The Lisbon Strategy, also known as the Lisbon Agenda or Lisbon Process, is an action and development plan for the European Union. It was originally set out by the Lisbon European Council of 23-24 March 2000 which articulated a new strategic goal for the EU: ‘to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’. The Lisbon Strategy aimed to deal with the low productivity and stagnation of economic growth in the EU, through the formulation of various policy initiatives to be taken by all EU Member States. In particular, this included ‘modernising the European social model, investing in people and combating social exclusion’. The broader objectives set out by the Lisbon strategy are to be attained by 2010.
In March 2005, the European Council relaunched the Lisbon Strategy in its document, Growth and jobs: working together for Europe's future, in recognition of the fact that there were gaps between rhetoric and results caused largely by a lack of both focus and ownership. This documnent placed more emphasis on growth and employment through more investment, more jobs and less regulation. The relaunched Strategy is implemented through National Reform Programmes (NRPs) at Member State level. In the course of 2005-2006, all 25 Member States prepared their individual NRPs.
As well as a new strategic goal, the Lisbon Council highlighted the open method of coordination as the principal instrument through which this goal was to be achieved. The application of this method to the European Employment Strategy was confirmed, and this would be reinforced through an additional annual meeting of the European Council in the spring of each year, for which an annual synthesis report on economic and social questions would be prepared.
The Commission in its Social Policy Agenda 2000-2005 confirmed the Lisbon Strategy and stated that ‘a guiding principle of the new Social Policy Agenda will be to strengthen the role of social policy as a productive factor’. Social dialogue was identified as one of the means used to achieve the goals of the strategy: ‘the most effective way of modernising contractual relations, adapting work organisation and developing adequate balance between flexibility and security.’ The role of social dialogue seems to be limited to employment relationships within the enterprise, adopting a broad definition of social dialogue. The Commission in its European Social Policy Agenda 2006-2010 confirmed that, in accordance with the relaunched Lisbon Strategy, its primary goals are employment and equal opportunities.
Other means are specified: structural funds, programmes and policy and research to underpin policy initiatives, and mainstreaming to be strengthened and further developed. However, the unlimited scope of the open method of coordination as an instrument for achieving the Lisbon Strategy contrasts with the restricted scope of legislation and social dialogue.