LISBON STRATEGY ON MODERNISING THE EU
ECONOMY AND SOCIAL MODEL
Commission Communication to the Spring European Council in Barcelona: The Lisbon Strategy Making Change Happen; and Commission Staff Working Paper.
|Department:||Foreign and Commonwealth Office
|Basis of consideration:
||Minister's letter of 19 April 2002|
|Previous Committee Report:
||HC 152-xxi (2001-02), paragraph 6 (13 March 2002)
|To be discussed in Council:
||Barcelona European Council on 15/16 March
|Committee's assessment:||Politically important
9.1 The Lisbon European Council in March 2000 set a ten-year
goal for making the EU "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."
It was also agreed at Lisbon that future Spring European Councils
should evaluate progress and mandate work for the next year, on
the basis of a "synthesis" report prepared by the Commission.
The Minister's letter
9.2 In his letter of 19 April, the Minister for Europe
(Mr Peter Hain) says that the Commission Communication, known
as "the Synthesis Report", made an important contribution
to discussion at the Barcelona Spring Council. As well as measuring
progress towards the strategic goal agreed at Lisbon, and identifying
key areas where further or fast progress is needed, the Synthesis
Report set out a number of specific proposals for actions to be
agreed by the European Council at Barcelona. The Minister says
that a number of these proposals are reflected in the Barcelona
"There was agreement on a deadline for full liberalisation
of the EU's nonhousehold gas and electricity market, and
a decision before Spring 2003 on full liberalisation of the remaining
"In parallel to progress on liberalisation, Heads of State
called for agreement in Council on the adoption of the energy
tax directive before the end of the year.
"There was also agreement on a target for Member States to
increase their level of electricity interconnection to the equivalent
of 10% of their installed production capacity by 2005.
"Employment, mobility and training
"The Barcelona Conclusions re-emphasised full employment
as the essential goal of economic and social policies. The summit
set the framework for the 2002 midterm review of the European
Employment Strategy. It agreed a number of steps that Member States
should be taking in the interim to reform labour market policies
e.g that, where Member States pursue tax cuts, they should give
priority to cuts that reduce the burden on low-wage earners
and tax benefits systems should be reformed to make work pay and
remove disincentives to work.
"There was also agreement on the need to reduce incentives
for early retirement, and to increase opportunities for older
workers to remain in the labour market. Targets for the provision
of childcare designed to improve labour market participation
rates amongst women were agreed: Member States should
strive to provide provision for 90% of children between 3 and
mandatory school age, and 33% of children under 3 by 2010.
"In response to the Commission's Action Plan on Skills and
Mobility, Heads of State agreed four priorities: putting in place
the legal framework to encourage greater mobility: reducing barriers
to recognition of professional qualifications; ensuring all citizens
are equipped with qualifications; and increasing where appropriate
the transferability of social security rights.
"Small and Medium-sized Enterprises
"The importance of speeding up implementation of the European
Charter for SMEs was emphasised, and there was agreement that
Ministers with responsibility for SME policy should meet before
each Spring Council to assess progress in this area.
"The Conclusions call on the Commission to submit its Action
Plan for improving and simplifying the regulatory environment
in time for the Seville European Council in June.
"The Barcelona Conclusions call for progress this year so
that the Single European Sky can be agreed by 2004, and for adoption
of proposals on port services and the award of public service
contracts in the transport sector.
"The conclusions reaffirmed the importance of reaching final
agreement on the 6th Research Framework agreement by June 2002.
"There was also agreement that the EU should aim to increase
average spending on R & D towards 3% EU GDP by 2010, with
a focus on increasing investment in the private sector.
"The Summit underlined the importance of 'less and better'
state aid: reducing the overall level of state aid as a percentage
of GDP, and redirecting aid towards valid horizonta1 objectives.
"There was agreement on adoption by the Council of seven
key financial services directives by the end of the year: Collateral,
Market Abuse; Insurance Intermediaries; Distance Marketing of
Financial Services; Financial Conglomerates; Prospectuses; Occupational
Pension Funds; and the International Accounting Standards Regulation.
"Heads asked the Commission to produce a second eEurope Action
Plan (the first comes to an end this year), focussed on helping
to deliver widespread availability of broadband technologies (faster
and more interactive internet services) across the EU by 2005."
9.3 The Minister then says:
"Not all of the actions proposed in the Synthesis Report
were endorsed by the Barcelona Conclusions. In some cases, where
the Commission has yet to publish draft legislation, the European
Council simply took note of the Commission's intention to come
forward with a proposal e.g. a Framework Directive on transport
infrastructure charging. As I made clear in the Explanatory Memorandum,
where the Commission indicates it will come forward with new proposals,
we will need to consider the detail and appropriateness of the
proposals when they are published.
"Barcelona was a success making good, solid process
towards the ten-year Lisbon objectives. The Summit needed to demonstrate
that the economic and social reform agenda remains on track, and
it did. Significant progress was made in a number of areas: energy
liberalisation; research and development; eEurope; single sky;
financial services. The fact that many of the key conclusions
reflect actions highlighted in the Synthesis Report is evidence
of the Commission's constructive role in driving forward the Lisbon
agenda. The report is now established as a key milestone in the
Lisbon calendar, providing important continuity between Presidencies.
"I also note the Committee's comment on the use of qualified
majority voting (QMV). The use of qualified majority voting in
areas where it is provided for by the Treaty inevitably varies
from Council to Council, depending on the level of consensus that
exists between Member States on the issues in question. Moreover,
the fact that the Presidency has the option of using QMV will
often be enough to encourage agreement, even where a consensus
does not exist. There was no discussion of QMV at Barcelona."
9.4 We thank the Minister for his account and in particular
for his comment on the use of qualified majority voting. We also
note his observation that the "Synthesis Report" has
become an established milestone in the Lisbon calendar, providing
important continuity between Presidencies, and we welcome this
useful management tool.
9.5 We pursued questions arising from the Lisbon Strategy
and the Barcelona Council during today's evidence session with
the Minister and now clear this document.