At the EU Lisbon Summit in March 2000, the European Union embarked on a strategy to make Europe the most competitive knowledge based economy in the world by 2010. The summit called for a new method of “open coordination” to promote sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion. Circumnavigating traditional forms of EU policy formulation, this approach calls for setting targets and benchmarking progress, primarily through the EU Council. The Council now meets every spring to follow progress and determine new targets for the Lisbon Strategy. At the Stockholm European Council in March 2001 sustainable development policy was added to economic and social policy as a third area for coordination through the Lisbon Process.
Many elements of the Lisbon Strategy affect the EEA Agreement, so it is therefore a high priority for EEA EFTA States to participate in the relevant parts of the process. In October 2000, the Standing Committee of the EFTA States established an ad hoc group on the follow-up to the Lisbon Summit. This group coordinated EEA EFTA comments to the Stockholm (2001), Barcelona (2002) and Brussels (2003 and 2004) summits. In January 2002, the group established an action plan identifying areas for follow-up on Lisbon Strategy initiatives of common interest to the EEA EFTA States.