HC Deb 26 February 2002 vol 380 c1162W
Mr. Spring

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures the Government will be proposing at the European Council in Barcelona to close the productivity gap between the European Union and the United States of America. [37180]

Peter Hain

One of the key objectives of the Lisbon economic and social reform strategy is to make the EU the most dynamic and competitive economy in the world. Improving EU productivity levels is central to achieving that aim. At the second annual review of the Lisbon strategy, in Barcelona, the Spanish Presidency is proposing to concentrate on five priority areas: transport and communication networks; energy; education and training; financial services; labour markets. The Government fully support this approach. All five areas have a key role to play in improving EU productivity. Better interconnection between transport and communication networks will improve physical and virtual mobility and delivery; more energy liberalisation and interconnection will improve competition and lower prices; the right approach to education and training will deliver the skills and adaptability required by the 21 Century workplace; integrated financial markets will lower the cost of capital and increase consumer and business choice; more flexible and dynamic labour markets will facilitate job creation and labour mobility.