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EU official questions long summer holidays

European Union competition chief Neelie Kroes questioned the need for long summer vacations by workers in Europe, saying Thursday that breaks should be spread out in order to boost productivity amid continuing sluggish economic growth.
People sunbathe on the beach in Nice, southern France, during the peak of the summer holiday season earlier this year. Europeans' habit of taking the entire month of August off is making the continent less competitive, an EU official said.
People sunbathe on the beach in Nice, southern France, during the peak of the summer holiday season earlier this year. Europeans' habit of taking the entire month of August off is making the continent less competitive, an EU official said.Lionel Cironneau / AP File
/ Source: The Associated Press

European Union competition chief Neelie Kroes questioned the need for long summer vacations by workers in Europe, saying Thursday that breaks should be spread out in order to boost productivity amid continuing sluggish economic growth.

"We can't permit in Europe a situation where for three months in the summertime we don't function because of the summer holidays," she said at a committee hearing at the European Parliament.

"The serious economic situation in Europe really pushes us to do better," she said. "Everybody needs holidays, but we can spread it (out)."

The European Commission has been active recently in pushing EU governments to cut red tape and consider cutting back social benefits to fend off increased competition from other economies, notably China, where worker efficiency and cheap labor is hurting European companies.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is to host a leaders summit near London later this month to discuss the future of Europe's social systems and how they could be reformed to deal with new rivals like India and China in order to improve Europe's competitiveness and attract more investment.

The EU head office has proposed plans to cut and simplify EU regulations to make it easier for industry to operate. It also called for more money invested in research and education.

Labor groups insist, however, that such reforms should not cut into workers rights and benefits.