This WEEK in the European Union
Boosting Europe’s economic competitiveness is the Barroso Commission’s main aim for the next five years. The Commission President will unveil his plans to do this before the European Parliament on Wednesday (2 February).
MEPs will hear the Commission’s proposals to reform the so-called Lisbon Strategy – which aimed to make the EU the most competitive, knowledge-based economy in the World by 2010.
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A leaked copy of the draft proposal, obtained by the EUobserver two weeks ago, makes no mention of this ambitious target and aims to refocus the Lisbon Strategy around three core goals: creating jobs, improving knowledge and innovation and "ensuring that Europe remains an attractive location for employment".
According to the document, the relaunch of the strategy might be summarised as "more and better jobs in an innovative and attractive Europe".
The Commission report will incorporate some of the recommendations of the report drawn up by former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, who will also be in Brussels this week to address a meeting of the European Venture Capital Association (EVCA) the day before Mr Barroso unveils his plans.
This meeting seeks to share ideas on boosting Europe’s competitiveness through private equity and venture capital.
Also within the context of the Lisbon Strategy, the Commission will on Tuesday launch the "Europass", its attempt to improve labour mobility across the Union and improve competitiveness.
The Europass will offer job-seekers a harmonised format for presenting their qualifications that can be assessed by employers across the EU.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday will give the EU’s reaction to the elections in Iraq taking place on 30 January. Also on the ministers’ agenda is the Middle East, the Balkans, Ukraine, war-torn Sudan and the EU’s continuing response to the Tsunami disaster in south-east Asia.
Also in the domain of foreign affairs, the Romanian foreign minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu will appear before the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament to discuss with MEPs his country’s bid to join the EU.
Commission President José Manual Durao Barroso told Romania’s prime minister last week that the country is still on track to join the EU as expected in 2007 but that much work remains to be done. Corruption and state aid continue to concern the Brussels executive.
In a relatively full agenda for MEPs, Parliamentary committees will also meet to scrutinise the work of several commissioners this week, including Peter Mandelson (trade), Siim Kallas (budgetary control and anti-fraud), Charlie McCreevy (internal market), Günter Verheugen (industry), Jacques Barrot (transport) and Jan Figel (education and culture).
Commissioners will also meet two of the World’s richest men this week.
On Tuesday, Günter Verheugen, Charlie McCreevy and Peter Mandelson will meet Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft.
And on Friday, regional policy Commissioner Danuta Hübner will meet renowned financier George Soros, who has accumulated an enormous fortune through currency speculation.
Defence and competition
Finally, two gatherings in Brussels this week will examine Europe’s role in global defence and global competitiveness.
The European Policy Centre will on Wednesday hold a conference entitled, "Europe in the age of global competition". And on Thursday, a group called the New Defence Agenda will host an international conference entitled "towards an EU Strategy for collective security".
Keynote speakers include Gijs de Vries, the EU’s Counter-Terrorism co-ordinator and commissioners Verheugen and Frattini (Justice, Freedom and Security).