European issues have been in the headlines in France in recent months because of the debate about the European Constitution to be voted on in a referendum at the end of May. Rarely has public opinion been so strongly aroused in the discussions leading up to a vote. Yet while this is an encouraging sign that people are prepared to re-engage with matters of public concern, it is a shame that the debates have too often neglected the fundamental questions such as the general direction that the European Union should take with regard to economic and social policies between now and 2010.
In March 2000, when the European Council met in Lisbon, the EU heads of state and government adopted a broad policy programme that set ambitious goals for the Union between now and 2010. This programme, labelled the "Lisbon agenda", aims to make the EU "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world" by 2010, with a wide range of goals (some with specific figures attached) in areas as diverse as the economy, employment, the environment, social cohesion, etc.
What progress has been made by the halfway point, in 2005? Are the aims likely to be achieved? What are the prospects for the EU reaching its goal?
To find answers to these questions, Futuribles asked various experts on or involved in European matters to assess progress on the Lisbon agenda at the halfway stage. Elvire Fabry and Gilbert Cette outline the agenda and the main objectives that it sets for member states, then Frédéric Allemand makes a comparative evaluation of how well different member states (including France) have performed relative to the agenda's specific targets. He reckons that, so far, the results are mixed. Jean Pisani-Ferry discusses how the Maastricht criteria have been relaxed for member countries that have made a determined effort to undertake structural reforms or to invest in research and development. Lastly, Marjorie Jouen looks at the outlook for the EU budgets for 2007-2013 and shows how they could promote economic and social dynamism in the Union, and thus contribute to achieving the targets set at Lisbon.