If the original ambition of the Lisbon agenda for the EU to become the world’s most competitive knowledge economy by 2010 proved hubristic, it nevertheless provided an important framework and an impetus for reform. Some of the targets the EU institutions and member states set themselves have been met, most have not. So while the EU has grown and has created jobs, it has done so at a slower rate than its major competitors, and EU governments as a whole still invest less in education, skills, research and development. We believe that over the next ten years the EU needs to focus above all on unfinished business, albeit against a backdrop of global contraction, a smaller public purse and commitments to reverse climate change.

We hope therefore that by 2020 significant progress will have been made on liberalising protected markets, on completing the single market, on routing out latent and blatant protectionism; on helping European businesses be more innovative; and on improving the business environment in general. Since labour market rigidities allied to under investment in education and skills have been key reasons for the EU’s persistent under-performance, the BCC regards it as absolutely critical to achieve by 2020 significant structural reforms to Europe’s labour markets and education policies. This means in particular improving flexibility and mobility across Europe, and securing major improvements in skills and productivity.