Statement by the Efta States to the Stockholm European Council on 23-24 March 2001

1. The EFTA States endorse the strategic goal of the European Union set out in the conclusions from the European Council in Lisbon, to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion. Europe needs to foster a dynamic and entrepreneurial friendly environment that will spur the transition to the knowledge-based economy. The new economy offers great potential for reducing social exclusion both by creating appropriate economic conditions for greater prosperity and by opening up new ways of participating in society. The EFTA States welcome the emphasis on full employment and regional cohesion in Europe. Investing in people and developing an active and dynamic welfare state will be crucial for Europe’s place in the world economy.

 

2. At its meeting in September 2000, the EEA Council agreed to explore how the EEA EFTA States could be involved in the follow-up activities to the Lisbon Summit and provide contributions to the preparation of the European Council in Stockholm 23-24 March 2001. The EFTA States attach high political importance to the priority areas for action and confirm their commitment to work actively with the EU in achieving the goals set out at the Lisbon Summit. Through the EEA Agreement, the EEA EFTA States are already involved in most of the initiatives covered by the follow-up to the Lisbon strategy. They welcome the new open method of coordination and are ready to contribute to the development of Europe by sharing best practices with the EU Member States. The EFTA States consider this to be of mutual benefit. To strengthen the coherence between employment, economic reform, research and innovation, and social cohesion is of great significance to all European countries. The EFTA States would like to participate actively in all of these areas. Attached are EFTA comments on the areas for action to be addressed at the Stockholm Summit. Figures are provided regarding the Structural Indicators for EFTA States in parallel to those presented in the Commission’s Synthesis report for EU Member States.

 

3. The EFTA States welcome a continuation of the political dialogue in the EEA Council and its substructure on the Lisbon strategy, as well as other established common fora such as the informal meeting between EU and EFTA Ministers of Finance. EFTA participation in other informal meetings at political level in areas covered by the Lisbon process is desirable. A follow-up to the 1999 Istanbul EEA Summit could also provide an excellent opportunity to discuss the Lisbon strategy at a high political level. The EEA EFTA States express their satisfaction to be able to participate in the informal meeting of Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Ministers organised by the Swedish Presidency in Lund in April.