With employment and deficit figures that already meet the Lisbon goals and the Growth and Stability Pact criteria respectively, Austria can afford to have an unambitious-sounding Lisbon Action Plan.
On most key indicators, Austria is among the top five or top ten in the EU and closer to Nordic countries than to its German and Italian neighbours. the country’s GDP has grown by an average of 1.8% annually over the last five years. Over the same period, employment has risen by almost 0.5% annually, leading to an employment rate of 67.8% in 2004 (63.3% in the EU-25).
All key areas of economic and social policy, innovation and sustainability are interlinked in the Austrian government’s mind. Source: Austrian government
In talks with social partners, industry and scientific experts, the Austrian government defined the following key areas on which Lisbon-related efforts should be focussed:
- Sustainability of public finances
- Labour market and employment
- Research and development, innovation
- Infrastructure (including broadband)
- Competition and SME (Small and Medium-sized Enterprise) action plan
- Education and further training
- Environmental technologies and efficient management of resources
Any new measures have been outlined in Part II of Austria’s national reform plan. In some cases, the figures do not sound very impressive – for example a 10 million euro investment in broadband, but they started from a much higher base than most other member states. Research expenditure in particular has risen considerably since the mid-1990s, with most of the increase coming from foreign investment, followed by the business sector, while the Austrian Federal State and its regions are not spending much more than ten years ago.
The national action plans of the 25 EU member states will be the key issue at the EU’s spring summit on 23-24 March.