Auteur: Richard Carter
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU Heads of State and Government will tomorrow announce the creation of a high-level group to instill dynamism into the EU's Lisbon Strategy - its goal to become the most competitive economy in the world by 2010.
The group will be chaired by former Dutch leader Wim Kok, who has also recently headed up a report into boosting employment in Europe.
The news emerged as current head of the EU Bertie Ahern and President of the European Commission Romano Prodi met business leaders and trades union leaders in an attempt to forge ahead on its ambitious economic goals.
By common consent, the EU's progress is falling behind its ambition and this was reflected by leaders afterwards. Mr Ahern urged, "we need to press ahead urgently" and Mr Prodi warned, "if we proceed at this pace, we will not be the most competitive ecnoomy in the world by 2010".
The high level group will feed into the crucial mid-term review of the Lisbon process, which will take place under the Luxembourg Presidency next year.
Whilst there was broad agreement that commitment to the Lisbon Strategy should be reaffirmed, there were some disagreements on how to proceed.
The Secretary-General of the European Trades Union Congress, John Monks, said in a statement, "we are frankly sceptical about a high-level group. One thing we have not lacked in Europe is high level groups and it was only in December that Wim Kok presented his [jobs] report to the summit".
"Obviously we would wish to play a full role in any group if that is what the summit decides but we already have a strategy and the focus should be on this action".
There was further conflict over the creation of a Vice-President of the Commission to focus on competitiveness and the Lisbon Strategy. This was originally proposed by the leaders of France, the UK and Germany with the broad backing of business organisations and will be discussed in more detail by EU leaders tomorrow.
But the unions feel that concentrating on competitiveness might detract from other areas of the Lisbon strategy such as social cohesion, a charge which business leaders strenuously denied after today's meeting.