Member States can surely have no excuse for not implementing reforms to improve their labour markets in 2004. The end of 2003 has seen such a raft of reports and recommendations on the issue that no one could possibly claim that they do not have any ideas. A Summit meeting of employer representatives and trade unions on December 11 gave a hearty endorsement to the imaginatively-named recent "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" report by the Wim Kok-headed task force. This Social Summit asked for yet more reports on the implementation of measures recommended by the task force.

Yet, reading the long-awaited recommendations of the group chaired by the former Dutch Premier, one couldnt help but search for what was actually new. Was it really worth sending these noble experts off for nine months just to then be confronted with such familiar terms as make work pay, active ageing, lifelong learning and more flexibility? Then it was like a case of deja-vu when a November 28 Commission Communication came out with ideas based around adult training, flexibility and more childcare. One can sympathise with the powers that be in Brussels, for they must feel like they are banging their heads against brick walls, for evidently nobody is listening to the things that they keep saying over and over again. Or perhaps, repetition is their preferred method of communication say it enough times and the message is bound to get through eventually.

At least a small glimmer of hope can be seen shining from the other side of the Channel. British Chancellor Gordon Brown proved that somebody was listening when he wrote a recent editorial in The Daily Telegraph, unusually echoing Brussels jargon. "We are considering a more flexible local approach...

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