Commission advises institutions to adopt integrated approach to competitiveness The European Commission has published a communication recommending that an integrated approach to competitiveness is adopted by the EU's Competitiveness Council. The communication has two purposes: 'to alert the Council to the range of issues that must be addressed and kept p... The European Commission has published a communication recommending that an integrated approach to competitiveness is adopted by the EU's Competitiveness Council. The communication has two purposes: 'to alert the Council to the range of issues that must be addressed and kept prominent in its policy agenda', and to address concerns about a process of de-industrialisation in Europe. Fears about de-industrialisation are dismissed due to a lack of evidence, but the Commission warns that 'during a period of slow growth and poor productivity and innovation performance, conditions contributing to [...] such a process might emerge.' In order to avoid such a slowdown, the communication highlights a number of policy areas which must be prioritised. These include investment in research and development (R&D), innovation performance, and the entrepreneurship gap, particularly with regard to biotechnology. While the latest figures do show that R&D investment within the EU is increasing, and slowly approaching two per cent of GDP, its highest level ever, the average annual growth rate of 1.3 per cent will not enable the EU to catch up with the US and Japan, or to meet the three per cent target by 2010. On a more positive note, the percentage of graduates with degrees in science and technology is now significantly higher in the EU than in the US. Innovation is hindered by Europe's weakness in patenting, particularly in high tech areas, while entrepreneurship suffers from not being considered as a professional option in Europe. A growing number of enterprises that carry out R&D are also choosing to do so abroad. These activities are increasingly being carried out in the US, where more favourable regulatory, structural or finance conditions are available. The 'migration of R&D activities constitute[s] genuine threats to Europe's future,' states the communication. The Commission therefore calls on the Council and Parliament to rapidly finalise and implement pending legislative proposals, and to ensure that they take full account of the implications for competitiveness when adopting new measures. This requires open consultation with all stakeholders, emphasises the Commission. Ultimately, however, the communication recognises that strengthening research, fostering innovation and promoting entrepreneurship are areas in which 'progress lies above all in the hands of Member States and their commitment to take the necessary decisions at national level.' The 'open method of coordination' is recommended, as it enables the EU to contribute to progress in areas where the Union has no legislative powers. The tool puts in place a mechanism for mutual learning based on the dissemination and exchange of good practices, as well as the benchmarking of specific topics. For its part, the Commission pledges to give the Council, the European Parliament and the Member States a more integrated view of its work relating to competitiveness by 'systematically identifying synergies between policy actions directly contributing to competitiveness.'