Select Committee on European Union Twentieth Report


28 NOVEMBER 2000

By the Select Committee appointed to consider European Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union.



COM(2000) 379 final. Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions—Social Policy Agenda


1. The Lisbon Special European Council of 23-24 March 2000 committed the Union to "a new strategic goal for the next decade: 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"[1]. To achieve this goal the Union would require an "overall strategy", combining economic, social and employment policies. In particular the Council called for the modernisation of the "European social model" as a crucial element of the overall strategy. To this end the Council undertook to

    pursue its reflection on the future direction of social policy on the basis of a Commission communication, with a view to reaching agreement on a European Social Agenda at the Nice European Council in December.[2]

The Commission published its Communication, the Social Policy Agenda, on 28 June; it forms the basis for the present inquiry.

2. The call for evidence issued in July asked broad questions of policy: how far the Agenda was likely to further the Lisbon strategic goal; whether the Agenda represented a major extension of Community involvement in social affairs, and whether it might lead to increased regulation and burdens on business. Other issues included the nature of the "European Social Model", and its contribution to European prosperity, the merits and demerits of the proposed method of "open policy co-ordination", with its reliance on benchmarks, targets and peer group review, and the cost implications of the measures described in the Agenda.

3. The inquiry was conducted by Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs), whose members are listed in Appendix 1. The Sub-Committee took oral and written evidence from the witnesses listed in Appendix 2, and express their thanks to all those who have contributed to this inquiry.

1  Lisbon Presidency Conclusions, paragraph 5. Back

2  Ibid., paragraph 34. Back

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