EU president Herman Van Rompuy is issuing a damning report card on bloc efforts to complete the single European market, in a message that appears to echo criticism by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
In a draft of the message seen by AFP on Thursday, seven days ahead of a two-day European Union summit, Van Rompuy says an end-2012 deadline to turbo-charge the single market has been lamentably missed.
Britain joined what was then known as the European Economic Community after a 1973 referendum, but repeatedly complains that many barriers still need breaking down.
"Regrettably, the deadline we set was missed for a number of (priorities) ... in fact, for most of them," Van Rompuy said of 12 areas targeted for cross-border integration that Brussels maintains could generate millions of jobs at a time of record-high unemployment.
"This delay is hard to justify, since it casts doubt on our resolve to urgently take all the concrete steps to bring back growth to the European economy," says the note that is to circulate among the 27 EU leaders.
The summit chairman said that national governments must show "more flexibility" during negotiations and "more willingness to compromise."
"I appeal to you to muster sufficient political will to close these negotiations as early as possible this year, as a matter of urgency," he said of the creation of genuinely cross-border infrastructure networks in energy, transport and telecoms.
Many of these areas however face spending cuts in the EU's budget for the rest of the decade.
Nonetheless, Cameron and conservative backers have argued that these represent the most reliable engine for growth -- and have increasingly painted this focus as the EU's raison d'etre.
Van Rompuy said a summit in May, for instance, would be re-focused on the key energy market. The EU imports most of its gas needs, for instance, while electricity production and consumption from north to south are considered massively un-matched.
This change in tack after three years in crisis-fighting mode comes as internal EU papers show that top officials in Van Rompuy's private office now consider publicly-lauded initiatives such as a "Banking Union" are fast "losing pace."
The banking union was intended to close off the vicious circle of sovereign and banking debt since Greece emerged as the weak link in the euro currency chain, but has consistently fallen foul of vested national interests and resistance in Europe's top finance centre, the City of London.