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MEMO/09/537

Brussels, 03 December 2009

Preparation for the Competitiveness Council of Ministers, Brussels, 03/04 December 2009

The EU Competitiveness Council will meet in Brussels on Thursday 03 and Friday 04 December under the chairmanship of Ms. Ewa Bjorling, Minister for Trade and Ms. Maud Olofsson , Minister for Enterprise and Energy. The European Commission will be represented by Vice President Gunter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry and Meglena Kuneva Commissioner for Consumer Protection. On 3 rd December, the European Commission will be represented by Commissioner Poto čnik during the Research part of the Council.

RESEARCH

1. Guidance on future priorities for European research and research based innovation in post-2010 Lisbon strategy (CR)

The Council will hold a policy debate followed by conclusions on the future priorities for EU research and EU research based innovation, in the perspective of the post 2010 Lisbon Strategy. The Council will discuss the need to identify and address the grand societal challenges in developing future priorities for EU research; the interaction between research and research-based innovation; the issue of targets for the post 2010 strategy and implementation of ERA; and the need to progress towards simplification.

2. Enhanced governance of the European Research Area (CR)

The Council will adopt a resolution on the governance of the European research area.

3. Future of ICT research, innovation and infrastructures (MS)

Background

The outline of a new ICT research and innovation strategy in two Commission Communications in March and April 2009 on "A Strategy for ICT R&D and Innovation in Europe: Moving ICT frontiers" ( IP/09/397 ), and "ICT Infrastructures for eScience" ( IP/09/608 ) has received wide support from all EU Member States. In particular, the ICT R&D and Innovation strategy proposes that in the next decade Europe should double its investments in ICT research and innovation. The Commission will increase the annual funding available under the ICT part of its overall research programme from €1.1 in 2010 to €1.7 billion in 2013. Member States should match this budget increase at national level with diverted and new sources of financing including pre-commercial procurements of research results and cohesion policy funds. Under the Swedish presidency and with the Commission's full support, EU Member States have agreed to provide extensive backing for the messages and proposals of all three ICT Communications.

At this Council

The adoption of the Council conclusions leads the way for stronger policy-backed research and innovation support programmes at EU level; strengthened public investments in ICT and better conditions for private investments; and improved planning, coordination and pooling efforts both at national and EU level. By singling out research and innovation as one of the top priorities of future ICT policies, the Commission and EU countries aim to boost technology leadership in Europe.

Next steps

Implementing concrete actions from 2010 onwards is essential to contribute to the beyond-2010 Lisbon agenda, to the post-i2010 strategy, to future research and innovation policies, and to priority-setting in the next EU financial programming period.

4. Progress in Joint Programming, notably on the measures to combat neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Alzheimer, through joint programming of research activities (CR)

The Council will adopt conclusions on the Joint Programming of research activities in the field of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer. This is based on a Commission's recommendation to the Council on the launch of the Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) on combating neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Alzheimer's that was adopted on 22 July 2009 ( IP/09/1171 ). The Commission made concrete proposals to tackle Alzheimer’s disease, dementias and other neurodegenerative conditions. These shared health and social challenges in Europe call for coordinated actions to ensure efficient prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for those affected. On the research side, the recommendation answers the Council's request to the Commission for a working method to make research on Alzheimer a pilot of Joint Programming. It invites European countries to pool their resources and better coordinate their research efforts in the field of neurodegenerative diseases, and Alzheimer’s in particular, by programming their research investments jointly for the first time, instead of each separately. The objective is for Member States to adopt a shared vision on how research cooperation at EU level can contribute to better understand, detect and prevent the diseases, and develop a common research agenda.

CONSUMER

5. Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Consumer Rights (HK)

On 8 October 2008, the Commission published its proposal for a Directive on Consumer Rights which would establish a simple single set of core consumer rights. It merges 4 existing Directives (on Unfair Contract Terms, on Sales and Guarantees, on Distance Selling and on Doorstep Selling) into one single instrument, it simplifies and updates these rules, and it removes inconsistencies and closes gaps.

The Swedish Presidency will invite Member States to discuss the following issues where some progress has been made in the Council Working Party. Member States should give guidance on how the work in the Working Party could consolidate this progress in the coming months, which relates to:

  • The broader definition of off-premises contracts and distance contracts;

  • the extension of the withdrawal period from a distance selling or off-premises contract to 14 days;

  • the harmonisation of consumer rights in sales contracts;

  • the scope of the directive.

The Commission thanks the Swedish Presidency for its efforts and encourages the incoming Spanish Presidency to continue in a similar vein. It hopes that the work on the proposal will progress at a steady pace so that a political agreement can soon be achieved.

INTERNAL MARKET, INDUSTRY

6. Proposal for a Council Regulation on the Community patent (OD)

The Commission presented a proposal of a Council Regulation on the Community Patent in 2000. This aim of this proposal is create a unitary patent title offering protection to the patent holder throughout the European Union. Despite a Common Political Approach in 2003, the Council did not reach a final agreement. Discussions in Council restarted after the Commission Communication "Enhancing the patent system in Europe" of April 2007 ( IP/07/463 ), which set out the Commission's vision for improving the patent system in Europe. The Lisbon Treaty provides a new legal basis for the proposal, which now takes place under the ordinary legislative procedure except for the translation arrangements.

Ministers will seek agreement on a general approach regarding the proposed Regulation for a European Union Patent, leaving a decision on the translation arrangements to a later stage as part of a separate Regulation.

7. Proposal for a Council Regulation on a European private company (OD)

The Swedish Presidency will try and reach a political agreement on the European Private Company Statute on the basis of its compromise package presented to the Member States. Since the Commission's proposal is based on Article 352 (ex-Article 308) of the Treaty, a decision requires unanimity in the Council.

In June 2008, the Commission tabled its proposal for a Regulation on the European Private Company with a view to facilitating cross-border business for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Single Market. The proposal formed part of a political package called the Small Business Act for Europe. The European Parliament is supportive of the project and adopted its report in a consultation procedure in March 2009.

8. Enhanced patent system in Europe - Adoption of Council conclusions

The debate on this item follows on from the Communication "Enhancing the patent system in Europe" of April 2007 ( IP/07/463 ), which set out the Commission's vision for improving the patent system in Europe. Making an EU patent a reality and improving the existing patent litigation system should improve accessibility to the patent and bring cost savings for all.

After adoption of progress reports, most recently in May 2009, Ministers will seek adoption of draft Council conclusions including the main features of a European and Community Patents Court, and also of the Community (EU) Patent. This will form part of an agreement on a package deal for an Enhanced Patent System in Europe.

9. Towards a competitive, innovative and eco-efficient Europe ─ a contribution by the Competitiveness Council to the post 2010 Lisbon agenda

EU2020 is designed as a successor to the Lisbon Strategy and builds on its achievements. The aim for 2020 is to: meet the EU targets on climate change and energy; strengthen the industrial base; further unlock SME potential; raise productivity and reduce pressure on resources. The Commission considers that the EU2020 should be thematic in approach, focussing on the following priorities:

  • Creating value by basing growth on knowledge (e.g. turning universities into a true engine for knowledge and growth through consolidation and investment, as well as through closer co-operation with business; creating a genuine European Research Area with world-class infrastructure and free circulation; pooling research resources and maximising their value to EU businesses and SMEs; efficient and cost-effective system of protecting intellectual property rights; online Single Market; and innovation, the digital economy)

  • Empowering people in inclusive societies (e.g. skills as the key element for economic productivity and growth; flexicurity and life-long learning to enable smooth transition between jobs and occupations; labour mobility and the potential of migration; nurturing a more entrepreneurial culture with a more positive attitude towards risk-taking and innovation; making self-employment a real option)

  • Creating competitive, connected and greener economy (e.g. increasing productivity through lower and more efficient consumption of energy and resources; upgrading and inter-connecting transport and energy infrastructure, as well as ensuring effective competition in network industries; restructuring the economy through targeted regulation, including accelerating modernisation of the existing industrial sectors with by means of state aid policy; fresh approach to industrial policy by putting the emphasis on sustainability, innovation and human skill; improving the regulatory environment to foster SME development)

10. Better Regulation- Adoption of Council conclusions

Improving the regulatory environment has become a main priority for the EU institutions and the member states. This Commission has given the highest priority to simplifying the regulatory environment in Europe and to easing administrative burdens on businesses. Cutting red tape has reached cruising speed in the EU and is now delivering the first tangible benefits to citizens and enterprises. The Commission has done its part to meet the 25% reduction target and has presented reduction measures that have a reduction potential of € 38.3 billion corresponding to a 31% administrative burden reduction. It is now upon Parliament and Council to adopt the pending proposals and thereby to allow enterprises to benefit from the work done. The reduction potential of measures currently pending is € 30.7 billion.

11. Priorities for the Internal Market in the next decade - contribution of the Competitiveness Council to the post 2010 Lisbon agenda (OD)

Ministers will adopt conclusions on key areas for the future development of the Internal Market, including services and goods, consumers, intellectual property rights and external aspects.

AOB

(a) ITER

- Information from the Commission

The Commission will inform the Council on the last outcome of ITER Council that took place on 17 November. See IP/09/1773

(b) Commission communication on Investing in the Development of Low Carbon Technologies (SET-Plan)

- Information from the Commission

The Commission will inform the Council on a Communication adopted last 7 October. The Communication "Investing in the development of low-carbon energy technologies" was presented on the 7 October 2009, and represents a step forward in the implementation of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan). It foresees that an additional investment of €50 billion in energy technology research will be needed over the next 10 years. In this proposal, the European Commission, together with industry and the research community, has drawn up technology 'roadmaps' which identify key low carbon technologies with strong potential at EU level in six areas: wind, solar, electricity grids, bio energy, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and sustainable nuclear fission. ( IP/09/1431 )

The SET-Plan, proposed by the Commission in 2007 and endorsed by Member States and the European Parliament, lays out the EU's strategy to accelerate the development of these technologies and bring them more quickly to the market. It describes concrete actions to organize research efforts across Europe to accelerate the development and deployment of cost-effective low carbon technologies. ( IP/07/1750 )

(c) Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the participation by the Community in a Joint Baltic Sea Research and Development Programme (BONUS-169) undertaken by several Member States

- Information from the Commission

The European Commission adopted a proposal on a Joint Baltic Sea Research Programme ('BONUS-169') on the 29 October 2009, with the objective to enhance the Baltic Sea region research capacity to ensure a more sustainable development of the region.

The sea and the coasts of the Baltic Sea are particularly affected by the negative impact of pollution, climate change, acidification, overexploitation and biodiversity loss.

BONUS-169 will integrate the national research programmes and activities of the 8 Baltic Sea States into a single joint research programme, mainly focused on environmental research. The Commission will contribute € 50 million to a joint research investment with Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden. The € 100 million programme will provide a framework for the coordination of their environmental research. ( IP/09/1648 ).

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d) Communication on Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES): Challenges and Next Steps for the Space Component

In 2005, the EU made the strategic choice to develop an independent European space borne earth observation capacity to deliver services in the environmental and security fields, called Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES). This capacity is designed in a way that is firmly rooted on existing capacities led by the European Space Agency (ESA), Eumetsat and individual countries, complemented by additional EU components to ensure its global dimension. Together these three activity strands are forming the GMES space capabilities. The Commission adopted a Communication in November which deals with the achievements and the next steps to bring GMES in a fully operational stage in the most cost efficient way. ( IP/09/1611 ) Vice President Verheugen will present the communication to Ministers.

(e) Declaration of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania on the integrated proposal to implement the project ELI (Extreme Light Infrastructure) of the ESFRI Roadmap

- Information from the Czech delegation

(f) Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on Cross-Border Business to Consumer e-Commerce in the EU

- Presentation by the Commission

(g) Conference "Consumer rights when purchasing digital content" (Stockholm, 4 November 2009)

- Information from the Presidency

(h) Legal framework for gambling and betting in the Member States of the European Union

- Information from the Presidency

The Presidency has followed on from the work started under the French and Czech Presidencies and has had further discussions in the Council Working Group – a sharing of experiences and views between Member States. This progress report to Council focuses on three areas:

  • The socio-economical problems of gambling: the report considers the cost to the individual, the family and the State of gambling addiction. It highlights the risk factors leading to addiction including accessibility to gambling, the effect of alcohol, the role of gambling machines, advertising, social reasons and environment etc.

  • Gambling responsibility measures: on the basis of a questionnaire to Member States the Presidency lists some of the common responsible gaming measures. The report considers age limits, healthy gambling environments, appropriate identity checks, special provisions for gambling machines and gambling on credit etc.

  • Different national measures on gambling/betting: the Presidency concludes that in the absence of Community harmonisation in the field, it is for each Member State to determine in those areas, in accordance with its own scale of values, what is required in order to ensure that the interests in question are protected.

The report concludes by encouraging all relevant parties, including the Council, to continue with the work.

i) Proposal for a Regulation of the European parliament and of the Council laying down harmonised conditions for the marketing of construction products

- Information from the Presidency

(j) Better regulation-presentation of practical exercise on sharing good examples

- Information from the Presidency

(k) Google Books

- Information from the Commission

The Google Books Settlement (GBS) is a US class action agreement reached on 28 October 2008 between the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and Google. It stems from a 2005 lawsuit brought against Google by US publishers and authors on the grounds that Google was infringing their copyright by digitising and showing snippets of books contained in US library collections without seeking their prior authorisation (Google Library Project). Both the Education Youth and Culture Council of 12 May 2009 and the Competitiveness Council of 28 May 2009 dealt with the GBS. Member States invited the Commission to assess the possible impacts of the GBS on European owners of copyright, cultural diversity and competition in Europe and to report back. The Commission has therefore prepared a note responding to the Council's request that examines these aspects and makes recommendations for future actions with respect to the development of pan-European digital libraries such as Europeana.

(l) Work programme of the incoming Presidency

- Information from the Spanish delegation


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