Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Another cunning plan

Following the embarrassing failure of the so-called Lisbon agenda which aimed to turn the EU into most competitive region in the world by 2010, a brace of commissioners have come up with another cunning plan.

First off the blocks is EU industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen, who is to launch the plan in February. Like its predecessor, it aims to boost growth across the EU, but this time the focus is on creating new jobs, especially in the services, training and leisure industries.

The plan is supported by Neelie "Board Lady" Kroes, who wants to relax competition rules on companies to boost European businesses, with easier regulations on state subsidies for some sectors She is targeting "unnecessary administrative hurdles", seeking to make the whole control system made "more transparent and less complex".

What is worrying is that Verheugen is calling the plan a "real cultural revolution", an unfortunate choice of words, considering what happened during the last one. But then he is also stating that he wants to "dust off" the current strategy on growth, perhaps unaware that this term was Vietnam-era jargon for helicopter medivac.

Giving more subsidies on easier terms certainly seems to fit this bill, as does another element of this "cunning plan" – doubling EU funding on research to €40bn over the next four years, with tighter co-operation between universities and industry

What nobody seem to be mentioning, however, is the €1 trillion drag on EU member state economies resulting from the rigidity of the social market economy and the stifling regulatory regime. But then, if the new commissions were to get to grips with that, they really would need a cunning plan.

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