Economic and Social Policy : Recommendations on Lisbon National Reform Plans

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The European Commission presented, on 12 December, recommendations for each member state to help it achieve the goals of the relaunched Lisbon strategy:

Lithuania : the Commission recommends that Lithuania should acontinue its efforts in R&D,a notably by raising public expenditure in this area. It should alsoaintensify efforts to increase the supply of skilled labour by improving regional mobility of labour and by promoting lifelong learning, with a special focus on the participation of older workers.

Slovakia : the country should reallocate expenditure towards R&D and education and complete the development of a coherent national R&D and innovation strategy, with strong interconnections between research institutions and business. It should also adopt a lifelong learning strategy that addresses the needs of the labour market and improves qualification levels and skills, as well as complement the reform of tertiary education with reform of primary and secondary education. Other action points include developing a comprehensive approach to tackling long-term unemployment, and focusing efforts on information and communication technology.

Slovenia: Slovenia is invited to take further steps in reforming its pension system, increasing the employment rate of older workers and improving the long-term sustainability of public finances. The Commission also recommmends that employment opportunities be enhanced by flexible contracts. In addition, Ljubljana should set concrete and realistic targets for investment in R&D, strengthen the legal framework for protecting intellectual property rights; improve competition, notably in professional services, promote environmental technologies and energy efficiency and integrate young people in the labour market.

Sweden: although the Commission made no specific recommendations for Sweden, Stockholm was invited to take further regulatory measures to increase competition, notably in services; implement a more coherent approach to better regulation, enhance its strategy to increase incentives to work while introducing stronger measures to allow immigrants to work.

Portugal: in the context of the ongoing correction of fiscal imbalances (due to an excessive deficit), Portugal was invited to redirect public spending to actions likely to promote growth. Lisbon should also implement measures to improve the education system, modernise employment protection, including legislation to foster flexibility and security to reduce the high levels of labour market segmentation.aIn addition, the country should ensure that its technological plan is fully implemented, consolidate links between research and industry, promote competition in the energy and financial services markets and reduce the deficit in transposing EU legislation into national law.

The Netherlands: the country is invited to take further measures to improve labour supply, notably of older workers, women and disadvantaged groups.aIn addition, the Netherlands should increase its efforts to increase private sector R&D expenditure. Moreover, if existing measures do nota succeed in significantly raising overall hours worked in the economy, further incentives should be considered.

Malta: Valletta should take further measures to reinforce the competition authority in order to strengthen competition, notably in professional services. It should also reduce state aids and redirect them towards R&D. Other actions recommended include taking steps to attract more people into the labour market, particularly women. Malta should continue with its health care reforms, concentrate on simplifying legislative procedures, promote a better connection with Europe's energy networks and increase employment among older workers.

Latvia: the country needs to maintain economic and budgetary sustainability by pursuing a more restrictive fiscal policy, so as to prevent overheating the economy. …