The UK and Luxembourg have jointly outlined an operational programme for the Council in 2005, and in doing so have endorsed the view of the Barroso Commission that delivery of the Lisbon agenda should be the EU's highest priority. According to the two governments, continuity across Presidencies is now more important than ever, hence the need for a joint operational programme that sets out the main work on which the two Member States will focus during 2005. The programme, they add, reflects the priorities for 2004 to 2006, as agreed by Heads of State and Government in 2003. 'The European Union will face several important challenges in 2005,' states the document. 'In particular, the Union needs to make better progress in delivering on the Lisbon agenda of more and better jobs, sustainable economic growth and greater competitiveness.' Amid speculation that more focus is to be placed on the competitiveness pillar of the Lisbon strategy, the UK and Luxembourg promise to build on progress achieved so far 'on the basis of a balanced strategy covering an economic, social and environmental dimension'. The only way to achieve real progress, however, is through a more effective focus on delivery, and the programme identifies several areas where action is a priority. First, the Council intends to present its review of the 'action for growth' and 'quick-start list' to the Spring gathering of European leaders, and to examine proposals for financing the Initiative for Growth, expected in July. Further measures for strengthening European competitiveness fall under three headings: regulatory reform, innovation and enterprise, and research and education. Under the first of those headings, Luxembourg and the UK pledge to fully implement the 'better regulation action plan', continue the work of the Irish and Dutch presidencies in reviewing and simplifying existing regulation, and to strengthen the competitiveness dimension of impact assessment exercises for new legislative proposals. In an attempt to strengthen innovation and enterprise, the two countries promise to fully consider, among others, the following proposals: the innovation action plan, the European charter for small enterprises and the action plan on entrepreneurship, a strategy for life sciences and biotechnology, the launch of a European Centre of Enterprise competition and an EU Enterprise Week. The pair also pledge to try to find a solution to the current impasse over a Community Patent, and to achieve a final agreement on proposals covering the patentability of computer-implemented inventions. In terms of promoting research, the operational programme notes that public and private investments in all areas of the 'knowledge chain' are vital to competitiveness. 'The Presidencies will therefore encourage concrete actions to be taken [...] and promote increased investments in R&D [research and development] and innovation and the development of human resources in science and technology.' The two Member States outline their commitment to continuing the work undertaken so far in establishing a European Research Area (ERA), and argue that given the central importance of the Seventh Framework Programme to this process, work will begin on the proposal under the Luxembourg Presidency in the first half of 2005 to ensure a timely launch of the future programme. Finally, the document adds that the Presidencies will contribute to the development of a European space policy, consider the role that security-related research can play in increasing competitiveness, and ensure that the Council takes the necessary decisions on the ITER project.
Luxembourg, United Kingdom