‘Wise men’ discuss EU’s 2020 strategy

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Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero hosted a meeting with prominent EU ‘wise men’ in Madrid yesterday (5 January) to discuss Europe’s economic and social strategy for the next decade. EURACTIV Spain reports.

Former European Commission President Jacques Delors and former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González were the high-level personalities invited to the meeting, hosted at the governmental palace of Moncloa on Tuesday. 

Zapatero asked the pair, as well as former Spanish Commissioner Pedro Solbes, to advise him on ways to better coordinate the economic policies of EU countries, in the framework of the follow-up to the Lisbon agenda for growth and jobs, known as the ‘EU 2020 Strategy’, the Spanish press reported. 

The Spanish Presidency aims to have the strategy adopted at a 17-18 June meeting of EU heads of state and government at the latest (EURACTIV 19/11/09). 

The group agreed that Europe’s “economic governance” should be strengthened, with a view to improving the competitiveness of the ‘old continent’ vis-à-vis players such as China, India or Brazil. Discussions centred on deepening the internal market, forging a common energy policy and prioritising research and innovation. 

The men parted with an agreement to meet again but no concrete dates were set at this stage, government sources said. 

Critics were quick to label the gathering as a mere ‘photo opportunity’, held at a time when Spain recorded historic levels of unemployment (EURACTIV 05/01/10). 

Cristóbal Montoro, responsible for economic policy for the Partido Popular, the centre-right opposition party, described the meeting as “the photo of unemployment”. It was also “a meeting of socialists,” he quipped, coming at a time when most EU governments are led by centre-right parties. 

Conservative daily ABC writes that the Moncloa meeting produced no more than uninspired and lacklustre statements. The article states with irony that after having assumed the EU presidency, Zapatero has invited González to take advice from him, something he had not done once in the past six years of his mandate. 

On 1 January 2010 Spain took on the European Union's six-month rotating presidency. Madrid assumes the EU's helm at a defining moment for the bloc, marked by the first steps of the Union's first-ever permanent president and foreign affairs chief and efforts to lift Europe out of its worst recession in decades (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on the Spanish EU Presidency). 

The European Council of 14 December 2007 decided to establish a "reflection group" of prominent personalities, also called 'wise men', to identify the key issues that the EU is likely to face in the future and how these might be addressed. Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González was named chair of the group. 

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