At their meeting today, leaders of the EU Member States launched the next cycle of the Lisbon Strategy. The European Council confirmed the validity of the Integrated Guidelines for Growth and Jobs and adopted specific recommendations for Member States. It invited the European Commission, Parliament and Council to focus on implementing ten priorities laid down in the new Community Lisbon Programme as soon as possible.
”The Lisbon Strategy is the European Strategy for Growth and Jobs. Economic growth and high-quality jobs are a guarantee of social progress and social cohesion. The new cycle of the Lisbon Strategy ensures a better balance between concern for citizens and the environment on the one hand and efforts for a competitive, knowledge-based market economy on the other.
The new emphases of the strategy are, in essence, heightened concern for citizens and social issues, the response to climate change, and a more modern view of innovation and creativity,” underlined the Slovenian EU Presidency.
The Lisbon Strategy is working but, given the increasing uncertainty about the international economic environment, we need to proceed resolutely with reforms. Accordingly, the focus of the new cycle of the Lisbon Strategy is on the implementation of reforms, while also improving control and ownership of the Lisbon reforms.
The European Council confirmed the validity of the four priority areas of the Lisbon Strategy: (1) concern for citizens, (2) concern for the environment, (3) a more competitive economy, and (4) knowledge and innovation.
The European Council called for the adoption of a new social agenda which addresses social challenges, demographic changes, the situation of young people, the importance of education, migration and intercultural dialogue. It also called for implementation of the principles of flexicurity at the national level and for detailed plans for implementing the principles to be included in national development programmes for 2008.
The European Council also announced a review of knowledge and competences up to the year 2020 with a view to identifying the EU’s needs in the next phase. Greater emphasis was placed on eradicating illiteracy among young people and on reducing school drop-out rates.
The Slovenian EU Presidency further points out that, in responding to the challenges of globalisation, we will need to rely on the creativity of our citizens and our rich cultural heritage. It is, therefore, of crucial importance to increase investment in research, development and education and to prevent the ‘brain drain’ of European talent.
The European Council advocates the introduction of the ‘fifth freedom’, i.e. the free flow of knowledge, and is bringing in measures to improve the mobility of researchers, students and university staff. Scientific e-infrastructure and high-speed internet use have to be substantially upgraded to facilitate high-speed internet access for all schools by 2010. A broad-based innovation strategy and development of the EU venture capital market for financing innovative small and medium-sized enterprises will be of paramount importance.
Considerable attention will be paid to the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises, innovative ones in particular, through incentives to support their growth phase and through different forms of financing. Efforts to reduce administrative burdens must also be continued. The European Council reiterated its call for the earliest possible implementation of the Services Directive.
The single market is one of the essential preconditions for EU competitiveness in the global world. The European Council called for the yearly monitoring report on the implementation of the single market. Moreover, further guidelines for the external dimension of the Lisbon Strategy were established. The European Council welcomes the announcement of annual monitoring of foreign market access and the identification of states and markets where restrictions exist.
In addition to decisions on individual priority areas, the European Council called for the further development of methods for supervising and implementing reforms. The European Council also noted the importance of economic, territorial and social cohesion as well as the importance of macro-economic stability within the Stability and Growth Pact.
The European Council further invited the European Commission and Lisbon coordinators to launch a debate at the earliest possible opportunity on the post-2010 scenario, since reforms will also be needed after this period.