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Council endorses growth initiative but urges actors to mobilise rapidly

EU Heads of State and Government attending the European Council meeting in Brussels on 17 October endorsed the principles of the Commission's proposed growth initiative, which includes investment in research, but claimed that further commitment is needed from the relevant acto...

EU Heads of State and Government attending the European Council meeting in Brussels on 17 October endorsed the principles of the Commission's proposed growth initiative, which includes investment in research, but claimed that further commitment is needed from the relevant actors before concrete decisions can be made. During the meeting, the Council claimed that while some signs of global economic recovery are visible, Europe's economic situation remains fragile and therefore further efforts to boost investment in the Europe's infrastructure and human potential are required. In this context, the Council agreed that the initiative, which includes recommendations mobilising investment in key areas, including innovation and research and development (R&D) and trans-European network projects (TENs), comes in response to the current economic climate. 'This initiative will be consistent with the Stability and Growth Pact, the current financial perspective ceilings, and in line with the commitments in the broad economic policy guidelines,' stated the Council, adding that its recommendations are also in keeping with the European goal of investing three per cent of GDP in R&D by 2010. However, to reap the benefits of such an initiative, the Council insists that all the actors must be mobilised rapidly. Taking account of the recently drafted ECOFIN Council report examining the initiative, the Council urged the Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to establish a 'quick-start programme' identifying a list of trans-European network projects (TENs), as well as R&D and innovative projects, which are financially viable and have a contributing role to play in the integration process of the internal market in the enlarged Europe. Furthermore, the Commission and EIB were asked to further explore a number of other items, including how best to increase the involvement of the private sector in financing projects; the development of instruments aimed at leveraging private capital; and better coordination of procedures between EIB financing, the EU's Structural Funds, the TENs budget line and the Sixth Framework Programme. The Council also called upon Member States to complement the growth initiative by designing national growth programmes, the coordination of which would be overseen by the Council so as to ensure complementarily and the best uses of resources. Member States will be expected to report on action taken in this regard at the spring 2004 European Council. The Council concluded that a more definitive assessment of the initiative would be made at its next meeting on 12 and 13 December in Brussels.

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