European business bangs ‘competitiveness drum’

“Competitiveness, competitiveness,
competitiveness” should be the mantra of the new Barroso
Commission, according to European business association
UNICE.

Urging the Barroso Commission and the
new European Parliament to be “the engine for change”,
UNICE President Jürgen Strube applauded the new
Commission President’s commitment to revitalise the
Lisbon process and the nomination of Günther
Verheugen as Enterprise and Industry Commissioner. In a
publication ”
Business vision for Europe: growth, jobs and prosperity for our future

“, UNICE has laid down its detailed priorities for the EU
in the next five years. 

Some of the key priorities for
business are: 

  • the implementation of the 
    EU Entrepreneurship Action Plan

  • a more “effective and efficient” environmental
    policy: a review of the EU’s climate change strategy
    and a comprehensive assessment of REACH, the EU’s new
    chemical substances legislation; 
  • the speedy adoption of the 
    Community Patent

    with a single-language regime (English); 

  • better transposition of the Lisbon directives
    (see 
    state of play

    ) and fast adoption of the 
    services directive

  • a moratorium on social legislation; 
  • industrial market access to foster international
    trade and investment.  

For European business, the economic
growth dimension of the Lisbon agenda has a clear
priority over the environmental and social pillars of
sustainable development. "... there is no job creation,
no sustainable social protection, no viable environmental
policy without growth, and there is no growth without
competitiveness," said 
Jacques Schraven, President of the Dutch
employers organisation VNO-NCW

This focus on competitiveness and
economic growth as the "indispensable basis for
sustainable development and well-being" (from UNICE's
"Business Vision") is being criticised by social and
environmental NGOs. In their evaluation of the EU's
Sustainable Development Strategy, the 
Green Eight

(the umbrella organisation of eight green NGOs) accused
the Commission of not doing anything "against the
overtaking of the Lisbon Process and its one-dimensional
focus on competitiveness". For the NGOs, "in the long
term, economic growth, social cohesion and environmental
protection must go hand in hand". 

UNICE, the European employers' lobby, had
invited five Presidents of their national employers'
organisations to a press conference in Brussels on 9
September in order to reiterate business concerns over the
slow implementation of the Lisbon reforms.

  • EURACTIV and Friends of Europe are organising a
    half-day workshop on the priorities of the Barroso
    Commission on 15 October 
  • The 
    Wim Kok group's mid-term review

    of the Lisbon agenda is expected to be presented to the
    Commission by 1 November 

  • UNICE is holding its second Competitiveness Day on
    9 December 2004 

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