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'We have the diagnosis; start the therapy', business to tell policy makers at EBS

Business representatives will urge Europe's leaders to back up their fine words on the relaunched Lisbon agenda with deeds, during the fourth European Business Summit (EBS) in Brussels on 16 and 17 March. This year's EBS will see the Lisbon representatives of all 25 Member St...

Business representatives will urge Europe's leaders to back up their fine words on the relaunched Lisbon agenda with deeds, during the fourth European Business Summit (EBS) in Brussels on 16 and 17 March. This year's EBS will see the Lisbon representatives of all 25 Member States presenting their National Reform Programmes (NRPs) to the business community for the first time. Following the event, business leaders are expected to make a joint statement on the EU's strategy for Growth and Jobs, which will be presented to the European Council on 23 March. Speaking to CORDIS News ahead of the summit, Philippe de Buck, secretary general of European employers' confederation UNICE, welcomed the reform programmes outlined by Member States, describing them as a roadmap to get back on the growth and jobs path. 'But now we have to walk that path. We must go beyond a mere diagnosis of Europe's problems and start the therapy,' Mr de Buck added. 'The key word of the growth and jobs strategy this year must be: implementation. If this year again no deeds follow the words, the credibility of European leaders will be seriously questioned.' Thus, the main focus of UNICE's efforts at the EBS, and indeed those of the wider business community, will be to discuss with politicians how to implement the required reforms in their respective countries. 'The situation in each Member State is different, and in consequence the necessary reform policies vary. The answers we will hear from each Member State are therefore likely to be different,' believes Mr de Buck. Nevertheless, there are several focal areas where all Member States must deliver results, according to UNICE. These include: achieving sustainable public finances in an ageing society; developing the knowledge society and a more entrepreneurial culture; adopting a 'flexicurity' approach to labour markets, protecting people rather than jobs; and creating an efficient internal market with no protectionist behaviour. The Commission consistently stressed the need for a more widespread sense of ownership when relaunching Lisbon strategy, and CORDIS News asked Mr de Buck whether he has seen any evidence of that within the business community. 'Yes, the growth and jobs strategy has always had the strong support of the business community, not only since the relaunch last year but already when it was decided at the European Council in 2000. This means [...] the strategy now dates back six years! That's why business now expects that serious reform efforts are undertaken.' However, despite this long-standing sense of ownership, Mr de Buck doesn't believe that it is the job of companies to get too involved in the delivery of the strategy. 'I think that everybody should concentrate on his core tasks: for companies this means doing business and being competitive on a global scale. This does not mean that business should stay silent,' he concluded. 'We will continue to urge politicians to make necessary reforms and submit to them solutions for tackling the challenges we face.'