|Author (Person)||Chapman, Peter|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.10, No.33, 30.9.04|
By Peter Chapman
THE EU's 2010 target date to become the world's leading economy may need to be delayed, the Dutch presidency admitted this week.
But Henne Schuwer, the country's deputy ambassador to the EU, said the decision - a stark admission that the Union is lagging behind in the competitiveness stakes - would not take place on his country's watch.
Instead, he said, EU leaders would probably examine the issue at their Spring economic summit in March next year, overseen by Luxembourg.
"Some have positioned themselves. But if ever there is a decision to postpone the 2010 target, it definitely won't happen during the Dutch presidency - it would be the 2005 Spring [European] Council," said Schuwer.
The diplomat noted that the next step in the Lisbon strategy debate would come in November, when former Dutch premier Wim Kok presents his mid-term review of the reforms kick-started in 2000.
Kok, who gave competitiveness ministers a flavour of his report last week, is to paint a bleak picture about the future of Europe's social market economy. He warns that it cannot be sustained unless states trim their generous welfare systems and find ways to get more of their citizens into work.
Schuwer was speaking at an event on the EU's social model organised by the Lisbon Council, a pro-reform think-tank.
Earlier, Czech Deputy-Prime Minister Martin Jahn told the same conference that he had written off the 2010 target.
"I think that we can be absolutely sure now that we won't achieve it by 2010. It is not a question of if we should postpone it - but until when we should postpone it."
However, Jahn said the failure to meet the 2010 deadline should not deflect the EU from the rocky road to reform. "We do not see a problem with the deadline. We see Lisbon more as a vision. I don't care if it is 2010, 2011 or 2017 as long as we move towards this vision."
Meanwhile, Jahn, a former director of state holding company CzechInvest, said governments must put economic growth ahead of environmental or social policies in the list of priorities.
"I am not against a welfare state and environmental protection. But first we have to have a strong economy," he said.
The EU's lavish social model, he said, "can only be as social as we can afford".
Jahn added that the Czech Republic is concentrating on steps to control its public debt.
Klaus Regling, the European Commission's head of economic and monetary affairs, also told a conference on the euro this week that there is a "growing prospect" that the EU's member states will miss their 2010 deadline for making their economies the world's most competitive.
Incoming Commission president José Manuel Barroso says the Lisbon Agenda will be his priority when he takes over from Romano Prodi on 1 November.
The Portuguese former prime minister will chair a special group of commissioners devoted to pressing for tough reforms.
These will range from making EU labour markets function better to boosting the Union's services sector.
Speaking at a conference organised by the Lisbon Council, a pro-reform think tank, the Dutch deputy ambassador to the EU predicted that the EU's 2010 competitiveness target would have to be delayed,
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry, Economic and Financial Affairs|
|Countries / Regions||Europe|