22nd Oct 2020


What is the Lisbon Strategy?

The Lisbon Strategy is the EU's long-term economic strategy, established in March 2000 with the overall aim that the EU would become "the most competitive and knowledge based economy in the world", rivalling US and Japanese economies by 2010.

In a more general sense, Lisbon seeks to provide the EU with a sound economic, environmental, and social agenda that will promote jobs and sustainable development.

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Improving the standard of living remains a top priority for Lisbon, as it calls upon member states to create an environment that encourages better paid and safer jobs, and more access to the work force.

How has the Lisbon Strategy been doing?

The Lisbon strategy is far from meeting its goals. Indeed, with the mid-term review due next year, many analysts believe that the strategy is even going backwards. And the Commission itself appeared to give up on the long-term goals, writing in a recent report that the EU could not catch up with the US in time because of its much slower growth per capita.

Many key aspects of the Lisbon strategy have not been agreed, such as the creation of an EU-wide patent which would allow investors to receive a single patent valid anywhere in the EU.

The Spring summit, where the Lisbon strategy is traditionally discussed by EU leaders, has found itself overtaken by events in recent history. Leaders were focusing on the newly-initiated Iraq war last year and this year's agenda threatens to be overtaken by anti-terrorism debates in the wake of the Madrid bombings.

However, the agenda is not a complete failure. There have been elements of progress in some key areas, such as the liberalisation of energy resources and integration of financial services. France and Germany have taken credible steps towards reform and the Nordic countries are doing their best to push the agenda forward. But much work remains to be done.

Why has the Lisbon Agenda Failed?

One of the main causes for the failure of this strategy is that many key member states deem it to be far too ambitious and unachievable.

As a result, some states have devoted less energy towards acheiving the goals than they perhaps should.

France, Germany, and Italy, three of the most vital members in the EU, have fallen behind in most aspects of the Lisbon agenda.

The Lisbon agenda has not been helped by the economic situation.

The strategy was conceived at the height of the dot-com boom in 2000 and many economists believe that the strategy reflects a certain irrational exuberance on the part of EU policy makers.

Since the strategy was created, the global economic turbulence has hit European growth harder than US growth, thereby pushing Europe further and further behind the US.

What Next?

The Council has made plans to re-evaluate and re-implement measures to strengthen the original innovation, education, and research targets. Leaders will discuss economic reform in the summit of 25-26 March, although terrorism will probably replace the issue at the top of the agenda. Arguably more important is next year's summit, which will give leaders the chance to assess the strategy at its mid-term point.

For its part, the Commission - which monitors the progress of Lisbon through structural indicators - has made a number of proposals to the Council in order to further improve the Strategy. First, it wishes to see more investments in education training and research. Second, European enterprises should be supported through the application of better regulations, most notably in the industrial and environmental sectors. Finally, the Commission recommends providing ageing workers with more benefits such as health care and additional education.

EU 'going backwards' on economic goals

In the run-up to the summit of EU leaders on 25-26 March, which will discuss the EU economic goals, the EUobserver will talk to four of the Union's leading figures. Today, we speak to John Monks, General-Secretary of the European Trades Union Congress, who says that the EU is 'going backwards' on the goals.

Business leader: EU has 'no prospect' of catching up with US economy

In an interview with the EUobserver, Christoph Leitl, President of business association Eurochambres says the EU has "no prospect" of catching up with the US economy by 2010. His only hope, he says, is that new member states will provide a much-needed economic boost.

Top economist urges Europe to 'get cracking' on Lisbon goals

In an interview with the EUobserver, top economist and senior economic advisor to the Commission, André Sapir calls for an end to the 'blame game' and for Europe to 'get cracking' on its economic goals. "It is the system that is not delivering", he says.

Juncker calls for key economic target to be revised

The Union’s key target date of 2010 for becoming the most competitive economy in the World should be revised, according to Luxembourg’s PM and the man many tip to be the next Commission president in an interview with the EUobserver.

High level group to be created to push ahead with economic goals

EU Heads of State and Government will tomorrow announce the creation of a high-level group to instill dynamism into the EU's Lisbon Strategy - its goal to become the most competitive economy in the world by 2010. But the plan has not met with universal acclaim.

'No honeymoon' for next Commission

A leading business organisation has called for the next Commission to be selected on its ability to deliver on its economic goals or else Europe risks becoming a "tourist attraction".

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