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Brussels, 23rd November 2001
Preparation of the Internal Market/Consumer Affairs/Tourism Council Brussels, 26th November 2001
(Jonathan Todd, Per Haugaard, Thorsten Muench)
The EU's Council of Ministers concerning the Internal Market, Consumer Affairs and Tourism will meet in Brussels at 10.00 am under the chairmanship of Belgian Minister for Economic Affairs Charles Picqué. The European Commission will be represented by Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne, Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen and Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein.
Working together for the future of European tourism
The Commission will present the Communication "Working together for the future of European tourism", adopted on November 13, 2001. Europe is the most visited tourist destination in the world, with the most diverse tourist attractions in a single geographic region. Tourism and related activities account for more than 20 million jobs and 12% of EU GDP. (see IP 01/1582).
The Commission will also present a report on the impact on the sector of the September 11 terrorist attacks. It expects the knock-on effects of these events on tourism in Europe to be limited in scope and time: if properly implemented, the measures foreseen in the Communication should also help alleviate the impact of any long-term negative effects. (see IP 01/1582)
For further information
The Council will examine a compromise text submitted by the Presidency, to reach a political agreement concerning the seventh amendment of Council Directive 76/768/EEC on cosmetic products, with the aim of achieving a high level of animal protection while respecting consumer interests and international trading rules. The compromise has changed the approach taken by the Commission in its initial proposal, as it foresees both a marketing ban and an EU testing ban.
The progressive entry into force of the proposed marketing ban would be linked to the acceptance of alternative methods at OECD level. In this specific case, the compromise proposal offers a good balance between the need to protect humans, the reduction of the level of animal suffering from experimentation, and the need to fulfil our international obligations.
By introducing a marketing ban linked to validation in the OECD, which is the international organisation responsible for this matter, the Community will make a significant step towards reducing animal testing in the EU and encouraging this trend internationally. The compromise also includes an immediate testing ban for finished products and a testing ban for ingredients, as soon as alternative methods are validated at EU level, either for chemicals in general or for cosmetics. The objective is to ensure immediate take-up of all progress regarding alternative methods in the cosmetic sector.
Furthermore, the compromise includes some other issues requested by the European Parliament, such as information on minimum durability (shelf life) for all cosmetics to be provided to consumers, upgrade of safety requirements for specific products intended for children and for external intimate hygiene and the labelling of potentially allergenic fragrance ingredients.
Dangerous substances (PH)
The Council will discuss the proposal for a directive on azo colorants, as an amendment to the Directive on restrictions on the marketing and use of dangerous substances and preparations(1). Under the proposal, certain azo-colorants would be banned in textile and leather articles which might come into prolonged and close contact with the skin. The scope of the proposed ban has to be justified by current knowledge about cancer risks. However, if further risks are identified in the future, the Directive would be up-dated accordingly. The Commission is studying possible exposure risks for children to carcinogenic azo dyes from toys. If such risks are demonstrated, the Commission will act swiftly to ban the relevant substances.
Carcinogenic, Mutagenic and Toxic to Reproduction (CMR) substances
The Council will discuss the proposal for a directive on substances classified as carcinogens, mutagens or toxic to reproduction (CMR), which would amend the Directive on restrictions on the marketing and use of dangerous substances and preparations(2). In the framework of the Chemicals White Paper, adopted by the Commission on February 13, 2001, substances causing very great concern, such as CMRs and substances internationally recognised to be persistent (Persistent Organic Pollutants or POPs), would be subject to an authorisation system. The paper foresees a system of Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation/Restriction (REACH).
Phthalates are used as plasticisers in PVC. According to the Scientific Committee on Toxicology, Ecotoxicology and the Environment (SCTEE), toys and child-care products containing certain phthalates put children's health at risk when mouthed for long periods of time. According to the SCTEE, the most commonly used phthalates do not respect recommended safety margins.
The Commission has:
Further scientific information has recently become available which would allow further development of the proposed Directive e.g:
Pedestrian safety (PH)
Every year 9,000 pedestrians and cyclists are killed and a further 200,000 injured in accidents involving a car. After talks with the European Commission, European motor vehicle manufacturers (ACEA) committed themselves in June 2001 to introduce a range of safety measures, starting in 2002, to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries. A similar commitment was given by the Japanese automobile manufacturers, and discussions with the Korean car manufacturers are at the final stage. (see IP 01/986)
The Commission is satisfied with the industry's commitment. But before deciding whether this is sufficient or whether legislation might be needed, the Commission would like to know the opinion of the Council and the European Parliament.
Food law and European Food Authority (TM)
The Belgian Council Presidency will provide an update on the state-of-play on the General Food Law/European Food Authority proposal (see also MEMO/01/248 on the EFA).
Consumer credit and indebtedness (TM)
The Council is likely to adopt a Resolution on consumer credit and indebtedness. A report on statistical aspects on the question of over-indebtedness, launched by the Commission, will be published soon. Commissioner Byrne will explain that the Commission intents to present a proposal early next year for amending the existing 1987 Consumer Credit Directive. The revision of the Directive will aim to set new common standards at a high level and to prevent segmentation of the market by diverging national legislation. The proposal will also contribute to the aim of preventing consumer over-indebtedness.
Consumers in the Internal Market (TM)
The Belgian Council Presidency will present a report on the consumer's involvement in the Internal Market based on a Presidency conference in October. The conference covered a wide range of topics such as co-regulation and the necessity for more training for consumer organisations so that they can represent consumer interests more effectively. The UNICE-BEUC agreement on common core standards for business in e-commerce was highlighted as a good example of co-regulation.
Green Paper on EU consumer protection (TM)
Commissioner Byrne will present the Green Paper to Ministers (see IP/01/1354 and MEMO/01/307). No formal Council opinion is envisaged. The Green Paper on fair trading practices aims to stimulate a wide debate on options to improve the functioning of the business-to-consumer (B2C) Internal Market. It sets out two main strategic options for the future development of EU regulation of B2C commercial practices. The first option is a strategy based on further harmonisation addressing specific issues and to continue the approach of the last two decades. The second option is based on complementing specific legislative measures with a framework directive covering B2C commercial practices. The paper also seeks views on priority areas for harmonisation and on the various options for a possible framework directive. In edition, it equally sets out options for ensuring and improving enforcement of consumer protection rules. The consultation period foreseen by the Green Paper lasts until 15 January 2002.
Community Patent (JT)
The Council will be trying to reach political agreement on the proposal for a Council Regulation to create a Community Patent. The aim is to give inventors the option of obtaining, quickly and cheaply, a single patent legally valid throughout the European Union (see IP/00/714). The Lisbon and Feira European Councils identified a Community Patent as an essential component of Europe's efforts to boost competitiveness and build a knowledge-based economy in Europe by 2010. The Summits recommended that the Community Patent should be available by the end of 2001.
Intensive negotiations under the Belgian Presidency are concentrating on the key outstanding political issues which are: the role of national patent offices, the language and translation arrangements, the financial regime, the jurisdictional arrangements and the relationship between the Community Patent and the European Patent Convention.
The Commission will be pressing for political agreement to be reached at the Internal Market Council to demonstrate Europe's resolve to undertake the reforms agreed in Lisbon and give a boost to markets' confidence in today's uncertain economic environment. Commissioner Bolkestein will insist, however, that a compromise should not be reached at any cost. To be viable, the Community Patent must be cheap, of good quality and legally certain. He will again stress that all Member States must be prepared to be flexible if the Lisbon deadline of agreement by the end of 2001 is to be met.
Under the Commission's proposal, Community Patents would be issued by the existing European Patent Office in Munich. National and European Patents would coexist with the Community Patent system, so that inventors would be free to choose which type of patent protection best suited their needs.
Cross-border payments (JT)
The Council is due to reach political agreement on the proposal for a Regulation according to which charges for transactions in euros in the Internal Market should be the same for cross-border payments as for those within a single Member State (see IP/01/1084 and MEMO/01/279). The European Council in Ghent has already given its support to the Commission proposal.
The proposal, presented by the Commission in July 2001 would require:
The European Parliament voted by a large majority in favour of the proposal at its 15th November plenary session in Strasbourg (IP/01/1595). Following the Parliament's amendments which were supported by the Commission, the provisions of the regulation would apply from 1 March 2002 for card payments and cash withdrawals from automatic teller machines (ATMs) and from 1 March 2003 for bank transfers (instead of the 1 January 2002 and 1 January 2003 initially proposed). This slight delay was deemed necessary to allow banks sufficient time to fully adjust to the requirements of the Regulation.
Commissioner Bolkestein will argue that there should be no further delays in implementing the Regulation in order to give a strong confidence signal to Europe's citizens that they would be able to enjoy the full benefits of the introduction of euro notes and coins within the Internal Market. Outstanding issues are the dates of entry into effect, the question of self-regulation and the application of the Regulation's terms to transfers denominated in non-euro currencies.
The Commissioner noted after the 6th November Council of Finance Ministers that critics of the Commission proposal have been trying to head it off with last minute promises to cut the cost of cross-border transactions. The Commission has heard such promises for more than twelve years, he noted, whilst the cost of cross-border transfers has remained unchanged. The credibility of these promises is doubtful in the view of the Commissioner.
The meeting of EU Heads of State and Government in Ghent on 19th October requested that the proposal be adopted before the end of 2001.
Public Procurement (JT)
The Presidency intends to brief the Council on progress in negotiations on the two proposals for Directives, adopted by the Commission in May 2000, on procurement procedures for the award of supplies, services and works contracts (so called classic sectors) and on procedures of entities operating in the water, energy and transport sectors (the so-called utilities). At the Stockholm Summit in March 2001 the European Council invited the Council and Parliament to adopt the final text of the Directives by the end of 2001. This target is not likely to be met as a number of aspects of the package are still unresolved.
Under the Presidency the discussions have focused on the proposed "classic" directive. Key outstanding issues are:
While there is significant common ground between the "classic" and the Utilities proposals, agreement still needs to be achieved in relation to important aspects of the latter, including the method for excluding liberalised sectors from the scope of the Directive and changes to the definition of special and exclusive rights.
Commissioner Bolkestein will stress that after 18 months of negotiations the time has come to compromise and to conclude on the package. The package is part of the priority measures proposed by President Prodi that should be adopted before the Barcelona European Summit in March 2002 to boost confidence in the European economy.
Insurance intermediaries (JT)
The Council will try to reach political agreement on the proposed Directive on insurance intermediaries. The Commission proposal tabled in September 2000 (IP/00/1048) has a dual aim: to make it easier for insurance intermediaries to avail themselves of the freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services and to guarantee a high level of protection for the interests of customers.
Its main features are:
Internal Market Scoreboard and Internal Market Strategy (JT)
Commissioner Bolkestein will present the latest Internal Market Scoreboard (IP/01/1604 and IP/01/376). He will underline the good progress in implementation of Internal Market Directives by the majority of Member States and state his deep concern with some Member States performance namely, Greece, France, Austria, the UK, Germany and Ireland who have still not met the 1.5% transposition deficit target. He will also stress the urgency of cutting the number of infringement cases. There are currently 1500 infringement proceedings open for alleged breaches of Internal Market rules, of which nearly 40% concern just three countries - France, Italy and Germany. He will also invite Ministers to give a new impetus to economic reform efforts by speeding up adoption of outstanding proposals as only 63% of the target actions set out in the Internal Market Strategy will be achieved by the end of the year.
Regulatory simplification/services of general interest (JT)
In preparation of the Laeken Summit, Commissioner Bolkestein will inform the Council on progress on the Commission's Action Plan on simplification of the regulatory environment. The Commission intends to adopt a consultative document in December 2001 which should lead to the adoption of an Action Plan in 2002.
The Council is also likely to adopt Conclusions on services of general interest following the Commission report of 17 October (see IP/01/1427) in response to the Nice European Council request to report on how further to improve legal certainty and address more fully the issue of evaluation of services of general interest.
(1) Directive 76/769/EEC