Rodrigues: EU needs ‘greener’ Lisbon Agenda

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This article is part of our special report European Business Summit.

Maria João Rodrigues, one of the architects of the EU’s Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs, believes the EU needs a revised strategy which is greener, with a stronger focus on climate change and energy. She spoke to EURACTIV in an interview on the sidelines of the European Business Summit.

Maria João Rodrigues was involved in the development of the EU’s Lisbon Agenda, adopted in 2000. She is currently a special advisor on the Lisbon Agenda for the European Union. She also teaches at the Institute of European Studies, Université Libre de Bruxelles, and at the Lisbon University Institute (ISCTE).

The full interview is available on video on Blogactiv.

Ten years ago, you were helping the Portuguese EU Presidency to define the Lisbon Agenda for growth and jobs, which has become the EU’s flagship policy for 2010. What is your assessment of the Lisbon Agenda today, especially in view of the current economic recession? 

In spite of difficulties in implementation, I make a positive assessment. First, the EU has a new strategic consensus on the long-term priorities: A smarter economy, a green economy and an economy which combines a high level of competitiveness with social cohesion. 

Before the crisis, we were reaching a quite important level of growth – 2.7% – and we have created 15 million jobs, so I think the outcome was good. But now we do have a crisis indeed.

Given the crisis, should EU governments focus on short term and solve the problems of banks and other large companies, or should one continue on competitiveness issues, which are more medium to long term?

I think we need both. We need very strong action to overcome the credit problem and we need to restore credit to support business and people. This is a serious crisis, but I also believe it is a unique opportunity to go stronger and quicker in the direction of our long term goals: if you think about big stimulus packages which are there, they should be used to invest in the green economy and on the smart economy, so this is an opportunity not to be missed.

The European Commission and Parliament are about to be renewed after the June European elections and will likely adopt a renewed agenda for the next five years. What are you main ideas there?

I think we need an agenda which is greener, with a stronger focus on climate change and energy. We need a very strong focus on the ‘triangle of knowledge’ – much more investment in innovation, education and research – but I think we need strong European instruments for that. 

And finally, something new, which is to project our European agenda in our international cooperation with others. Because we see that the American economy is now shifting in the same direction and the same can happen in China or India. We should encourage this convergence towards a model of development which combines competitiveness with sustainable development.

Under the more recent Portuguese Presidency, you were involved in drafting a policy document on globalisation. At the time, Europe was trying to give globalisation a good image, but in the meantime, with the financial crisis, it has become a little bit more difficult. What would you change in this policy document on globalisation today?

This document was important, because it meant a new step in the European approach to globalisation. But now, taking into account the economic crisis, I would add a few things more: stronger regulation of financial markets, in order to avoid this kind of crisis, and stronger support for developing countries, because if they are not supported, we cannot overcome the crisis.

You have also written a book on ‘Europe, globalisation and the Lisbon Agenda’. What will people learn from this book that is not in the press already?

First, how to adapt the Lisbon Agenda to the national level, because we need to take national needs into account. And then, how we can use the Lisbon Treaty to go further in the implementation of the agenda. I think we do need stronger political instruments also.

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