Brussels, 25 Oct 2004
The outgoing President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, has described the EU's strategy to become the world's most competitive knowledge based economy by 2010 as 'a big failure'.
Speaking to the Financial Times (FT), Mr Prodi said that a widespread use of the national veto had allowed Member States to block progress, despite prompting by the European Commission.
'You can't have unanimity in all economic areas, or if you do, you must accept the failure of Lisbon,' he told the FT. 'Lisbon is a big failure.' To support his conclusion, Mr Prodi highlighted the failure to agree on a workable Community Patent after almost 15 years of discussion as symptomatic of the problem.
Finally, although he said he favours an immediate return to Italian politics, Mr Prodi revealed that he would be prepared to serve as caretaker if the European Parliament rejects President-elect José Barroso's proposed new Commission when it votes on October. 'It would be a real problem, but if there was some delay I would have no choice,' he said.
The FT also claims to have seen a copy of the mid-term review of the Lisbon process, prepared by an expert group headed by former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok. According to the paper, the group will deliver a 'scathing' report on Europe's economic reforms, criticising a lack of commitment and political will, and concluding that, rather than catching up to the US, Europe has fallen further behind since launching its competitiveness agenda.
The expert group's report proposes that the EU should concentrate on just 14 indicators to measure progress towards the Lisbon goals, with a focus on creating growth and jobs.