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Last Updated: Monday, 25 October, 2004, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Prodi attacks failed growth plans
Romano Prodi
Mr Prodi says member states are blocking the EU's reform plans
Romano Prodi, the outgoing European Commission president, has described the EU's attempt to become the world's most competitive economy as a "big failure".

Mr Prodi said the use of vetoes by EU states had undermined the reform agenda agreed at the Lisbon summit in 2000.

In Lisbon, the EU set itself the target of overtaking the US economy by 2010.

A new report by former Dutch prime minister, Wim Kok, is expected to claim that the EU economy has fallen further behind the US in the past five years.

Off target

Mr Prodi told the Financial Times that EU member states had blocked progress in implementing the Lisbon agenda, which focused on cutting red tape and improving competitiveness.

Lisbon is a big failure
Romano Prodi, European Commission president
"You cannot have unanimity in all economic areas or, if you do, you must accept the failure of Lisbon," said Mr Prodi, who leaves office on 1 November.

"Lisbon is a big failure."

The FT said Mr Kok's report, which was commissioned by the EU, delivered a scathing verdict on progress made in meeting the Lisbon goals.

According to the paper, the report claims that the EU's reform agenda risked becoming a "synonym for missed objectives and failed promises".

More commitment

"Progress to date has been inadequate largely due to lack of commitment and political will," the paper quotes Mr Kok's report as saying.

According to the FT, Mr Kok's report will call for the number of performance indicators set out in Lisbon to be reduced from more than a hundred to fourteen.

Greater emphasis will be put on member states to draw up their own economic action plans.

Wim Kok
Wim Kok's report is expected to criticise the progress of reform

Those countries failing to introduce key reforms will be "named and blamed".

Among other proposals contained in the Kok report are plans to fast-track work permits in order to attract world-class researchers, and schemes to discourage early retirement and promote lifelong learning, the FT reported.

The report will also propose that plans for a community wide patent scheme -which have been in the pipeline for fifteen years - be adopted without further delay, or scrapped.

But the FT says that the report will not call for the 2010 deadline to be abandoned, even though it is seen in many quarters as unrealistic.

"Ambition is needed more than ever," the report will say.

"The 2010 deadline is important for signalling and reinforcing the urgent need for action."

Due to be delivered to the Commission at next month's summit of EU leaders in Brussels, Mr Kok's report is designed as a mid-term review of the Lisbon agenda.

The Commission hopes the report will provide fresh impetus towards economic reform.

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