The global economic downturn represents a “tremendous opportunity” for the EU to revive its flagship Lisbon Strategy for boosting growth and jobs, public affairs consultants told EURACTIV. But opinions vary regarding its future priorities amid mixed evaluations of the strategy’s success.
The EU’s Lisbon Agenda, launched in 2000, “has failed so far to serve its main purpose of ‘dynamising’ and galvanising European forces around a European project,” according to José Lalloum, managing partner of Logos Public Affairs, a Brussels-based consultancy.
This assessment comes despite its targets and goals being “even more valid in the context of the global economic downturn,” which in fact presents a “tremendous opportunity” for the European Commission and EU governments to revive the strategy, Lalloum said.
“The Lisbon Agenda should not be replaced, but furthered and activated,” he explained, calling for its remit to be broadened to tackle climate change by modernising Europe’s economies – primarily by investing in research and development.
This view was echoed by Jacques Lafitte, founder of Avisa Partners, another Brussels-based consultancy, who says the crisis means that the strategy’s basic goals – jobs, a knowledge-based economy and growth – will remain on top of the EU’s agenda “way beyond 2010”.
Searching for a ‘new narrative’
“A ‘new narrative’ which complements rather than replaces the Lisbon Agenda would be sustainability and cutting-edge technologies for the creation of jobs and a low-carbon economy,” Lafitte said.
Gerard De Graaf, head of unit in charge of the Lisbon Strategy at the European Commission, told EURACTIV in an interview recently that the EU needs to speed up implementation of its economic reform agenda, but suggested that no radical changes in substance are to be expected when the strategy comes up for revision later this year (EURACTIV 24/06/09).
Similarly, current EU presidency holder Sweden believes the Lisbon Agenda has been successful in many respects, the country’s EU Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmström told EURACTIV in an interview (EURACTIV 29/06/09).
Nevertheless, a “new, more focused and more efficient” strategy is expected to be adopted during the Spanish EU Presidency in spring 2010, and “preparing and setting the framework” for this strategy will be an important task for Sweden, Malmström said.
The Barroso factor
Many Brussels observers believe the Union’s priorities for the coming years will not change dramatically if José Manuel Barroso is re-confirmed as president of the European Commission for a second term.
Barroso won the unanimous backing of EU heads of state and government at their summit on 18-19 June (EURACTIV 19/06/09), but he will have to wait to be formally re-appointed after MEPs decided to delay a vote on his nomination until the autumn (EURACTIV 07/07/09).
Should Barroso remain in charge of the EU executive, “issues such as the reform of financial supervision or the fight against climate change will continue to feature high on the agenda,” Laurent Chokoualé Datou of Brussels-based PR firm Edelman told EURACTIV, perhaps to the detriment of “more social-welfare oriented support policies designed to help weather the impact of the global financial crisis”.
For Fleishman-Hillard Europe Managing Director Caroline Wunnerlich, post-election buzzwords from 2004 like ‘better regulation’, ‘implementation’ and ‘competitiveness’ have since been “turned on their heads” by the economic crisis, which has “turned everyone’s attention [onto] the need to regulate the financial sector”.
“The level to which this regulatory momentum in financial services ‘migrates’ to other policy areas is of course key, but it is hard to see how it would not,” Wunnerlich told EURACTIV.
The Commission is due to launch a wide Internet-based consultation of European and national stakeholders on the post-2010 Lisbon Strategy in early autumn 2009, with formal proposals expected to be presented at the end of this year or early next.
EU leaders would then likely adopt the EU executive’s main policy orientations at their summit in March 2010.