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Brussels, 16 May 2007

Preparation of the Competitiveness Council of Ministers, Brussels, 21/22 May 2007

The EU Competitiveness Council will meet in Brussels on Monday 21and Tuesday 22May under the chairmanship of Michael Glos, German Federal Minister of Economics and Technology, Brigitte Zypries, German Federal Minister for Justice, Dr Annette Schavan, German Federal Minister of Education and Research and Mr Peter Hinze, the Parliamentary Secretary of State at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. The European Commission will be represented by Vice President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry, Commissioner Janez Potocnik, responsible for Science and Research, Meglena Kuneva, Commissioner for Consumer Affairs and Charlie McCreevy Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services.

Monday 21 May

Better Regulation/Reduction of Administrative Burden (Progress report) (TVL)

The regulatory framework in which businesses operate is a key factor of their competitiveness, growth and employment performance. Therefore, a key objective of the European Union's Enterprise policy is to ensure that the regulatory environment is simple and of high quality. This is why “better regulation” is a centrepiece of the European Commission’s “Partnership for Growth and Jobs” - the renewed 'Lisbon Strategy' launched in spring 2005 (IP/05/311; MEMO/05/93)

The better regulation package is designed to cut-red tape, tackle excessive regulation and help to strike the right balance between the costs and benefits of legislation. The main elements are:

  • Withdrawal or modification of pending legislative proposals
  • Measures to simplify existing legislation
  • Better quality of new Commission proposals: systematic use of impact assessment and public consultation in the development of new policy proposals
  • Reducing unnecessary information obligations for entrepreneurs

In January the Commission presented an Action Programme, to reduce unnecessary burdens on businesses by a quarter by 2012. (IP/07/77, MEMO/07/54) The focus is on information obligations in thirteen selected priority areas including company law, employment relations, taxation/VAT, statistics, agriculture and transport. The aim is to measure the cost of the administrative burden in these key sectors and identify information obligations for which proposals will subsequently be adopted to remove unnecessary burdens. In addition, the Commission identified ten concrete reduction measures, for unprecedented fast track action. These measures alone could in one fell swoop, reduce the burdens on businesses by 1.3 billion euros on an annual basis. The Presidency will present a progress report on Better Regulation, which takes stock of developments since January, primarily in the areas of administrative burdens, simplification and impact assessment.

Proposal for a Regulation laying down procedures relating to the application of certain technical rules to products lawfully marketed in another Member State (Mutual recognition) (New Approach)(TVL)

On 14 February he European Commission proposed a broad package of measures to assure a smoother functioning of the internal market for goods. (IP/07/181)The aim is to make it easier for companies, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises, to market products in the European Union while assuring a high level of safety and quality. For industrial goods which are already subject of EU-legislation it is suggested to establish a system of market surveillance which is built upon the existing system for consumer products. Furthermore cooperation between national accreditation bodies should be re-enforced and new rules to enhance confidence and trust in the CE mark are proposed. A common legal framework, build on simple common definitions and procedures for the marketing of industrial products, will serve as a toolbox for future sectoral legislation. For the non-harmonised European markets for goods the Commission wants to shift the burden of proof from producing companies from one country to national authorities in another Member State to show that products are not in line with particular national regulations, thus saving entrepreneurs the costs of testing requirements. Vice President Verheugen presented these proposals to the Competitiveness Council on 19 February. The European Council on 8-9 March invited the Council to decide swiftly on the proposed measures. The Presidency will present Ministers with a report on progress achieved so far.

Industrial Policy (TVL)

The European Commission in October 2005 launched a new, more integrated industrial policy to create better framework conditions for manufacturing industries in the coming years, in the face of globalisation and intense international competition (IP/05/1225; MEMO/05/352).The manufacturing industry matters to the EU. It employs over 34 million people, it accounts for three quarters of EU exports and over 80% of EU private sector Research & Development expenditure. The new EU industrial policy is intended to complement work at Member State level to support a strong and dynamic industrial base. It includes seven new cross-sectoral initiatives – on competitiveness, energy and the environment, on intellectual property rights, on better regulation, on industrial research and innovation, on market access, on skills, and on managing structural change - which will benefit a wide range of industry sectors. In addition, there are seven new initiatives targeted at specific sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, defence and information and communication technologies.

Ministers will have a policy debate on this subject with a view to adopting conclusions comprising a horizontal part, plus sections on automotive industry, biotechnology, ICT and shipbuilding.

Financial Perspectives of the Office of Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade marks and Designs) (OD)

Ministers are expected to adopt Council conclusions on the Financial Perspectives of the agency responsible for granting EU-wide trademark rights, OHIM (Office for the Harmonization in the Internal Market, located in Alicante, Spain) and the further development of the Community trade mark system.

EU Consumer Policy (HK)

The Council will discuss the new EU Consumer Policy Strategy 2007-2013, adopted by the Commission in March this year. The Strategy sets out set out more than 20 legislative and non legislative initiatives to boost the retail side of the Single Market by 2013. This will move forwards in the coming months with measures including: a comprehensive overhaul of cross border shopping rights, an in-depth assessment of how best to strengthen consumer redress; and new proposals to strengthen the Timeshare Directive. The Council is also expected to reach a political agreement to open the market for better cross border deals for credit (Consumer Credit Directive), an important element of the overall Strategy. The new Consumer Strategy 2007-2013 aims to boost confidence in the Single Market so that consumers can shop freely across borders - travelling or online – to get the best price, the best quality and for the product best suited to their needs.

Proposal on credit agreements for consumers (HK)

Consumers across Europe would be better able to make well informed choices when taking out consumer credit loans - paying for holidays, weddings or a new car – under new rules to be considered by the EU Council of Ministers next Monday 21 May. The proposed EU Directive on Consumer Credit Loans aims to break open the €800 billion-a-year EU consumer loans market which remains largely fragmented into national markets denying consumers choice and more competitive prices. The new rules will make the market more transparent for consumers and business competitors. The main effect will be to provide standard, comparable information to customers across the EU taking out credit loans. In particular, consumers will be assured access to key facts and figures in advertisements; for credit offers, the information given to consumers (for instance interest rates, amount, number and frequency of payments, the obligation to take out an insurance or the charges for defaulting) must be set out in a new comparable EU-wide European Credit Information Form; and consumers will benefit from a single, comparable, presentation of the Annual Percentage Rate of Charge. The proposed Directive also sets common standards on a right of withdrawal so consumers can change their mind. This Consumer Credit Directive is part of a bigger drive to boost the cross border market in retail financial services as set out in the recently published Green Paper on Retail Financial Services.

Any Other Business

a) "The Internal Market in Global Competition": Outcome of the Ministerial meeting (Competitiveness) (Würzburg, 27-28 April 2007)
The Presidency will report back from the informal meeting of ministers in Würzburg on 27-28 April on the theme: “The Single European Market in Global Competition”. Discussion focused on the strategic and political reorientation of the internal market in order to meet the challenges of the process of globalisation effectively. The discussion took place on the basis of Ernst & Young’s “European Attractiveness Survey 2007”.The ministers of Norway, Iceland and Switzerland attended as guests. Mr. Katsuhiro Nakagawa, Vice-President of the Board of the Toyota Motor Corporation, Mr. Thomas McCoy, VP of AMD, and Mr. Peter Sutherland, Chairman of BP and former Director-General of the WTO, presented the views of commerce/companies.

b) Proposal for a Directive on improving the effectiveness of review procedures concerning the award of public contracts Information from the Presidency on the state of play

c) Proposal for a Directive to include aviation activities in the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community Information from the Presidency

d) Proposal for a Directive down rules on nominal quantities for pre-packed products, Information from the Presidency on the negotiations with the European Parliament

e) European Conference "Innovation and Market Access through Standardisation" (Berlin, 26-27 March 2007) Information from the Presidency

f) 4th European Conference on Craft Industries (Stuttgart, 16-17 April 2007) The Presidency will report back from the 4th European Conference on Craft and Small Enterprises that took place in Stuttgart on 16-17 April. Over a thousand participants attended the conference. The Presidency will provide information on the final declaration which was approved by all conference participants and was circulated before the Competitiveness Council

g) European Conference on Tourism (Berlin/Potsdam, 15-16 May 2007) The Presidency will report back from a conference in Berlin on 15 May, under the heading “Tourism - Growth Engine of the Future” and an Informal Conference of Ministers of Tourism, in Potsdam on 16 May, under the heading “Europe's competitiveness as a travel destination.

h) GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) Conference (Munich, 17 April 2007) Information from the Presidency

i) Regulation on a Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling Vice President Verheugen will inform Ministers about the preparations for the proposal for a Regulation on Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling (GHS), to be adopted by the Commission in early June.

j) Impact of the proposal for a Regulation on the law applicable to contractual obligation (ROME I)- Requested by the Luxembourg delegation

Tuesday 22 May

Space Council (TVL)

Ministers from the European Union (EU) and/or Space Agency (ESA) Member States and the European Commission represented by Vice President Verheugen will meet in the morning of Tuesday 22 May. (9.00-11.00)

European Space Policy

The framework agreement concluded between ESA and the EC in 2004 has a key objective the joint preparation of a European Space Policy. In its second meeting in June 2005, the Space Council requested the Commission and ESA to prepare jointly a European Space Policy and programme.

In April this year the European Commission and the Director General of the ESA released an ambitious joint document for a European Space Policy the European Commission which proposes a comprehensive political framework for the development of a viable and strong space sector. The proposal focuses in particular on making more effective use of resources by combining efforts, as single Member States would not be able to face global challenges. Space is a strategic and high value-added growth sector on which the economy relies. European space manufacturing industry turnover in 2005 was 4.4 billion euros, with a workforce of 28,000. Globally, the industry generates a considerable downstream industry about 5 times bigger than in the space segment. It also showcases European hi-tech skills. Despite the relative low European investment in space, today European space industry is highly competitive and secures 40 per cent of world markets for manufacturing, launching and operating satellites. Ministers will have an exchange of views on the European Space Policy and are expected to adopt a resolution.

Any Other Business

GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) Conference

(Munich, 17 April 2007) Information from the Presidency

Commission proposal for European Institute of Technology (FV)

Information from Presidency. Minsters will have an exchange of views

Proposal for a Regulation on the establishment of the ARTEMIS joint undertaking to implement a joint technology initiative in embedded computer systems - Presentation by the Commission

Proposal for a Regulation of the Council setting up the Innovative medicines initiatives joint undertaking. Presentation by the Commission

The Council will have a first chance to consider the proposals published by the Commission on 15 May for the first two Joint Technology Initiatives. These proposals usher in a new era of research and development funding, launching the first ever Europe-wide public-private R&D partnerships. The Council has been presented with proposals for Regulations to create two Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) on Embedded Computing Systems and Innovative Medicines. These JTIs will pool industry, Member States and Commission resources (from the 7th Research Framework Programme) into targeted research programmes. JTIs will move away from the traditional case-by-case public funding of projects approach towards large scale research programmes dedicated to common strategic research targets. This new approach will create critical mass for European research and innovation, consolidate the European research community in key strategic areas and streamline project funding to bring research results on stream quicker. (IP/07/668; MEMO/07/191; MEMO/07/190)

Green Paper from the Commission on "The European Research Area: New Perspectives"- Exchange of views (AM)

The May Competitiveness Council will allow ministers to continue the reflections on the Commission's Green paper that they started at their informal meeting in Würzburg at the end of April. The Green Paper looks at the most relevant issues on the European R&D agenda, and invites contributions on a range of issues such as:

• creating good conditions for the free circulation of researchers, technology and knowledge

• more effective coordination of research activities at EU, national and regional level

• removing administrative and other obstacles in the way of free movement of knowledge

• developing world class infrastructures

• co-operating with partners at international level to address global challenges;

• strengthening research institutions (IP/07/469; MEMO/07/128)

Research Infrastructures in the European Research Area (ESFRI)-Exchange of views Adoption of Council conclusions (AM)

Council is likely to adopt Conclusions on the importance of European research infrastructures. These are large-scale research facilities, which can play a key role in fostering excellence in European science and developing innovative ideas that can be used in industry and as commercial products. Many everyday products, such as digital cameras or LCD screens, arose from scientific research taking place in large-scale infrastructures.

The creation of the European Strategic forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), bringing together representatives of members states with the scientific community to decide on priorities, has been a major step ahead in terms of planning research infrastructures.

On 19 October 2006 ESFRI agreed on a "roadmap" of 35 mature proposals for new facilities of pan-European interest covering seven key research areas including Environmental Sciences; Energy; Materials Sciences; Astrophysics, Astronomy, Particle and Nuclear Physics; Biomedical and Life Sciences; Social Sciences and the Humanities; Computation and data Treatment.

Research infrastructures is also a key element of the recent Green Paper on the European Research Area.

In June 2007 a Conference on Research Infrastructures will take place in Hamburg. The aim of this event is to look at best governance models, at the development of a common European strategy, and at the international dimension of Research Infrastructures. All types of Research Infrastructures including e-infrastructures will be covered. (IP/06/1431; MEMO/06/384)

Any other business

k) Euro-Med Education and Research Ministers meeting (Cairo, 18 June 2007) Information from the Presidency

l) Commission proposal on Article 169 Initiatives Information from the Commission

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