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Brussels, 8 October 2010

Competitiveness Council – 11/12 October 2010

The EU Competitiveness Council will meet in Luxembourg on Monday and Tuesday, 11 and 12 October under the chairmanship of the Belgian Presidency: Mrs Isabelle Weykmans (Minister for Culture, Media and Tourism), Mr Jean-Claude Marcourt (Minister for the Economy, SME's, Foreign Trade and New Technologies) and Mr Vincent Van Quickenborne (Minister for Enterprise and Streamlining Policy). The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Commissioner Michel Barnier responsible for the Internal Market and Services and Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn responsible for Research and Innovation.

Internal market issues

1. Patents

A proposal on translation arrangements for a future EU Patent, the final element needed for a single EU Patent to become a reality, was tabled by the European Commission on 1 July 2010. Obtaining a patent in Europe currently costs ten times more than in the US. This situation discourages research, development and innovation, and undermines Europe's competitiveness. That is why Europe needs to act so that innovators can protect their inventions at an affordable cost with a single patent covering the entire EU territory with minimum translation costs and without needing to validate that patent at national level as they currently have to do. The new proposal builds on the successful three language system at the European Patent Office (EPO) and, if adopted, would drastically reduce existing translation costs. The objective of Monday's debate is to get as wide a consensus as possible from Ministers on the Commission's proposal, as recently amended by the Belgian Presidency on a few points.

More information:

2. Retail market monitoring report-state of play

The Commission adopted on 5 July 2010 a report that identifies key issues potentially hampering more efficient and fairer retail services within the Internal Market and subsequently launched a public consultation to determine future policy priorities in this domain. Reduced accessibility to basic retail services, scarce information on retail offers beyond local markets, slow growth of e-commerce, potentially abusive contractual practices throughout the retail supply chain, lack of transparency on quality labels, unsatisfactory functioning of the retail service labour markets as well as very different approaches to environmentally friendly retail services across the EU have been identified as key issues potentially hampering the retail sector. The Commission will present the state of play of its report on retail services following the public consultation and give some indications of the possible follow-up actions to address the main problems.

More information:

3. Communication from the Commission on a "Single market delivering smart, sustainable and inclusive economic growth"

Advancing the Single Market will be a central element for the implementation of the EU 2020 Strategy and a prerequisite for its success. At the Competitiveness Council, the Commission will present the outline of a comprehensive Communication that is to further develop the Single Market, due for adoption by the College later this month, identifying priority actions to re-launch growth and create jobs in the EU.

The Communication will contain a set of concrete policy actions that are to be carried out between 2010 and 2012 to further deliver a Single Market for citizens, businesses and in partnership with all stakeholders, in particular the Member States. The Communication will kickstart a wide European debate.

Innovation Union - Transforming Europe for a post-crisis world

Vice-President Tajani and Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will present the Innovation Union Communication, adopted on 6 October 2010 (see IP/10/1288, MEMO/10/473) to Enterprise and Industry Ministers on the morning of 12 October and in a separate session to Research and Science Ministers in the afternoon. There will be a first exchange of views with Member States.

The Commissioners will remind Ministers that delivery of the Innovation Union depends on strong commitment at national and regional as well as European levels. The Innovation Union will focus Europe's efforts – and co-operation with third countries - on challenges like climate change, energy and food security, health and an ageing population. It will use public sector intervention to stimulate the private sector and to remove bottlenecks which stop ideas reaching the market. These include lack of finance, fragmented research systems and markets, under-use of public procurement for innovation and slow standard setting.

Major new elements include:

  • Launching European Innovation Partnerships with a new approach to tackle some of Europe's major societal challenges and link R&D support with the development of market frameworks.

  • Overcoming financial hurdles for innovative companies, by using the EU budget to leverage large private investments. The Innovation Union aims to release private sector investment and proposes to increase European venture capital investments which are currently a quarter the level of the US.

  • For the first time using public procurement budgets in a significant and strategic way to pull through innovations that will improve public services.

  • Launching a European Design Leadership Board and a European Creative Industry Alliance to encourage emerging forms of innovation.

  • Better use of Structural Funds so that each region specializes according to its relative strengths.

  • Developing a new target to increase the number of fast-growing innovative companies. This will complement the existing target of increasing R&D to 3% of GDP.

The lunch discussion will be devoted to the European Innovation Partnerships which are a central element in the Innovation Union. They will mobilise stakeholders – European, national and regional, public and private - behind well-defined goals in areas which combine tackling societal challenges with potential for Europe to become a world leader. The Partnerships will step up R&D, coordinate investment, speed up standards and mobilise demand. The Commission will provide "seed corn" funds to attract stakeholder funding. A pilot Partnership on active and healthy ageing will be launched by early 2011, aiming to extend by two years by 2020 the proportion of our lives in which we enjoy good health. More partnerships will follow on areas such as energy, "smart" cities and mobility, water efficiency, non-energy raw materials and sustainable and productive agriculture.

To make the Innovation Union happen, and secure Europe's future competitiveness, the Commission considers that sustained efforts from EU, national and regional actors will be needed.

Other industry and entrepreneurship issues (for Innovation Union see above)

1. Tourism – "Europe, the world's No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe"

The Council should discuss and adopt conclusions on Tourism – "Europe, the world's No 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe”. The Commission Communication was adopted on 30 June 2010. The Commission welcomes the Council conclusions and notes the interest of Member States in implementation of actions included in the same Communication. The Commission supports and encourages Member States to participate actively at European, national, regional and local level in a spirit of partnership that seeks to encourage the competitive and sustainable development of European Tourism.

Press release Tourism: keeping Europe the world's top destination

More information

2. Four diverse points also fall within Vice-President Tajani's portfolio:

  • Late Payments – information from the Presidency.

  • Towards resource efficient Europe: Sustainable material management and sustainable consumption and production – information from the Presidency.

  • Outcome of the informal Competitiveness Council, (Louvain-la-Neuve, 14 and 15 July 2010);

  • Information on the results of the conference on Energy challenges facing European Industry.

Other research and innovation issues (for Innovation Union see above)

1. Simplification of procedures in the Research Framework programmes

The Council should adopt Conclusions on the simplification of the Framework

Programme (See IP/10/472, MEMO/10/156). The Commission will emphasize its commitment to offer attractive programmes for the best scientists in the world and the most innovative enterprises, and in particular the smaller ones. For achieving this, the Commission proposes to move towards a more trust-based approach regarding the management of the research programmes. The Commission will announce concrete measures in this regard by the end of the year. The next Framework Programme will combine simplification with ensuring sound financial management.

2. Launch of three Joint Programming Initiatives

The Council should adopt conclusions on the launching of three Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs) (See IP/08/1140) on 'Agriculture, food security and climate change', 'Cultural Heritage and Global Change: a new challenge for Europe', and 'A healthy diet for a healthy life'. JPIs are designed to address ‘grand challenges’ which cannot be tackled effectively and efficiently by any one Member State acting alone. They aim to confront these common challenges through publicly funded research, by bringing together researchers, existing research evidence and national funding bodies and by sharing tools, techniques and other resources more efficiently among Member States. Such efforts can make a substantial contribution to achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, which focuses on research and innovation as the key means of delivering both improved quality of life and new sources of growth. These initiatives are one of the building blocks of the Innovation Union as they have a real potential to impact the European research landscape and to help underpin the new European Innovation Partnerships.

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