"A compelling case for urgent action" is how the European Commission introduced its relaunched Lisbon Strategy this week, with its tighter focus on jobs and growth.

But the "urgent action" depends largely - as the Commission makes clear - on the member states. And the Commission is going to rely merely on "partnership" to encourage them to play their role. Any ideas of creating tougher compliance mechanisms have been abandoned - despite the member states' admittedly disappointing performance so far on attaining Lisbon targets. There will be no naming and shaming, said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

It is possible to sympathise with Barroso's predicament. The same day he announced his new Lisbon agenda, the Commission also published its assessment of the updated stability programmes of several of the member states - and they make disconcerting reading.

Germany's adjustment is insufficient to achieve medium-term objectives and its long-term sustainability hinges on the achievement of budgetary consolidation in the medium-term. France's budgetary situation remains vulnerable, and there are concerns about the plausibility of French and Italian budgetary projections.

This demonstrates clearly how some of the member states are behaving even where there are - in principle, at any rate - clear and binding rules. The principle is being consistently and...

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