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Europe

"Europe's Society Under Strain"

The EU's economic targets for 2010 are set to be seriously missed, according to a draft of a long awaited competitiveness report.

The hard-hitting document, which assesses the EU's position in its bid to become the most competitive, knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010 (known as the Lisbon Agenda) warns that "too many targets promise to be seriously missed." To be officially presented to EU leaders next month, the draft report foresees devastating effects if the Lisbon process is not invigorated. The working population will be unable to sustain "Europe's growing army of pensioners," economic growth will "stagnate" and institutions face "contraction and decline." While the enlargement of the EU to 25 member states is described as "a welcome expansion," it has "made European-wide achievement of the Lisbon goals even harder." The new member states have lower employment rates and productivity levels, making it more difficult for the EU to catch up with the US in these respects. Many -- including some finance ministers -- have proposed that the deadline of 2010 be pushed back to allow the EU more time to achieve its goals. But the report rejects this unequivocally and urges ambition in the EU's aims. "Should the 2010 deadline be lifted? Again no." Although the EU is aiming to catch up with the US, it should not aim to "become a copy-cat US - far from it," recommends the report. Since the launch of the Lisbon process, over six million jobs have been created whereas the employment rate in the US has fallen. But the EU-15 still needs to create 11 million new jobs by 2010 if it is to succeed in its target of having a 70 percent employment rate by this time. (EUobserver.com)

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