Brussels, 13 March 2002
A number of high profile requests have been made prior to the European Council due to take place in Barcelona on 14 and 15 March, including calls for it to give appropriate attention to the role out of broadband, the promotion of innovation and the inclusion of candidate countries.
Writing in 'The Times' newspaper, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Swedish Premier Göran Persson claimed that 'broadband communication is a key element of Europe's future competitiveness'. They will ask the Barcelona summit to set 2005 as the date when broadband access is available throughout the whole of the EU. They added that it was a key tool in helping enhance competitiveness, addressing unemployment and improving mobility of the workforce. The European Commission has already said that it would be elaborating on its plans to expand broadband access in March.
French and German enterprise groups have also called for more focus, this time on the issues affecting business and innovation in the EU.
In a letter to the Council President, Jose Maria Aznar, three organisations - the mouvement des entreprises de France, the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie and the Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände - set out what they feel are priorities for businesses in Europe.
These include ensuring that competitiveness is guaranteed through innovation. They would also like to see more cooperation between companies and the state, to help balance sustainability and competitiveness. The organisations claim that these demands fit in with those of the European organisation, UNICE (the union of industrial and employers' confederations in Europe).
Finally the head the European Council, Jose Maria Aznar, has called on candidate countries to sign up to the Lisbon process, which aims to make the EU the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. In a letter to the 13 candidate countries sent on 9 March, Mr Aznar invited them to take part in working sessions in Barcelona.
While praising the changes that many of the candidate countries have made in the last 10 years, Mr Aznar said this flexibility and willingness to change could be more 'in keeping with the spirit of Lisbon and are an example of what can be achieved with the necessary political will.' The candidate countries' leaders, foreign ministers and ministers for economy will all be present in Barcelona for specified meetings.