Fri Mar 14th, 2008 at 10:57:25 AM EST
The Centre for Economic Reform (CER) launched in Brussels 'The Lisbon scorecard VIII' with President Barroso earlier this week.
The report highlights EU's 'heroes and villains' and is contained in a pamphlet The Lisbon scorecard VIII: Is Europe ready for an economic storm?, authored by Katinka Barysch, Simon Tilford and Philip Whyte.
The scorecard provides an annual overview of the EU's record on economic reform and points to the capacity of member-states to flourish in a world in which high-cost countries cannot sustain their living standards unless they excel in knowledge-based industries.
The CER was upbeat in their report, pointing out that GDP growth rates in the EU-27 outstripped those in the US with an estimated 3 and 2.9 per cent growth in 2006 and 2007 respectively. They also observed that the economic upswing was due to the efforts of many European countries to improve the structural underpinnings of growth as they followed the recommendations of the EU's 2000 Lisbon agenda, a set of pledges for growth and jobs which EU leaders signed in 2000.
After half a decade of economic gloom, the years 2006-07 finally re sto red some much-needed optimism to the European Union. GDP growth outstripped that in the US, and some 8 million jobs were created across the EU. The upturn was partly cyclical, but it was also the result of the re forms to product and labour markets that many EU countries have pushed through in recent years.
The Lisbon scorecard VIII salutes these successes. But it also warns against complacency, especially at a time when the global downturn will test Europe’s economic resilience.
As in previous years, we single out those countries that have made the fastest pro g ress toward s raising employment, encouraging innovation and opening up markets. This year’s ‘heroes’ are: Austria – which has done well in copying the Nordic model of ‘flexicurity’; Estonia – a small, nimble newcomer that has moved ahead quickly; and the Netherlands – the only EU country that combines high employment with high productivity. Our ‘villains’ are Greece and Italy, which continue to combine poorly functioning markets with mediocre social outcomes. Some of the new member-states also need to raise their game if they want to cope with competition from emerging Asia.
Most EU nations have met the following pledges:
opened previously closed for transport and communications have opened
reformed retirement systems to encourage people to work longer
made life easier for small companies
their educations systems
CER underscored the fact that the Lisbon agenda has helped to turn EU into a laboratory for economic reforms but also acknowledged that while the EU cannot force individual memner-states to reform, Lisbon has made an indirect but noticeable contribution to Europe's recovery, notably in the employment sector which they said has always been regarded as the continent's weak spot. According to CER, the EU economies created an estimated 7 to 8 million jobs in 2006-2007 alone. Huge improvements were registerd among older workers and women.
The Lisbon league table/Overall Lisbon performance 2007:
1 - Denmark (maintained overall EU lead as first both in 2006 and 2007)
2 - Sweden (rank 2nd in 2006 and 2007)
3 - Austria (was ranked 5th in 2006)
4 - The Netherlands (was 3rd in 2006)
5 - Finland (rose from 6th in 2006)
6 - Ireland (jumped 2 slots from 8th in 2006)
7 - UK (fell 3 slots from 4th in 2006)
8 - Germany (jumped from 9th in 2006)
9 - France (rose from 11th spot in 2006)
10 - Slovenia (was ranked 12th in 2006)
11 - Estonia (described as one of the "heroes" by CER; jumped up from 15th slot in 2006)
12 - Luxembourg (an incredible fall from 7th place in 2006)
13 - Belgium (did not budge from its 13th place in 2006)
14 - Czech Republic (a rather disappointing performance from 2006 when it figured 10th)
15 - Cyprus (fell one slot from 14th in 2006)
16 - Spain (improved from 17th in 2006)
17 - Latvia (was 18th in 2006)
18 - Lithuania (enhanced its ranking 2 places from 20th in 2006)
19 - Greece (an astonishing rebound from 22nd place in 2006)
20 - Slovakia (was 23rd in 2006)
21 - Portugal (a disappointing leap; down from 16th place in 2006)
22 - Hungary (not quite good news on the Hungarian front as they slid from 19th slot in 2006)
23 - Italy (continues to baffle; sliding from 21st in 2006)
24 - Romania (good news on the Romanian front from their 25th slot in 2006)
25 - Bulgaria (was 24th in 2006)
26 - Poland (improved from 27th place in 2006)
27 - Malta (was ranked 26th in 2006)
The above scoreboard was based on the Lisbon agenda key elements in areas touching on innovation, liberalisation, enterprise, employment and social inclusion, as well as on sustainable development and the environment.
In their conclusion, the CER sought to defend the Lisbon process from observers who have assailed the agenda as a shopping list of crude and sometimes inconsistent objectives and admitted that criticsims couldn't be dismissed lightly but insisted that Lisbon has helped to foster a broad, Europe-wide consensus on what needs to be done to secure the continent's future prosperity.
They also recommended that if European countries aspire to close the gap in living standards with the US, they must raise their rates of employment and productivity at the same time. They also highlighted the need for EU countries to keep going declaring that openness will be particularly important in 2008 and cautioned against the risk of EU countries falling into complacency.
The EU and its member-states still have to work harder to reach the Lisbon
targets. For example:
★ E n e rgy market liberalisation remains stuck. The EU needs to find a
compromise on ‘unbundling’ quickly, and move on to building a low-carbon
★ In many EU countries, one in five youngsters is looking for a job. More flexible labour markets and improved education will be needed to change this.
★ European countries need to do more to encourage entre preneurship and innovation. The EU’s current, narrow focus on the overall level of research and development spending is not helpful.
The Lisbon Scorecard VIII has a plethora of wonderful inputs for the Europhile as well as for the Eurosceptic. I recommend that each and every European wort his salt should get a copy if only to verify for himself/herself where our own respective governments are headed and if they've been up to the task of building the EU on our behalf that they've been expected to do.