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BBC's Colin Blane in Lisbon
"Concerns that the United States has opened up a gap"
 real 28k

The BBC's Robin Oakley
"This was the most uncontroversial summit for a long time"
 real 28k

Friday, 24 March, 2000, 17:01 GMT
EU looks to e-job bonanza

European Union leaders have agreed major reforms which they hope will create millions of new jobs in Europe by harnessing the power of the internet.


20 million jobs is a realistic figure

Tony Blair
Ending their summit in Lisbon, the heads of government said the information revolution held the promise of average economic growth of 3% in the years ahead.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed the reforms as a "sea change in EU economic thinking".

"It will open the door to the prospect of full employment in our countries. Twenty million jobs is a realistic figure," Mr Blair said.

The summit's final document includes plans to provide all schools with internet access by the end of 2001, and proposes liberalising Europe's telecommunications.


EU summit in Lisbon
Tony Blair, top right, next to Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel
Other measures included:
  • the development of a European-wide database on jobs and learning opportunities
  • the introduction of a European diploma for basic information technology skills
  • encouraging competition, to bring down the costs of internet use.

"In my view this is not just a new direction but a specific set of measures and it's about modernising EU social policy, moving it away from a narrow focus on employment rights," Mr Blair said.

The figure of 20 million new jobs is based on EU leaders' forecast of raising the average EU employment rate by 9% to 70% by 2010.

Growth through reforms

European leaders hope their plans will help the European economy catch up with the US, where economic growth has been fuelled by the development of new technology.


Most of Europe trails behind the US in the wired world

Portugal had wanted the summit to set a target for achieving full employment in Europe, which has 15 million people without jobs.

However, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said he did not want to commit France to proposals which would further open up the energy and aviation markets.

Mr Jospin was concerned about protests in France and the danger of a trade union backlash.

European leaders were determined that another point of potential disagreement - the diplomatic sanctions against Austria - would not overshadow the summit.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel wanted a lifting of the sanctions imposed by the other 14 EU countries, but was warned it was extremely unlikely.

Austria's EU partners froze bilateral political contacts with Vienna in February in protest at the involvement of the far-right Freedom Party in the Austrian Government.

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