Brussels, 15 Mar 2004
The theme of the third European Business Summit, which took place in Brussels on 12 and 13 March, was 'Research and innovation: a European strategy for more growth and jobs'. When Europe's business representatives addressed the Summit, however, instead of focussing on strategy they preferred to highlight the need for a clear commitment to reform.
At the Lisbon European Council in 2000, the EU's Heads of State and Government pledged to make Europe the world's most competitive knowledge based economy by 2010. As far as Baron Daniel Janssen, chair of the European roundtable of industrialists working group on competitiveness, is concerned: 'Lisbon is the right agenda for Europe.'
The problem according to Baron Janssen is that too little has been done to implement the Lisbon strategy, and as a result, European competitiveness is diminishing in comparison with the United States. 'When you look at the US, China, India and Japan, these economies appear to be more committed to change,' he said.
Governments can make the difference, said Baron Janssen, pointing to the results of Finland's progressive policies towards information and communication technologies at the beginning of the 1990s. What is needed, he argued, was full implementation of the Lisbon and Barcelona objectives, as well as comprehensive impact assessments before the introduction of new legislation such as the REACH chemicals package, which he labelled 'a mistake'.
In addition, Baron Janssen said that the new Commission must be committed to economic performance, and called for the creation of a Commission Vice President for economic reform to oversee industrial strategy and boost growth. Furthermore, he argued that the Competitiveness Council should be 'reinforced', and should consist of a core group of senior ministers from each Member State with responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the Lisbon agenda.
Finally, Baron Janssen called on policy makers to invest more in education and lifelong learning, and to overcome what he called 'ridiculous arguments' about languages and translations and deliver the long awaited Community Patent.
Philippe de Buck, Secretary General of UNICE, the union of industrial and employers' confederations of Europe, supported Baron Janssen's call for the establishment of a Commission Vice President for economic reform, and added that he would like to see a Competitiveness Committee created within the European Parliament.
Mr de Buck described the Lisbon agenda as a 'European project', arguing that this entails decisions being taken at a European level which then have to be implemented nationally, which calls for a greater sense of urgency from all parties.
On the issue of legislation such as the REACH proposals, the Kyoto Protocol and the Community Patent, Mr de Buck said that he would prefer see policy makers take their time and get it right, rather than adopt damaging measures. He concluded by revealing that UNICE would review the effect on competitiveness of both the REACH proposals and the Kyoto protocol, adding that he was not opposed to either in principle, but that 'competitiveness must be the main objective.'
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