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Strategy talk in Brussels

2009/11/17

Today, I have led the discussions in the General Affairs Council. Apart from preparations for the European Council in December, we had two good policy discussions. One about the EU Sustainable Development Strategy, the other one on the future of the Lisbon Strategy.

The Sustainable Development Strategy could be described as a long term vision for the EU, focusing on areas such as climate change, demography and education. The discussion today provided important guidance for the implementation of the strategy, but also resulted in some interesting ideas on the issue of complementing GDP with other parameters. In general terms, high economic growth is preferable, but GDP is a crude measure if we are to describe important development in many areas. As Albert Einstein has said: “ Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count, and everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted”.

The discussion on the Strategy for Growth and Jobs was based on a working paper from the Commission. The economic crisis has put member states’ budget under heavy pressure. Therefore it is important to make the right priorities, with the aim that Europe should lead, compete and prosper as a greener, knowledge-based economy. To achieve this, we need structural reform, and the discussions today gave good input in which key priorities we should identify and how we can improve the organisation and working methods to reinforce local and regional ownership and effectiveness in the new strategy.

What was not discussed was the EU budget. Our intention was to hold a lunch discussion on how we could modernize the budget, but the Commission has delayed its discussion paper proposal that was due to come this month. According to a Council decision in 2005, the review was to be done during 2008 and 2009, but the Commission will now not even put forward a proposal until spring 2010. This is remarkable and deplorable as we really need to discuss how we are to tackle – and finance – the future challenges ahead. Now that we will have a new Treaty in a few weeks, we also need a new modern budget.

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