Nordic EU Members Urge Speedup Of Reforms

By Agence France-Presse The prime ministers of Denmark, Finland and Sweden asked the European Union March 4 to speed up the EU reform process, saying it had "lost steam." "The Lisbon summit two years ago launched a bold and ambitious 10-year process of modernizing Europe," Goeran Persson of Sweden, Paavo Lipponen of Finland, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark said in an open letter to their Spanish counterpart Jose Maria Aznar, who currently presides on the EU Council. "The leading idea is that efficient markets, investment in education and sustainable welfare systems are mutually reinforcing factors for progress," the leaders of the three Nordic countries said. "There are clear signs that the process has lost steam; we therefore fully agree with the Spanish presidency that giving new impetus to the reform agenda should be an overriding goal for the Barcelona summit." In the letter -- presented by the three at a joint press conference in Helsinki, Finland -- they singled out five areas where concrete results should be achieved at the EU summit in Barcelona on March 15-16. These are a plan to reform financial institutions, a European-wide patent regime, liberalization of energy markets, common rules on business takeovers, and increased spending on research and development. The liberalization of the energy markets is particularly important to the Nordic EU members, said Persson. "We are quite a number of countries that have liberalized our energy markets, and we want to stick to that," he added. "But if we see, that in our liberalized markets we have competition from companies that have huge profits from their protective markets that are used against companies in deregulated markets, we have a problem." The three also hope the Barcelona summit will result in a general increase in the "efficiency, transparency and openness" of the EU system, saying "we don't need more processes, but better synchronization and streamlining." Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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