The Commission hopes that its annual Spring Report on the progress towards the Lisbon goals will act as a wake up call to governments and generate the political will to improve the EU’s competitiveness.
In preparation for the Spring Summit 2004, the Commission on 21 January presented its annual Spring Report, assessing the progress made towards the Lisbon goals. The report gives a dire picture of the state of the EU’s competitiveness.
“Member States do not seem to realise that 2010 is around the corner,” said Commission President Prodi. “Four years after Lisbon it is clear that we are going to miss our mid-term targets. [..] Europe deserves better.”
While some progress has been made on job creation (6 million new jobs since 1999) and liberalisation of the telecommunications and energy sectors, the EU is still far from reaching its targets. The main areas of concern for the Commission concern employment and productivity, and the lack of transposition of internal market directives related to the Lisbon strategy area: more than 40 per cent of legislation still need to be implemented. Moreover, the budgetary situation of some Member States such as France and Germany is a cause of major concern.
The Commission has urged governments to give the Lisbon strategy fresh impetus at this year’s Spring Summit. In particular, it outlined three priority areas:
- Investment in networks and knowledge: Through the ‘European Growth Initiative’, Member States have approved a list of priority projects which must now be started. Moreover, the Commission calls for a stronger commitment to reaching the objective of increasing research investment to 3 per cent of GDP by 2010.
- Strengthening competitiveness in industry and services:This refers to a necessary increase of efforts in the areas of industrial policy, the services market and environmental technologies.
- Increasing labour market participation of older people:Active ageing should be promoted by encouraging older workers to work for longer. At the same time, national health care systems should be modernised to make them more efficient and economically viable.
The Commission’s Spring Report was accompanied by the Implementation Report of the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines 2003-2005, the Joint Employment Report (assessing implementation of the Employment Guidelines), and the Implementation Report on the Internal Market Strategy.