Monday, November 08, 2004

How Europe is facing the Lisbon 2000 challenge 

In March 2000, European leaders committed the EU to become by 2010 ‘the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion, and respect for the environment’.

As we all (including the EU) know, this did not work out. The gap to the US and especially Asia even widened.

So what is Europe doing? They obviously got infected by the usual Austrian way: establish a committee, and if this does not help, one may still establish sub-committees:

Former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok was mandated by the March 2004 European Council to lead a group of experts (I will come to this later) with the objective of reviewing the Lisbon strategy.

The outcome? EurActiv unambiguously nails the point: 'the long-awaited mid-term review of the Lisbon strategy brings very few new ideas to the table to revitalise the stalled process of essential economic and social reforms.' How true (click here for a summary).

Wim Kok’s report takes a gloomy view on the progress made in the last four years just as Romano Prodi did recently (see EurActiv 3 November 2004 ). The report, which is to be adopted by the Commission on 3 November, states that the “disappointing delivery” is due to “an overloaded agenda, poor co-ordination and conflicting priorities” but it blames mainly the lack of political will by the member states.

EurActiv graciously left out that the report first blames the others for this (e.g. the burst of the bubble, 9/11, etc.)

External events since 2000 have not helped achieving the objectives but the European Union and its Members States have clearly themselves contributed to slow progress by failing to act on much of the Lisbon strategy with sufficient urgency. This disappointing delivery is due to an overloaded agenda, poor coordination and conflicting priorities. Still, a key issue has been the lack of determined political action.

But what are now the recommendations? Of course I first checked the ICT issues, to see if one could make use of the rest:

Regarding Information society the Lisbon strategy calls for:

defining a regulatory framework for electronic communications; encouraging the spread of ICTs; creating conditions for e-commerce; supporting European leadership in mobile communications technologies;

which is very diffuse anyway. Now one could expect that they look at least what other countries did in the meantime to widen the gap, e.g. Korea's IT 8-3-9 IT-Strategy. No, what they recommend is:

Key recommendation:
Member States should give more and better follow-up to the eEurope 2005 action plan, in order to reap the full benefits of ICTs. In particular, more progress is required in the area of e-government. Member States must also boost the accessibility of broadband to reach at least 50% by 2010.

To get this deep insight, the expert team (called High Level Group) met 6 times from May 2004 to October 2004.

One now may ask who these high-level experts are?

• Mr Wim Kok (Chairman), former Prime Minister of the Netherlands
• Mr Romain Bausch, President and CEO, SES Global (Luxembourg)
• Mr Niall FitzGerald, Chairman of Reuters, Chairman of the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue
• Mr Antonio Gutiérrez Vegara, Member of the Spanish Parliament
• Mr Will Hutton (rapporteur), Chief Executive of the Work Foundation
• Ms Anne-Marie Idrac, Chairwoman of the Régie autonome des transports parisiens (RATP)
• Ms Wanja Lundby-Wedin, President of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LÖ)
• Mr Thomas Mirow, former Hamburg State Minister, Senior Business Advisor
• Mr Bedrich Moldan, Chairman of the Environment Centre (Charles University, Prague)
• Mr Luigi Paganetto, Professor of international economics (Rome-Tor Vergata University)
• Mr Dariusz Rosati, Professor of economics, Member of the European Parliament
• Mr Veli Sundbäck, Senior Vice-President of Nokia, Finland
• Mr Friedrich Verzetnitsch, President of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB), MP

Ok, there is a SVP of Nokia, and I do only know the Austrian representatitive: Friedrich Verzetnitsch, President of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) . Regarding his understandig in economics Mahalanobis (one of my sons) said:

This guy has as much economic insight as Elfriede Jelinek .

I can only add regarding ICT: this statement is unfair - concerning Elfriede Jelinek.

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