The 25 leaders are rehabilitating the so-called Lisbon agenda of economic reforms. This was adopted in 2000, with the aim of making Europe the world’s most dynamic economy by 2010. The deadline has been dropped as unrealistic. Progress has been slow.
The EU economy has fallen further behind the United States since the Lisbon drive was launched. Growth forecasts on average are around 2.0 percent for the EU now, and 2.73 percent for the U.S.
To improve the competitiveness of the European economy and reverse its relative decline, the bloc’s executive arm has launched a “growth and jobs first” plan for an enlarged Europe, which now counts some 450 million consumers.
This has led to criticism that Brussels is pursuing increasingly free-market goals which will trample welfare systems.
In several significant areas, the U.S. is heftily ahead of the EU, the employment rate overall, for instance, and the proportion of over-50s still working. The economic rival across the sea also spends substantially more on research and development. [U.S. emp. 71.2 vs EU emp. 62.9, over 50s U.S. vs 59.9 EU 40.2, research 2.8% vs 1.9%]
Europe is increasingly aware of the need to educate its young people, banking on knowledge to give it the edge in the future. The Commission is urging national governments and parliaments to be far more active with reforms.
Brussels is also concerned with narrowing the differences in what men and women are paid for the same work, believing the gap limits the labour market and discourages women from having children to rejevenate ageing populations.
The new priorities include promoting research and innovation, and reforming health and pension systems.