9th Mar 2021

Member states call for 'urgent action' on economic reform

EU leaders have agreed on a plan to relaunch the EU’s economic reform agenda and have called for "urgent action" to achieve their ambitious goals.

The final conclusions of the EU summit have dropped the original headline goal, which was for the EU to become the "most competitive and knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010".

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Leaders also agreed that "the results are mixed" in terms of making progress towards economic reform, adding that "there is a high price to pay for delayed or incomplete reforms".

"To that end, it is essential to relaunch the Lisbon Strategy without delay and re-focus priorities on growth and employment", agreed the 25 EU heads of state and government.

The new strategy is based around a three-year cycle, which begins this year and will end in 2008. Member states will submit "national reform programmes" and "where appropriate" will appoint a "Lisbon national co-ordinator" – a Mr or Mrs Lisbon.

The reforms place more emphasis on jobs and growth but also contains many references to the "European social model" and "the important contribution of environment policy", to avoid criticism from unions and socialists, who have slammed the new strategy as being too oriented around growth.

In the face of an ageing population and the so-called "demographic time bomb", leaders also agreed on a "European Youth Pact", which "aims to improve the education, training, mobility, vocational integration and social inclusion of young Europeans".

Presenting the reforms – which are based on Commission proposals – Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said that the three EU institutions (the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission) had "a meeting of minds" on the importance of boosting jobs and growth and also retaining the European social model.

And European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that agreements on the Lisbon agenda and the Stability and Growth Pact showed that a Europe of 25 could reach compromises.

But not everyone was happy. Small business organization eurochambres described the summit as "three steps back".

Paul Skehan, the Deputy Secretary-General of the organization said, "despite the creeping economic crisis facing Europe, the Spring Summit will be written off as yet another missed opportunity, as yet another set of bland promises and bad compromises, to be forgotten as soon as the government jets leave Zaventem airport".


Leaders also agreed that they should aim for a reduction in climate change emissions of between 15 and 30 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. An earlier aim to reduce emissions by 60-80 by 2050, which appeared in a previous draft, does not appear in the final text.

The World Wildlife Fund called for action from member states in this area, with a statement saying, "the leaders now need to follow up in their own countries".


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