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Spring European Council 2003

The Lisbon Process

The European Council held a special meeting on 23-24 March 2000 in Lisbon to agree a new strategic goal for the Union: to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion. The overall strategy for this goal aimed at:

  • preparing the transition to a knowledge-based economy and society by better policies for the information society and R&D, as well as by stepping up the process of structural reform for competitiveness and innovation and by completing the internal market;
  • modernising the European social model, investing in people and combating social exclusion;
  • sustaining the healthy economic outlook and favourable growth prospects by applying an appropriate macro-economic policy mix.

It was decided that implementing this strategy would be achieved by improving the existing processes, introducing a new open method of coordination at all levels, coupled with a stronger guiding and coordinating role for the European Council to ensure more coherent strategic direction and effective monitoring of progress. A decision was taken that a meeting of the European Council is to be held every Spring in order to define the relevant mandates and ensure that they are followed up.

The European Council in Göteborg in 2001 agreed on a strategy for sustainable development and added an environmental dimension to the Lisbon process for economic reform and growth, employment and social cohesion.

The European Council in Barcelona in 2002 reviewed the progress on the Lisbon Agenda and took decisions concerning the coordination of economic policies (coordination of fiscal policies, long-term sustainability of public finances in accordance to Stability and Growth Pacts, budgetary challenges of ageing), sustainable development (ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the 6th Environmental Action Plan, environmental technologies, the energy tax, ODA), entrepreneurship and competitiveness (European charter for SMEs, Green Paper on entrepreneurship, State aid, public procurement, the regulatory environment), employment and social cohesion (the social agenda, employment policies, promoting skills and mobility in the EU), education (e-learning, life-long learning, transparency of diplomas and qualifications), connecting European markets (financial markets, energy, transport, communications), research and frontier technologies (spending on R&D, 6th Research Framework Programme, community patent).

Procedures

The Spring European Council during the Greek Presidency will be organised according to decisions taken in Seville last June: new Councils have been created, while the Council of General Affairs will play a crucial role in the preparation process. The duration of the European Council will be shorter and its Agenda annotated; as a result, the whole procedure should be more closely monitored in order to leave an adequate time frame for all Lisbon Agenda items along with any others that may be brought forward.

In preparation of the Spring European Council, the Commission presents its  Spring Report (including Structural Indicators) in January. During the January to March period, a number of the Lisbon Agenda items will be discussed by relevant Councils:

  • Economic and Financial Affaires
  • Competition (Internal Market, Industry and Research)
  • Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affaires
  • Environment
  • Transport, Telecommunications and Energy
  • Education, Youth and Culture

Based on the conclusions of these Councils and the Council og General Affairs the Presidency prepares draft conclusions for the Spring European Council.

Priorities of the Greek Presidency

The Lisbon strategy has served its goal to mobilize or sustain European efforts in economic and social reform. Three years since it was adopted and a third of the way towards the 2010 goal, much has been achieved; nevertheless, there is a delivery gap in a number of areas. In order to further the goals that we set out in 2000, the ambitions of the Greek Presidency relate to achieving progress in the following areas:

1. Entrepreneurship and small firms

Europe has an entrepreneurial deficit, especially in knowledge-based sectors. The significant contribution that new entrepreneurs and small businesses can make to employment, growth and regional development is largely left unrealised. Reversing this situation involves reducing barriers to entry and administrative burden, promoting access to capital, fostering networks, upgrading the quality of skills and the qualitative parameters of jobs in small firms, and stimulating entrepreneurship through the educational system.

In this context, the Greek Presidency will work towards: the implementation of the entrepreneurship Green Paper, focusing on administrative simplification and on practical ways for improving small firms access to know-how and finance; the acceleration of the implementation of the European Charter for Small Enterprises; the improvement and simplification of the regulatory environment; and the encouragement of further work and diffusion of best practices on corporate governance, so as to strengthen market confidence.

2. The European knowledge-based economy

Medium-term growth performance in Europe depends on tapping new sources of growth. In this respect the Greek Presidency will pursue concrete measures in the following directions: developing research in frontier technologies (such as biotechnology, space research and defence-related research); increasing investments in R&D, especially by business; expanding European research and innovation networks; concluding the adoption of a transparent and non-costly Community patent; adopting the new legislative package for regulatory reform in telecoms; and helping realize a European Information Society for all, through the interoperability of network infrastructures and services, the funding of the eEurope initiative, and a successful EU participation in the UN World Summit for the Information Society.

Given that human capital is the necessary condition for creating a knowledge-based economy, the Presidency will also put emphasis on the reform of education and training systems, particularly with respect to basic skills, life-long learning, teaching of foreign languages, developing digital literacy, and encouraging mobility within the EU.

3. Connecting Europe

The EU is today increasingly interdependent and connected, and every effort must be made to ensure that bottlenecks to such integration are removed, especially in energy, transport and financial services markets. In energy, the Presidency will work towards a full and operational liberalisation, taking into account public service obligations, security of supply and the protection of vulnerable areas & population groups, while encouraging State divestiture.

The Presidency will also promote: the development of financing mechanisms for the expansion of energy and transport networks, including to the new accession countries, and using both public and private funds; the implementation of an open sky for Europe, as well as the pending railways package; the adoption of the Financial Services Action Plan (FSAP) and the Risk Capital Action Plan (RCAP); the ongoing work on services of general economic interest; as well as the modernization of competition legislation and the efforts towards an internal market for services.

4. More and better jobs

In the Lisbon agenda, the modernization of the European social model is of equal importance to economic reforms. The Lisbon and Stockholm European Councils have set ambitious targets for employment rates. Attaining these objectives requires the reorientation of instruments; improvements in the functioning of markets; as well as changes in cultural and social factors, especially concerning female, older workers’ and migrants’ participation in the labour market. It is therefore important to provide at the 2003 Spring European Council a clear push for labour market reform in order to tackle Europe’s employment deficit in both quantity and quality.

In this respect the Greek Presidency will focus on: the synchronization of key economic and social policy instruments through the streamlining and integration of all relevant processes as from the 2003 Spring European Council; the reform of the European Employment Strategy, in the direction of the conclusions reached in Barcelona, aiming at the creation of more jobs, and achieving a balance between flexibility and security; achieving more active involvement of social partners in the modernization of the European social model, with the organization of the tripartite Summit before the Spring European Council; and improving the quality aspects of work, by inter alia examining the Communication on a EU health and safety strategy in the workplace.

5. Solidarity and reinforcing social cohesion

Solidarity and reinforcing social cohesion can be achieved through the modernization of policies for social protection and the promotion of social inclusion. European states need to be active welfare states, achieving solidarity through more individual-oriented benefit systems. EU member states need to make decisive steps in the area of pensions, maintaining the ability of the systems to fulfil their social objectives while ensuring that the fiscal implications do not undermine the stability and sustainability of public finances.

In this respect, the Greek Presidency will focus on: monitoring progress towards the reduction of people at risk of poverty and encouraging policies that integrate people at risk of social exclusion, especially in light of the 2003 year for People with Disabilities; the review of benefit systems, in order to ensure that benefits are aimed at those most in need; the review of the joint report on pensions, drawn on the basis of the National Strategy Reports, with a view to draw conclusions and strategic directions for reform; the reform of the Regulation on the coordination of social security systems; and the examination of the impact of ageing on health care systems and long-term care for the elderly.

6. Safeguarding future prosperity and quality of life

Since 2001, when the Göteborg Council introduced an environmental dimension in the Lisbon strategy, particular emphasis has been placed on the importance of the integration of environmental with economic and social policies in the context of sustainable development. The 2003 Spring European Council offers an opportunity to clearly define the main axes of the strategic approach required for a well-balanced sustainable development and to set specific targets that will act as incentives for further progress in this area. In order to pursue the sustainable development agenda, the Greek Presidency will work towards the review of the EU strategy for sustainable development based on the Göteborg directions and the 6th Action Plan for Environment for the decoupling of growth from environmental degradation, as well as on the basis of the conclusions of the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Emphasis will be put on priority areas such as: the 10-year framework for sustainable consumption and production patterns (clean technologies, energy saving); the Water and Energy Initiatives through specific actions such as the increase in the share of renewables; reinforcing the process of integrating the environmental dimension in Community and international policies; putting into practice the action plan for tackling obstacles to the take up of on environmental technologies; as well as the development of a global strategy for chemical products.  The Greek Presidency will also work towards the adoption of the energy tax directive in order to improve energy efficiency, as well as accelerating work on the framework directive on infrastructure charging to ensure that different modes of transport better reflect environmental costs.

 

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