Press Releases

HISTORIC PRESS RELEASE : Flexibility the route to Full Employment [September 2004]

The press release issued by HM Treasury on 10 September 2004.

Europe needs even more radical reform if it is to tackle high unemployment and achieve sustained growth, the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, will say in a report to EU Finance Ministers today.

Gordon Brown tells Finance Ministers:

“Europe must create 21 million new jobs to meet the target for 2010 – and yet unemployment is still rising. So I will tell colleagues today that there is no security without change and that greater flexibility is an essential route to greater employment”.

Presenting a report to today’s meeting of European Finance Ministers on the progress of the Lisbon Agenda, the Chancellor outlined four urgent priorities to break down barriers to economic growth and employment:

  • break down regulatory barriers for business with the Four Presidencies initiative insisting on a new competitiveness test for all new regulation;
  • achieve greater flexibility in labour market employment policies so that we equip Europe’s peoples with the jobs and skills to compete in the new global economy;
  • set a new and more urgent timetable for concrete and credible reforms to complete the Single Market with specific deadlines; and
  • break down the barriers to better trading relationships with the United States and the rest of the world.

Gordon Brown said:

“Starting today, Europe must commit itself to radical new reforms, becoming more flexible and outward-looking, creating the jobs, growth and prosperity our citizens deserve and expect.

And in Britain, we will be coming forward in the Pre Budget Report with the measures needed to boost enterprise, raise productivity and make our economy more flexible.”


European Finance Ministers will today debate Wim Kok’s mid-term review of Europe’s progress against the Lisbon agenda. The Treasury’s submission to Wim Kok’s review highlights the key steps needed to give renewed stimulus to growth and reform in Europe, including:

  • action to refocus reform on jobs and productivity, by streamlining  the existing 102 Lisbon benchmarks and focusing on core headline targets;
  • annual Lisbon scorecards and commitments ranking Member States’ progress with economic reform and setting out European leaders plans for reforms in the year ahead;
  • further regulatory reform, building on the January 2004 Four Presidency Initiative (Ireland, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Luxembourg), to reduce the burden of new and existing legislation on enterprising and innovative businesses;
  • reform of state aid, ending the use of aid to create national champions and protect declining industries from competition, and further flexibility for Member States to promote enterprise and innovation;
  • urgent reform of labour markets, with all Member States implementing the detailed recommendations of the November 2003 European Employment Taskforce report;
  • further steps to create a dynamic and competitive Single Market, through liberalisation in services and a more effective competition policy that ensures real gains for businesses and consumers;
  • taking action to promote innovation and enterprise; and
  • trade and investment liberalisation, with strong EU leadership in multilateral trade negotiations and further action to build a stronger transatlantic economic relationship.