Kok to recommend green EU growth strategy

A EU's senior advisory group is to call for a refocusing of the bloc's Lisbon strategy on economic growth and employment, while maintaining social cohesion and environmental protection "in the core" of the process.

Led by former Dutch prime minister Wim Kok, the group is due to submit its findings to EU leaders by 1 November. Environment Daily has seen a draft of its report, which was ordered by heads of government in March.

The Lisbon strategy to make Europe the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010 was launched in 2000. Its remit was subsequently expanded to include sustainability aims.

The problem now, the Kok report concludes, is that the strategy has become too broad. “Lisbon is about everything and thus about nothing. Everybody is responsible and thus no one”. The strategy should be given back its original, clear narrative, it recommends.

Governments must establish a favourable climate for business and enterprise, the report says. It calls for renewed efforts to complete the EU’s single market and criticises “excessively complex” national implementing legislation. It calls for a crack-down on continued obstacles to the free movement of goods, plus targets for reducing administrative burdens on business. Energy and transport costs for business should be driven down.

Given recent heated debates over the cost or competitiveness implications of EU environmental policies it is easy to wonder whether such demands point to heightened tensions in future. The Kok report itself gives an emphatic “no”.

Efforts to refocus Lisbon on growth and employment “should not be seen as an intention to downgrade or disrupt environmental policy”, it says. On the contrary, Europe should seek to make its strong commitment to a healthy environment a source of competitive advantage.

Drawing on the eco-efficiency agenda championed since this summer by the EU’s current Dutch presidency, the report recommends extending European leadership in key eco-industry markets and introducing measures to promote eco-innovation.

It supports removal of environmentally harmful subsidies and progressive inclusion of externalities in prices – subject to competitiveness and social concerns. Governments are urged to develop greener procurement, particularly for renewable energy and alternative vehicle fuels. Europe should continue aiming for higher energy and resource efficiency, it concludes.

Published with the permission of Environment Daily

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