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Preparation of the Competitiveness Council of Ministers, Brussels, 4/5 December 2006

European Commission - MEMO/06/458   01/12/2006

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MEMO/06/458

Brussels, 1 December 2006

Preparation of the Competitiveness Council of Ministers, Brussels, 4/5 December 2006

The EU Competitiveness Council will meet in Brussels on Monday 4 December under the chairmanship of Mauri Pekkarinen, Finnish Minister of Trade and Industry. The European Commission will be represented by Vice President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry, Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection and László Kovács, Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union.

Modernized Community Customs Code (MA)

The Ministers will have a policy debate on the Commission's proposal to introduce a Modernized Community Customs Code. The Finnish Presidency is seeking a clear political guidance from the Council on the three issues that still need further discussions, e.g. the single window (traders submit data for import or export to one single authority), the centralized customs clearance (traders perform their customs formalities from their premises irrespective of where the goods are situated in the EU) and the customs representation (customs agents are allowed to carry out their services everywhere in the EU without national restrictions). The proposal was made by the Commission in November 2005 (see IP/05/1501). It aims at modernizing and simplifying the customs environment for the benefit of traders, customs administrations and EU citizens.
For more information, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/customs/policy_issues/electronic_customs_initiative/reform_customs_code/index_en.htm

Lisbon Strategy and Innovation Policy (TVL)

In February 2005 the European Commission launched a new strategy for the EU to create more growth and jobs. The Commission set out a concrete action programme for the EU and its Member States to generate sustained economic growth and more and better jobs and called on Member States to launch a new EU partnership for growth and jobs (IP/05/130). This was endorsed by the Spring European Council in 2005. Since then the Commission presented a Community Lisbon Programme with key actions to be delivered at Community level and Member States presented their national reform programmes. Ministers will take stock of the progress that has been made to date. Vice president Verheugen will provide an overview of the preparations for the Annual Progress report.

The performance of the EU’s economy has improved strongly in 2006. Economic growth and productivity are on the increase. Most recent developments point to a growth of the economy from 1,7 percent in 2005 to 2,8 percent in 2006, while the unemployment trend in general is downward. The Commission Competitiveness Report 2006, documents the further benefits that reform could bring in a series of policy areas. The report also highlights significant deficits in economic performance, such as sluggish growth in labour productivity since 1995. It underlines the urgent need to speed up the implementation of structural reforms under the Strategy for Growth and Jobs.

Better Regulation (TVL)

The regulatory framework in which businesses operate is a key factor of their competitiveness, growth and employment performance. The Commission came forward in April 2005 with a Better Regulation package which is the centrepiece of the “Partnership for Growth and Jobs” - the renewed 'Lisbon Strategy'. It is essential to setting up the right conditions for growth and employment in Europe (IP/05/311).

Vice President Verheugen will present Ministers with an overview of the progress that has been achieved to date and of the Commission proposals for initiatives to build on this and strengthen the impact. In November the Commission put forward a proposal to cut, jointly with Member States, the administrative burden for companies by 25 % by 2012. This could lead to an increase of an estimated 1.5 % in EU GDP and subsequently more investment for growth and new jobs, amounting to €150 billion. To achieve this target, member states and regional and local authorities must also give a new political momentum to their own efforts to cut red tape. This is one of the forward looking initiatives contained in the first strategic review of the "Better Regulation" initiative (IP/06/1562).

To reach the goals set and reap the economic benefits will require a concerted effort of all involved. Reduction of administrative burdens in EU can not happen without concrete commitment from the Council and from individual Member States. Reform needs to be the guiding principle for national as well as European economic policy. It is vital that Member States and EU measures complement each other to create a powerful growth and jobs engine

Consumer Credit (PT)

In an exchange of views, Ministers will be invited to give a political steer to discussions on the Consumer Credit Directive (CCD). The Presidency has made great efforts to create momentum for a political agreement but discussions are not yet sufficiently advanced for such an agreement to take place. The Commission considers that its modified proposal preserves a good balance between a high level of consumer protection and the achievement of a true internal market for consumer credit.

Any Other Business

a) Pharmaceutical Forum

The Pharmaceutical Forum is the main European political platform on pharmaceuticals. The initiative builds on the work of the G10 Medicines project to look at ways Europe can improve the competitiveness of the European based pharmaceutical industry and responding to the challenges of European health care systems.

The High Level Pharmaceutical Forum is supported by three technical Working Groups, co-ordinated by a Steering Committee, on each of these subjects in order to prepare the ground for the annual Forum discussions, share experiences and explore possible concrete and practical ways forward.

The first plenary meeting of the Pharmaceutical Forum on 29 September 2006 brought together national Health Ministers, representatives of the European Parliament, key stakeholders as well as Health Ministers of the Acceding Countries and a representative of EFTA. Vice President Verheugen will inform Ministers of progress to date, the conclusions of the first meeting and the plans for 2007.

b) Council Conclusions on External Aspects of Competitiveness

Information from the Presidency

c) EU-US Informal Economic Ministerial Meeting

Information from the Presidency

d) European Competitiveness Report 2006

e) Joint Technology Initiatives and the implementation of Article 169

f) Suspension of import duties on aluminium

At the request of Poland.


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