Lisbon strategy report shows Greece lagging in most key indicators

Greece remains a laggard among the old 15 European Union members as regards most of the 14 targets of the so-called Lisbon strategy, the set of objectives adopted in March 2000 which would transform the Union into the world’s most competitive economy by 2010. This conclusion emerges from a report titled «Facing the Challenge» and prepared by a high-level consultative group chaired by former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok. The document, which was released on Wednesday, will help the Commission in preparing proposals for the mid-term review of the Lisbon strategy to be included in its spring report to the European Council in March 2005. Greece ranks in penultimate position among the 15 in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita (adjusted for purchasing power), with 73 percent of the EU average and above Portugal with 68.3 percent. The same is the case in terms of productivity per employee, with Greece at 90.3 percent of the average compared to Portugal’s 63.5 percent. Greece’s percentage of population living under the poverty line is among the worst (20 percent), along with Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal (19-21 percent), and it has the worst long-term unemployment rate (5.1 percent) and a very bad record in matter of environmental protection. It also spends by far the lowest percentage of GDP on research and development. The Kok report finds that the Union’s progress toward the attainment of the 2010 goal is not satisfactory and warned that «the Lisbon strategy is even more urgent today as the growth gap with North America and Asia has widened, while Europe must meet the combined challenges of low population growth and ageing… Time is running out and there can be no room for complacency. Better implementation is needed now to make up for lost time.» A most important element of the Lisbon strategy has been the recognition of the interdependence among member states and the need for coordinated action. The report finds this lacking. «If we are to deliver the Lisbon goals of growth and employment, then we must all take action,» it notes. The Lisbon strategy refers to five general policy areas: Knowledge Society, Internal Market, Business Climate, Labor Market and Environment Sustainability. The report says that progress must be simultaneous on all fronts if it is to be effective. «Individual Member States have made progress in one or more of these policy priority areas but none has succeeded consistently across a broad front.» Greece is found to have made headway in several indices since 1999, particularly in the GDP per capita and labor productivity. The report highlights that member states have failed to create new jobs, limit bureaucracy for business activity and promote cutting-edge technology. The Lisbon strategy envisaged the creation of 11 million new jobs. The Kok committee, which includes politicians, businessmen, labor unionists and academics, reported that «progress to date has been inadequate, largely due to the lack of commitment and political will.» There is speculation that the European Council in March may roll back the 2010 goal. But Kok told a press briefing this «would imply that the situation is now less urgent and thus would be wrong.»