Europe, Globalization and the Lisbon Agenda by Maria Joao Rodrigues (editor)
Reviewer: Vivien Sierens
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How can Europe's socio-economic and political development be enhanced while preserving the richness of its social protection systems? This is the key question, and challenge the Strategy of Lisbon for Growth and Employment attempted to tackle. Launched in 2000, the so-called Lisbon Agenda had a prime objective: to transform Europe into the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more (and better) forms of employment, and greater social cohesion by 2010. Based on a flexible and multilevel working model, the Open Method of Coordination, this strategy once represented a clear attempt to redefine Europe's competitive position on the global scale while respecting its welfare state values.
While the Commission launched (24 November 2009) its long awaited public consultation on the future of the Lisbon Strategy and that EU members reacted to it, this book aims to critically analyze the evolution of the different axes of this strategy; its benefits and its weak points. The book is structured around 4 main axes - the development of the Lisbon agenda at the EU-level; the diversity of national implementation of the Lisbon Treaty; its external dimension; and its implications for EU governance - corresponding to a series of workshops that were organized in Brussels and Lisbon between 2006 and 2008 on the interactions between the research and European economic agendas.
Edited and coordinated by a policy advisor for the Lisbon Agenda, Maria João Rodriguez, each section of the book is policy oriented and structured according to a similar pattern: first a chapter written by Miss Rodriguez introducing the theme, second various analytical contributions responding to this introduction and finally some concluding remarks summarizing the debates. As the Lisbon Agenda was developed within the framework of close dialogue between policy-makers and the academic community, the structure of the book reflects quite well the philosophy of the agenda itself and relevant official documentation are provided in the book's Appendices.
The book's structure assists in its overall effectiveness in analyzing the complexities and challenges of the Lisbon Agenda. The presentation is clear and the style is generally quite lively, even for readers unfamiliar with the thematic. Thanks to the diversity of academic and cultural backgrounds of the authors, the book manages to strike a balance between political, sociological and economic analyzes. As such, the interdisciplinary approach is refreshingly welcome as it is reflecting the general philosophy of the Lisbon Agenda and provides a more in-depth analysis of each dimension of the Lisbon Strategy. For example, Pier Carlo Padoan study's, in detail, the relations between the Lisbon Strategy and the Stability and Growth Pact however one could deplore the lack of quantitative data and of concrete measurements of the policies developed under this strategy. The lack of verifiable indicators is part of a more general problem intrinsic to the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy, i.e. its lack of monitoring. The forward looking perspective is useful as it underlines the next challenges this strategy will have to tackle very soon, however after ten years, one broad mid-term review and an additional review in 2007, one could have expected to have more concrete data to discuss. The book presents more questions than it answers on how to improve the Lisbon Strategy. The development of a more efficient strategy for the next ten years will be of paramount importance for the positioning of Europe in the new multipolar world order. The short time-lapse given for the drawing of this future strategy; the current economic crisis situation; the institutional uncertainties introduced by the Lisbon Treaty; and the diversity of challenges identified in this book (i.e. the reform governance structure of this strategy) forces readers to realize that the tasks EU members' governments will face over the next months is enormous and only the future will tell us if we were ready to face this challenge or if we would pass our turn once again.