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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004, 16:24 GMT
EU 'failing' on economic promises
Wim Kok
Wim Kok is calling for swift action to avoid failure
European Union leaders are failing to deliver on economic reform promises made at the beginning of the decade, according to a high level report.

The EU's aim to become the world's most competitive economy by 2010 amounts to a series of "missed objectives", former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok has said.

National leaders meeting in Lisbon in 2000 set the EU the goal of outpacing the US economy within 10 years.

The EU appointed Mr Kok to examine how the Lisbon objectives were progressing.

His document, which will be presented to EU leaders at a two-day summit in Brussels beginning on Thursday, says the EU needs to focus more closely on growth and employment.

Losing ground

It also recommends, among other things, that an annual list should be published showing which countries are failing to do enough to rejuvenate their economies.

We don't have the luxury anymore just to exchange politeness with one another
Wim Kok
Chairman of the High Level Group for the Lisbon Strategy

"We have to focus very much on growth and employment and make that the top priority of the EU in the years to come," Mr Kok told the BBC's World Business Report.

The EU economy had "lost ground" to the US and Asia in recent years, he said.

"There are differences from country to country, but on the whole, even if every target could be met by 2010, it would be highly improbable to expect that we would be the strongest economy in the world," he said.

Mr Kok praised Nordic governments for the way they were running their economies, but he said other EU member states "had not delivered enough".

Better jobs

The so-called Lisbon Agenda called on EU governments to implement a range of economic and social changes, including tax cuts, reform of heath care and pension systems, and making it easier for companies to hire and fire workers.

According to Mr Kok's report, leaders committed the EU to become by 2010 "the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and economic cohesion, and respect for the environment".

The BBC's European business reporter Manuela Saragosa said the report warned that unless steps were taken, "the Lisbon Agenda risks becoming a synonym for missed objectives and failed promises".

The EU's economic growth is projected to be 2% in 2004 and 2.4% in 2005 - roughly half the global growth rates for those two years.


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