Brussels, 11th November 2003
Results of the Competitiveness Council of Ministers, Brussels, 10th November 2003
(Thorsten Münch, Per Haugaard)
Positive debate on Unfair Commercial Practices (TM)
Ministers held a first policy debate on the proposed Directive on unfair commercial practices. This proposal was adopted by the Commission on 18 June this year (see IP/03/857). In the light of today's discussion, the upcoming Irish Council Presidency is hoping to reach a political agreement during their Presidency. "The scope we propose is the right balance to secure agreement on EU level so that we can tackle the current lack of consumer confidence and obstacles for legitimate businesses", said Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne. The first reading in the European Parliament is foreseen to be held in early 2004.
EU-wide surveys have confirmed that unfair commercial practices, and uncertainty about what protection is in place to tackle them, undermine consumer confidence (see e.g. Eurobarometer 57.2 and Flash Eurobarometer 128). At the same time, nearly one in two businesses (47%) cite the need for compliance with different national regulations on commercial practices, advertising and other consumer protection regulations as important obstacles to legitimate cross-border advertising and marketing (see Eurobarometer 57.2). Advertising and marketing are two examples of areas covered by the proposed Directive.
The Commission's proposal aims to overcome these barriers to the Internal Market and to achieve the same high level of consumer protection throughout the EU by establishing common EU-wide rules. It lays down the principles for determining whether a commercial practice is unfair and defines a limited range of "sharp practices" to be prohibited EU-wide. Once these EU-wide standards of protection are in place, businesses will only have to comply with the requirements of their country of origin when selling to consumers around the EU.
Electromagnetic compatibility (PH)
In order to prepare the ground for a possible agreement with the European Parliament at first reading, thus avoiding a considerable delay in adopting this Directive, the Competitiveness Council was invited to address the following outstanding issues:
The requirements of this Directive shall not prevent the application in any Member State of the following special measures concerning the putting into service or use of equipment:
measures “for a specific site” in order to overcome an existing or predicted electromagnetic compatibility problem (e.g. the vicinity of an airport);
measures taken for safety reasons to protect public telecommunications networks or receiving or transmitting stations when used for safety purposes “in well defined spectrum situations” (like aeronautical communications);
and has reached an agreement on a general approach regarding the Commission proposal for a Revision of the EMC Directive 89/336/EEC currently in force.
New Approach (PH)
The Council adopted a Resolution on the Commission's Communication “Enhancing the Implementation of the New Approach Directives” and has decided subsequent publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Commissioner Erkki Liikanen presented the legislative proposal for putting in place the new EU chemicals strategy REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals), establishing a European Chemicals Agency.
The Ministers welcomed the outcome of the impact assessment and the importance given to the Competitiveness Council having his say on this issue.
An extensive exchange of views took place focusing on the prioritisation of substance evaluation, the enhancement of the power of the European Chemicals Agency to be set up, the knock-on effect of this new proposal especially for industry downstream users, the human health and environmental aspects, the workability of the REACH proposal despite substantial reductions in the registration requirements and the burden of cost for the industry.
The Italian Presidency announced that the examination of the proposals will be assigned to a 'Chemicals' ad hoc group of the Council. Commissioner Erkki Liikanen announced that an open conference will take place for chemical stakeholders on 21 November 2003 in Brussels to discuss the Impact Assessment of the Commission's Legislative Proposal.
The Italian Presidency thanked the Ministers for their statements and concluded that the CoRePer should continue analysing this issue as a matter of priority in time for the next Competitiveness Council on 27 November 2003.
Enhancing Competitiveness and Growth (PH)
The Council held an exchange of views on this point focusing on the basis of two questionnaires prepared by the Italian Presidency.
Q.1 on the horizontal role of the Competitiveness Council and on impact assessment.
Q.2 on Research
Commissioner Erkki Liikanen in response to the first question said that the Commission is strongly committed to ensuring that competitiveness is properly taken into account in the proposals it presents to the Council and the European Parliament and that it has already put in place a system to assess the economic, social and environmental impact of its key legislative proposal, public consultation and through impact analysis being crucial instruments to this end. He further added that while adopting its work programme for 2004, the Commission had presented over 40 proposals that will undergo an extended impact assessment before adoption.