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Brussels, 28th November 2003
Results of the Competitiveness Council of Ministers, Brussels, 27th November 2003
Takeover bids (JT)
A compromise text presented by the Italian Presidency, not supported by the European Commission, was approved unanimously by the Council. Under this compromise, Member States would be able to opt out from the key provisions of the proposed Directive concerning the requirement for management to consult shareholders before applying defensive measures (Article 9) and/or the provisions for voting caps to be neutralised in a post-bid vote by a general assembly of shareholders to amend the company's statutes (the so-called breakthrough provisions Article 11). In Member States which did not apply these Articles, individual companies would be allowed to opt in but could again opt out when faced with a bidder which did not apply the same provisions.
Commissioner Bolkestein told the Council that he was opposed to the compromise and that by making Article 9 optional, the proposal had been emptied of its contents.
Speaking afterwards, Commissioner Bolkestein said:
“I am not going to pretend that I am pleased with this agreement. Nor am I going to be hypocritical by pretending that the version of the Directive agreed today represents a step forward for EU competitiveness or for the integration of EU capital markets.”
“The Competitiveness Council says that it wants to be seen to be taking decisions. In all sincerity, I have to say that if the Council continues to take decisions like this one, the European Union will never reach its target of becoming the most competitive economy in the world by 2010. On this issue, we have actually gone a long way in reverse gear since the Council endorsed the previous takeovers Directive in June 2001, with 14 Member States in favour.”
“A particular source of disappointment is the way in which the takeovers Directive has fallen victim to horsetrading and unholy alliances of convenience related to totally extraneous issues.”
“All that said, the Commission will now work constructively with the Council and the European Parliament to ensure implementation of this agreement.”
“My final word is that I hope that at some point in the future the EU will be able to agree a more ambitious and more meaningful Directive to facilitate takeovers under clear and transparent conditions throughout the Internal Market.”
In answer to questions, he also said: “There is a diplomatic delusion that any result is better than none. I do not share this delusion. The decision today is a case in point”.
Motor insurance (JT)
The Council reached political agreement on the proposed Fifth Motor Insurance Directive, covering civil liability (see IP/03/1615, IP/02/838 and MEMO/02/133). The proposal aims to update the existing Motor Insurance Directives, especially the minimum amount of insurance cover, and to extend to any motor accident the procedures set up in the Fourth Motor Insurance Directive for an efficient and quick settlement of accidents taking place outside the victim's Member State of residence. Once the Council has formally adopted its Common Position, the text will return to the European Parliament for its second reading. The proposed Directive is due to be implemented by Member States two years after its definitive adoption.
Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said afterwards "I welcome today's agreement and hope the European Parliament will swiftly endorse the Council's text. The sooner this Directive is adopted, the sooner European citizens will be able to take advantage of the new provisions in terms of faster treatment of claims and better compensation for victims of accidents."
Community Patent (JT)
The Council proved unable to reach a political agreement on the proposed Community Patent Regulation, despite agreement on a broad political approach at the March Council (see MEMO/03/47). Discussions centred on translations of claims in particular the length of the period under which the translations can be filed.
Sustainable tourism (PH)
The Council has taken note of the state of play of the Commission Communication on « Basic orientations for the sustainability of European tourism » (see IP/03/1585) which will be discussed at the European Tourism Forum in Abano Terme on 28-29 November.
European Competitiveness Report (PH)
The Italian Presidency welcomed the reports by the Commission services on competitiveness as well as the enterprise, innovation and state aid scoreboards, which are important instruments for developing a systematic analysis of the state of competitiveness of the EU economy. Commissioner Erkki Liikanen recalled the main elements of this year's Competitiveness report such as growth, productivity and employment, enterprise reorganisation and productivity growth, regional aspects of competitiveness, and enlargement and the competiiveness of manufacturing (see Mr. Liikanen' s speech SPEECH/03/578 « The Central role of the Competitiveness Council as engine for Economic growth and prosperity in Europe ».
On the textile sector the Council invited the Commission to regularly inform the Council on the results of the high-level group discussions on textiles and clothing and report back, for the first time before the end of July 2004, on initiatives deemed appropriate in this respect which may take the form of an Action Plan.
On shipbuilding the Council invited the Commission to continue efforts in the framework of WTO and OECD to establish, at a global level, fair competition in the shipbuilding industry. The Italian Presidency suggested examining the consequences of the expiry of the temporary defensive mechanism (TDM) for shipbuilding, particularly in connection with the timetable for the WTO dispute settlement procedure.
On the communication « LeaderSHIP 2015 » the Commission was invited to inform the Council regularly on the implementation of its recommendations before the end of 2004.