Select Committee on European Scrutiny Tenth Report


COM(00) 79

Realising the European Union's potential: consolidating and extending the Lisbon strategy — Contribution of the European Commission to the Spring European Council, Stockholm, 23 and 24 March 2001.
Legal base:
Document originated: 7 February 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 12 February 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 5 March 2001
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 16 March 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: April 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


  14.1  The March 2000 Lisbon European Council agreed a ten-year goal and accompanying strategy to modernise the EU economy and its social policies with the aim that by 2010, the EU would be "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". As part of this Lisbon strategy, the European Council was invited to meet each spring to discuss economic and social questions, within the context of the strategic goal. The European Council would also evaluate progress towards this goal and mandate work for the next year based on a synthesis report prepared by the Commission.

The document

  14.2  This Communication is the first annual synthesis report. It records the progress made towards the ten-year goal by using an agreed range of structural indicators that relate to employment, innovation, economic reform and social cohesion.

  14.3  In assessing overall progress throughout the year, the Communication says that 2000 was a good year for the EU economy and that governments and businesses benefited from strong economic growth, continuing low inflation and healthy public finances. It estimates:

" that around 2.5 million new jobs have been created, with more than two thirds of them having been taken up by women. It has also been a year of notable policy successes as the Commission has moved forward in all the areas requested by Lisbon. But there have also been areas where progress has been too slow — where key proposals brought forward by the Commission risk being delayed or watered down for various reasons, including a lack of political will.

"By the end of the year, unemployment has fallen significantly across the European Union, the euro has strengthened, and the economy has weathered the fuel price shock and the turbulence within stock markets. The economy looks set to grow at a steady pace over the coming years. The final preparations for the introduction of the euro are underway and the agreement at Nice on institutional reforms has cleared the way for enlargement. All this suggests that the roadmap provided by Lisbon was the right one.

"But the European Union cannot afford to be complacent. Our relative economic strength must be used to speed up — rather than slow down — difficult reforms. Despite progress, achieving the EU' s strategic goal requires determined action:

  • employment;

  • innovation;

  • economic reform; and

  • social cohesion."

  14.4  Annex two to the Communication comprises a detailed statistical breakdown on the performance of each Member State against the range of structural indicators that relate to employment, innovation, economic reform and social cohesion. The Communication also identifies the following ten priority areas for decision by the Stockholm European Council:

"(1)    More and better jobs

 (2)    New European labour markets — open to all, with access for all

 (3)    Economic reforms for goods and services

 (4)    Integrated financial markets

 (5)    The right regulatory environment

 (6)    eEurope 2002

 (7)    The IT skills gap

 (8)    Research, innovation and enterprise

 (9)    Frontier technologies

 (10)  Effective social protection for an ageing population"

  14.5  The Communication calls for the Stockholm European Council to extend or accelerate existing action in the ten priority areas. The Communication proposes that the Spring 2002 European Council should agree to integrate an environmental dimension into the Lisbon strategy to reflect decisions on environmental issues that are expected to be reached at the June 2001 Gothenburg European Council.

The Government's view

  14.6  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 16 March 2001, the Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Keith Vaz) says:

"The ten priority areas for action at Stockholm largely echo the Government's aims. The Government agrees with the bulk of the Commission's analysis and that the momentum of the structural reform process must be maintained. It welcomes the emphasis on candidate countries becoming involved in the Lisbon strategy.

"On certain issues the Commission blames Member States for a lack of progress while overlooking the impact of its own actions. The Government does not believe that the Community method is necessarily the best means of tackling socio-economic challenges facing Europe".

  14.7  As regards the environmental dimension, the Minister says that the Government recognises the importance of sustainable development and environmental protection.

  14.8  Concerning the proposed target for agreement on the organisational structure of the Galileo satellite navigation system, the Minister says that although the Government welcomes the project in principle, it cannot give its full support prior to receiving guarantees on its long-term financial viability.

  14.9  The Minister adds:

"It will also be necessary to assess carefully a number of proposals to codify, adapt or improve existing legislation, or for new legislation on a number of issues, in particular:

  • developing and opening up new European labour markets;
  • recognition of professional qualifications;
  • pensions
  • liberalisation of energy, airport slot allocations, rail services and financial services regulation
  • electronic communications
  • immigration (having regard to the UK's special position on the Free Movement Chapter) and
  • research and development, including biotechnology."


  14.10  The Communication is one of a series of reports on economic and social reform in the European Union we have considered recently. We note and welcome the statistical detail that is provided in the report and its annex. The synthesis report, which will be published annually, has the potential to become a convenient way of assessing progress towards the goal of economic and social modernisation. We clear the document.

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