributed to the delivery gap of the Lisbon reforms, UEAPME has called for stronger, more compelling instruments to be created.
The Green/EFA group in the European Parliament, WWF and other environmentalist groups have pointed out that the EU's Sustainable Development Strategy, which was adopted at the Gothenburg Council in June 2001, was made an integral part of the Lisbon Strategy. They call upon Member States and the Commission to recognise that economic growth, social cohesion, and environmental protection must go hand in hand.
The further implementation of the Lisbon goals is high on the Luxembourg Presidency's agenda, with a specific focus on the European area of knowledge as well as improving the governance of the Lisbon process.
Marking the half-way point for the Lisbon agenda, the spring European Council of 22-23 March 2005 placed renewed focus on growth, innovation and employment and encouraged the strengthening of social cohesion and the mobilisation of national and community resources in the Strategy's economic, social and environmental dimensions. For futher information on the revamped Lisbon proposals and to keep track of all the latest developments please see EurActiv's Linksdossier on the Relaunched Lisbon Strategy.
The integrated guidelines for growth and jobs for the period 2005-2008, spearheading the national reform programmes or action plans of member states, will be discussed at the June European Council.
- Eur-LexCommission report to the Spring European Council: Delivering Lisbon - Reforms for the enlarged Union(20 February 2004) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Eur-LexCommission Communication: Some Key Issues in Europe’s Competitiveness – Towards an Integrated ApproachCOM (2003)704 (21 November 2003) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Eur-LexCommission Communication on the implementation of the 2003-05 Broad Economic Policy GuidelinesCOM (2004)20 [FR] [FR] [DE]
- World Economic Forum (WEF)The Lisbon Agenda: How Will the New Europe Score Vis-à-Vis the Old Europe?(28 April 2004)
- World Economic Forum (WEF)The Lisbon Review 2004 - An assessment of policies and reforms in Europe
- OECDScience, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2003
- OECDRegulation, Productivity and Growth: OECD evidence(13 January 2004)
- OECDThe Policy Agenda for Growth - An Overview of the Sources of Economic Growth in OECD Countries(2003)
- OECDEconomic Outlook No. 75 - Country summaries
- GermanyGerman position paper for the 2004 spring summit for the implementation of the Lisbon strategy(1 December 2003)
- GermanyWas ist die Lissabon-Strategie?
- Germany"The Agenda 2010" reform package
- GermanyRegierungserklärung von Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder zu den Ergebnissen des Europäischen Rates vom 23./24. März 2000 in Lissabon(6 April 2000)
- UKThe Lisbon Agenda - Delivering Jobs and Prosperity for all(Speech by Patricia Hewitt, 6 February 2002)
- UKBackground to Economic Reforms & Lisbon Agenda
- AustriaLissabon Strategie
Business & Industry
- UNICE:Kok-report: Good analysis but not enough concrete proposals to dynamise Europe(3 November 2004)
- UNICEImplementing the Lisbon Strategy through better governance, better regulation and better communication(7 July 2004)
- UNICELisbon Strategy Status 2004(November 2003)
- UNICEEconomic Outlook Spring 2004
- UNICE, UEAPME, EUROCOMMERCE and EUROCHAMBRESLisbon strategy: "commit and deliver" business leaders tell heads of State ahead of the Spring summit
- ETUCSocial Europe as a driving force for economic growth: ETUC supports the Kok report, but regrets that social cohesion and sustainable development are neglected(3 November 2004)
- European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)Structural reform by itself will not deliver Lisbon strategy!(23 January 2004) [FR]
- UEAPMELisbon Strategy: "Commit and deliver" Business Leaders tell Heads of State ahead of the Spring Summit(23 March 2004)
- UEAPMEMember States should not use current economic upturn as a pretext to ease up on implementation of Lisbon reforms, UEAPME warns(18 March 2004)
- UEAPMEStronger, more coherent EU competitiveness policy will help Europe meet the Lisbon challenge, says UEAPME(26 February 2004)
- EUROCHAMBRES:EUROCHAMBRES welcomes report and demands Member States act to avoid "Lisbon tragedy"(3 November 2004)
- European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT)The European Challenge(March 2003)
- EUROCHAMBRES:From Promise to Performance - Eurochambres' Assessment of the Lisbon Process 2003-2004
- EuroCommerce:The Kok report: A good step in the right direction, but concrete actions needed!(3 November 2004)
- National Unions of Students in Europe (ESIB)ESIB Statement on the Lisbon Objectives of the European Union
- SOLIDAR"Delivering Lisbon" - Social Europe stalls (Statement to the Spring European Council)
- MicrosoftCreating Opportunities in a Knowledge-Based Economy
- MicrosoftSharing growth and innovation in EMEA(September 2003)
NGOs and Think-Tanks
- Social platformThe goals of “more and better job” and “greater social cohesion” - A Social NGOs’ review of the Lisbon strategy(20 October 2004) [FR]
- The Lisbon Council
- Greens/EFARethink of Spring Summit needed - EU Commission gave an uninspiring and unbalanced vision of Europe(21 January 2004)
- European People's Party (EPP-ED)More competitive and knowledge based European economy backed by the EPP-ED(February 2002)
- CouncilPresidency Conclusions of the Lisbon European Council on 24 March 2000
- CouncilFollow-up of Lisbon European Council Conclusions(19 April 2000)
- CouncilFinal Report on the European Action for Growth(26 November 2003) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Dutch PresidencyCompetitiveness
- CommissionThe Lisbon Strategy
- Commission/Kok High Level Expert Group:Facing the challenge, Report from the High Level Group chaired by Wim Kok [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Commission2004 Review of the EU economy: Exploring the economic underpinnings of the Lisbon strategy(26 October 2004)
- CommissionCommission's Autumn Economic Forecasts 2004-2006(26 October 2004) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Commission/DG EnterpriseEuropean Competitiveness Report 2004(8 November 2004)
- Commission/DG EnterpriseEU productivity and competitiveness: An industry perspective(2003)
- CommissionStructural Indicators(16 March 2004)
- Eur-LexCommission Communication: Investing in research: an action plan for EuropeCOM (2003) 226 (April 2003) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Eur-LexInnovation policy: updating the Union's approach in the context of the Lisbon strategyCOM(2003) 112 [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Eur-LexCommission Communication: Innovation in a knowledge-driven economyCOM(2000) 567 [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Eur-LexOpinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament - Innovation in a knowledge-driven economy"(17 September 2001)
- CommissionInnobarometer 2003
- European ParliamentInnovation in a knowledge-driven economy
- Eur-LexEmployment recommendations for 2004COM 2004/239 (7 April 2004) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Eur-LexCommission Communication: Strengthening the implementation of the European Employment StrategyCOM(2004)239 [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Eur-LexCommission Communication: Draft Joint Employment Report 2003/2004COM (2004)24
- Eur-LexCouncil Decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States(2003/578/EC) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Commission/DG EmploymentThe European employment strategy
- Commission/DG EmploymentReport of the Employment Taskforce - Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Creating more employment in Europe(November 2003) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Eur-Lex:Commission Communication: Report on the implementation of the Internal Market Strategy (2003-2006)COM(2004)22 (21 January 2004) [FR] [FR] [DE]
- Commission:Internal Market Scoreboard(July 2004)
- Commission:Transposition of "Lisbon" Directive (State of play 01/01/2004)
- CommissionRecommendation form the Commission on the transposition into national law of Directives affecting the internal market [FR] [FR] [DE]
- European Policy Centre (EPC):Ten Do-s and Don’t-s for Sustainable Growth in Europe(27 October 2004)
- European Policy Centre (EPC):Lisbon Revisited - Finding a new path to European growth(8 March 2004)
- European Policy Centre (EPC):Benchmarking the 2004 Lisbon review: is the European model at risk?(26 January 2004)
- Deutsche Bank ResearchGrowth and prosperity in Europe - an agenda(January 2004)
- Centre for European Reform (CER)The Lisbon Scorecard IV: The status of economic reform in the enlarging EU(March 2004)
- Centre for European Reform (CER)Getting from Lisbon to Warsaw, Why structural economic reform matters to EU candidate countries. And vice versa(18 February 2002)
- European Forecasting Network (EFN)2004 Autumn Report ("The euro area and the Lisbon Strategy")(8 October 2004)