Auteur: | By Richard Carter
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Governments should be "named and shamed" if they slow progress towards making the EU the "most competitive economy in the World by 2010".
That is the recommendation of a long-awaited report on how to invigorate the EU's economic goals - the so-called Lisbon process.
The report - drawn up by former Dutch prime minister Wim Kok - was presented on Wednesday (3 November) to Commission President Romano Prodi and will be handed to EU leaders later this week during a meeting in Brussels.
Under Mr Kok's proposals, league tables would be drawn up, ranking each EU state according to its progress made in economic reform, in a bid to "name and shame" sluggish countries.
"The European Commission should present to the Heads of State and Government and the wider public annual updates on _ 14 key Lisbon indicators in the format of league tables with ranking (1-25), praising good performance and castigating bad performance - naming, shaming and faming", says the conclusions of the 54 page report.
Mr Kok calls on governments to draw up two-year "action plans" to flesh out how they intend to hit their economic targets.
He also proposes national "Lisbon ministers" - a "designated member of each government could be charged with carrying the day to day implementation of Lisbon forward".
Laying the blame
And the report stresses how important progress is on the Lisbon strategy, warning, "nothing less than the prosperity of the European model is at stake" and "at risk _ is the sustainability of the society Europe has built".
The slow progress towards meeting the targets is blamed on the political inertia of EU governments.
The "disappointing delivery" from member states "is due to an overloaded agenda, poor co-ordination and conflicting priorities _ a key issue has been the lack of determined political action", says the report.
"Halfway to 2010, the overall picture is very mixed and much needs to be done to prevent Lisbon from becoming a synonym for missed objectives and failed promises", cautions Mr Kok.
Other key recommendations in the report include: establishing a committee in the European Parliament to monitor progress on the Lisbon strategy, reshaping the EU budget to reflect its economic goals and improving communication about the Lisbon strategy to citizens.
Mr Kok also recommends cutting red tape for business, having patents in English to avoid language disputes holding up progress on the EU patent and speeding up the time it takes member states to enact EU law in their own legislation.
And he emphasised that the target of 2010 needs to be kept.
Speaking to journalists, Mr Kok laid down a challenge to member states to deliver on their promises of economic reform.
"The days and week before the Spring Council are a kind of credibility test. We have to see if we really mean what we say and whether we want to deliver what we promise", said Mr Kok.
Commission President Romano Prodi welcomed the report, which he called an "excellent contribution" to the Mid-Term Review of the Lisbon Strategy, which will be conducted under Luxembourg's EU Presidency beginning in January 2005.
Recently, however, Mr Prodi described the EU's progress on the Lisbon Process as a "big failure".
Concentrate on jobs
Business leaders urged EU leaders to focus on jobs and growth.
In an open letter, the President of UNICE - the employers' federation - Jurgen Strube said, "If we do not succeed in refocusing all our policies on more growth and jobs and therefore on more competitiveness, Europe will not be able to sustain its social and environmental ambitions".
But European trades unions complained that the report focussed too much on growth and jobs.
Secretary-General of the European Trades Union Confederation, John Monks said, "the strategy should give equal weight to social cohesion and sustainable development: these four elements have to work together to guarantee success".
However, not all groups welcomed the report. The Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based think tank, blasted the document as a "lost opportunity". The President of the body, Paul Hofheinz said that the report, "with its weak conclusions and clear bias towards well-organised special interests, is a vivid example of why we never get anywhere".