Brussels, 2 December 2011
Competitiveness Council – 5-6 December 2011
The EU Competitiveness Council will meet in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday, 5 and 6 December under the chairmanship of Mr Waldemar Pawlak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy of Poland and Mrs Barbara Kudrycka, Minister of Science and Higher Education. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship; Commissioner Michel Barnier, responsible for Internal Market and Services; Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, responsible for Research and Innovation; Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for Digital Agenda; Commissioner John Dalli, responsible for Health and Consumer Policy and Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta, responsible for Taxation and Customs Union
Monday, 5 December
Council Conclusions on Industrial Policy Flagship Initiative – reinforcing implementation of industrial policy across the EU
In the presence of Vice-President Tajani, ministers will be invited to adopt conclusions on the Industrial Policy Flagship Initiative including the Communications from the Commission on "Industrial Policy: Reinforcing Competitiveness", "A renewed EU Strategy 2011-2014 for Corporate Social Responsibility", "Social Business Initiative and "Small Business, Big World – a new partnership to help SMEs seize global opportunities" – see IP/11/1318.
Enhancing the global competitiveness of European industry is essential, as 75% of EU exports come from manufacturing firms, who also undertake 80% of industry R&D. The Member States should rapidly implement policies to improve their competitiveness, which requires robust and coordinated industrial and SMEs policies from them.
The Council is expected to formally welcome the Commission’s new strategy for the promotion of corporate social responsibility (CSR), as well as the Social Business Initiative. The Commission’s new policy on CSR will help European enterprises to cement their global leadership in terms of integrating social and environmental issues into their operations and core strategies. With social businesses representing an estimated one in four new enterprises in the EU, the Social Business Initiative is a timely boost to this emerging and dynamic sector.
The conclusions recognise the need for a more coherent, integrated and cost-effective approach to supporting SMEs in the activities outside the EU. EU level assistance in areas such as facilitating market access, effective resolution of market-entry or protection of intellectual property rights could have an added value. They also highlight the importance of ensuring tailored and easily accessible guidance on how to expand businesses so the idea of an online EU-wide information gateway is widely supported.
The conclusions welcome the in-depth mapping of existing support services in the EU and in third countries as it will help to identify possible gaps and overlaps. The conclusions also underline the need for complementary actions between the Commission and Member States in order to support SMEs in seizing global opportunities. This can be done by a better dissemination of information and exchange of experiences between SMEs in the EU that are 'export veterans' and 'newcomers', as well as by creating a database of success stories. The conclusions suggest also improving statistical data.
Programme on Competitiveness for Enterprises and SMEs - COSME
As one of its programme proposals for the next multi-annual financial framework, the Commission has adopted a proposal for the Programme for Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) on 30 November. In times of economic crises, the Programme will be an important contribution to achieve the goals of Europe 2020, in particular the creation of growth and jobs. Vice-President Tajani will present the main features of COSME to ministers and invite them to exchange their views. The Programme will focus on improving the access to finance and to markets for European enterprises, in particular SMEs. It will also promote entrepreneurship and better framework conditions to support the creation of enterprises and jobs.
The severe crisis in the European shipbuilding industry continues. The industry received hardly any new orders in 2009 and the limited recovery in 2010 has not further progressed in 2011. Most forecasts expect high global overcapacities for a considerable time. The order book of European yards reached a historical low, covering on average only about 18 months of production. In a number of yards the situation is even more dramatic with a high loss of employment, as a consequence.
Notwithstanding this dire picture, there are promising opportunities namely related to the greening of shipping and off-shore activities, such as off-shore wind energy.
Vice-President Tajani will inform the ministers on the critical situation, measures taken by the Commission and call for a renewed common sectoral strategy in order to elaborate possible solutions for the sector.
More information: Shipbuilding
REACH and the Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern
In March 2010, Vice-President Tajani and Commissioner Potočnik announced that in line with their ambition to make substitution of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) a reality, the inclusion of new substances in the candidate list should be accelerated. Key points of the agreement were to work with the Member States to achieve the objective of including 136 SVHCs into the candidate list by the end of 2012 and all relevant currently known SVHCs by the end of 2020.
Current status and next steps:
The Candidate List currently contains 53 substances and 20 additional substances will be most probably added in January 2012, leaving 63 substances to be added by the end of 2012 to meet the objective set by Vice-President Tajani and Commissioner Potočnik.
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is committed to preparing 15 dossiers on behalf of the Commission by the end of 2012. ECHA is on the right track to complete this task.
Since 2010, the Commission, the ECHA and Member States undertook initiatives aiming to set a common framework to select appropriate substances for identification of SVHC and inclusion in the Candidate list and to establish good coordination between all actors in the area of REACH risk management.
This has resulted in an important increase in the number of substances included in the Candidate List in 2011. However, there is still a need for more efforts to achieve the target of 136 substances by the end of 2012.
Vice-President Tajani will therefore encourage Member States to contribute more actively to the process of SVHC identification. The ECHA and the Commission will continue to contribute by providing assistance, coordination and sharing experiences with the Member States.
In addition, other items on the agenda also fall within Vice-President Tajani's portfolio:
The Presidency will give information on the current state of play on the proposal for a Regulation on European Standardisation.
The Presidency will present the results of the Conference on the Implementation of Lead Markets Initiative and the European Innovation Partnerships in Warsaw on 26-27 October 2011.
The Presidency will also give the Council information about the European Tourism Forum and the informal ministerial meeting which took place in Cracow on 5-7 October 2011.
The Czech Republic will give information on the review of REACH in the light of EU Competitiveness.
Information from the Commission, the Presidency and ESA on the Conference on Space Exploration: future exploration plans and societal benefits that took place in Lucca on 9-10 November 2011.
Creation of unitary patent protection and the applicable translation regime
As part of the Single Market Act (IP/11/469) tabled on 13 April 2011, the European Commission presented two legislative proposals (IP/11/470) under the enhanced cooperation procedure to reduce the cost of patents in Europe by up to 80%. Once adopted, they would allow any company or individual to protect their inventions through a single European patent which would be valid in 25 Member States. The proposed regulations lay down the terms and conditions for obtaining unitary patent protection, its legal effects and the applicable translation arrangements.
In June, the Competitiveness Council reached a political agreement on the texts of both legislative proposals. Intensive discussions with the co-legislator - European Parliament - followed. Commissioner Barnier calls on the Competitiveness Council to approve the final compromise texts as agreed in informal discussions with the Parliament and to prepare the file for final adoption in 2012.
Draft Agreement on the creation of a Unified Patent Court and draft statute
Currently, patent litigation in Europe is fragmented and expensive: national patent courts only decide about the validity of European patents in relation to their territory and a patent owner needs to start court proceedings in a number of different courts in order to enforce his/her European patent on the same invention throughout Europe. This creates unnecessary costs as well as legal uncertainty.
The Member States, together with the Commission, are determined to deliver a more cost effective, user friendly and legally secure patent system for Europe have decided to find an appropriate solution for the setting up of the Unified Patent Court as quickly as possible.
The Polish Presidency has given high priority to the whole of the patent reform and has worked intensively to find agreement among the Member States on the setting up of a unified patent litigation system. In September, the Competitiveness Council agreed on the basic features of the Unified Patent Court and urged further progress on the remaining issues.
At the Council on 5 December, the Polish Presidency will present for agreement a number of outstanding, politically sensitive issues including the seat of the future Unified Patent Court, financing principles, language of proceedings, the transitional period and the revision clause. An agreement on these issues would allow further work to advance on finding an overall political agreement on the whole of the patent reform by the end of this year.
Commissioner Barnier welcomes the Polish Presidency's determination to reach political agreement on the whole of the patent reform so that new sources of growth for the European economy can be delivered through substantially reducing the costs and complexity of the European patent system. Any solution needs to be in the interest of the users of the patent system.
Interconnection of business registers
The Commission adopted on 24 February 2011 (IP/11/221) a proposal to interconnect business registers within the EU. Company registers provide company information that is essential for consumers and business partners alike, such as information on a company's legal form, its seat, capital and legal representatives.
The proposal will help to facilitate cross-border electronic access to business information, by ensuring business registers are updated, and business information is more easily and readily accessible. These changes are crucial for companies when setting up branches, conducting cross-border trade or providing cross-border services in the EU. Business registers are currently organised at national, regional or local level, and lack the capacity to share information in an efficient and transparent manner.
At the Council, Member States are expected to agree on a general approach as a basis for starting negotiations with the European Parliament.
Single Market Forum (SIMFO) (Krakow, 3-4 October 2011)
The Single Market Forum (SIMFO), held in Krakow in October led to the adoption of the Krakow declaration which highlights areas for improving the functioning of the Single Market, for example recognition of professional qualifications, posting of workers and fundamental social rights, and improving the functioning of the EU public procurement legislation. The Council will adopt conclusions emanating from the forum, welcoming the Krakow declaration and underlining the importance of effective and efficient enforcement of Single Market rights, and of regularly assessing the state of the Single Market, for example, by converting the Single Market Forum into a regular event.
Commissioner Barnier will also inform the Council that the Krakow SIMFO will be followed up with national forums and other events during a Single Market week in Autumn 2012 in the context of the 20th anniversary of the Single Market.
Single Market Act: implementation
Commissioner Barnier will present the state of play on the 12 key actions of the Single Market Act, adopted in April this year (see IP/11/469). The aim of these actions is to boost growth and jobs in the Single Market and to enhance citizens' and businesses' confidence in what the Single Market has to offer.
More information: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/smact/index_en.htm
Services Directive: state of implementation
While services currently represent two-thirds of the EU's GDP and employment, they only make up for around one-fifth of total intra-EU trade. Today, only 8% of European SMEs do business in other Member States. In order to improve the functioning of the Single Market for services and to boost growth, the implementation of the Services Directive has been a crucial milestone. The Directive has lead to the abolishment of a multitude of restrictions. Two years after the expiry of the Directive's implementation deadline, a lot has been achieved already. Hundreds of discriminatory, unjustified or disproportionate requirements (such as authorisations, tariffs or economic needs tests) have been abolished. Most Member States have set up operational "Points of Single Contact". But the full potential of the Directive will only be realised when all Member States have completed the work required to fully implement it. This is not yet the case. Commissioner Barnier will report on the state of play of the implementation of the Services directive and present the main building bocks of his comprehensive strategy for the Internal Market for Services.
Proposals for a Regulation on a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy and for a Directive on the protection of orphan works
In line with its communication on Single Market Act (see IP/11/469), the Commission has adopted on 24 May a comprehensive strategy to revamp the legal framework in which Intellectual property rights (IPR) operate (IP/11/630). The strategy's objective is to enable inventors, creators, users and consumers to adapt to the new circumstances and to take advantage of new business opportunities. IPR is key driver for Europe's further growth. In 2009, the value of the top 10 brands in EU countries amounted to almost 9% of GDP on average. Copyright-based creative industries such as software, book and newspaper publishing, music and film, contributed 3.3% to EU GDP in 2006 and account for approximately 1.4 million SMEs, representing 8.5 million jobs. Employment in "knowledge-economy" industries increased by 24% between 1996 and 2006 compared to 6% for other industries.
As part of the strategy, a proposal was also adopted which strengthened action on counterfeiting and piracy by reinforcing the European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy (launched in 2009), by entrusting its tasks to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM). This allows the Observatory to benefit from OHIM's intellectual property expertise and strong record of delivery in trade marks and designs.
Another deliverable of the IPR strategy was the orphan works legislative proposal, also adopted on the same day, which would enable cultural organisations to digitise and make so-called orphan works available online after a diligent search thereby increasing the online dissemination and accessibility of many cultural works.
The Presidency of the Council will inform Ministers about the current state of play of the discussions on the Commission's proposal for a Directive on orphan works (see (IP/11/630). On the Regulation on a European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy (IP/11/630), the Presidency will brief Member Sates on the discussions on this proposal, which are now well advanced within the Council. The Commission looks forward in due course to the adoption by the European Parliament and the Council of the Regulation, and considers that once the Observatory is formally established, it can make an important contribution to the fight against counterfeiting and piracy in Europe. It will principally do this through the collection of robust and independent data on IPR infringements, and by serving as a platform for exchange of best practice between experts in the field.
Customs cooperation with Eastern neighbouring countries
Ministers are expected to adopt conclusions on customs cooperation with Eastern neighbouring countries.
Customs cooperation with our eastern neighbours is based on three strategic priorities on the basis of which concrete action should be taken: safe and fluid trade lanes; risk management and the fight against fraud; and investing in customs modernization. These Conclusions are in line with the actions carried out so far to develop customs cooperation between the EU and its Eastern neighbours, both at the regional level (Eastern Partnership, High-Level Conferences in Budapest and Krakow, April and October 2011) and at the bilateral level (Strategic Frameworks for Customs Cooperation concluded or being discussed with Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus).
Tuesday, 6 December
RESEARCH AND INNOVATION
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will present Horizon 2020 - a €80 billion programme for investment in research and innovation. She will stress that Horizon 2020 will provide direct stimulus to the economy and secure Europe's science and technology base and industrial competitiveness for the future. It promises a smarter, more sustainable and more inclusive society.
For the first time, Horizon 2020 brings together all EU research and innovation funding under a single programme. Red tape will be cut and rules and procedures will be simplified to attract more top researchers and a broader range of innovative businesses.
There are three key objectives: i) to support the EU’s position as a world leader in science with a dedicated budget of €24.6 billion, including an increase in funding of 77% for the very successful European Research Council (ERC); ii) to help secure industrial leadership in innovation with a budget of €17.9 billion, including a major investment of €13.7 billion in key technologies, as well as greater access to capital and support for SMEs; and iii) €31.7 billion will go towards addressing major concerns shared by all Europeans, across six key themes: Health, demographic change and well-being; Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research and the bio-economy; Secure, clean and efficient energy; Smart, green and integrated transport; Climate action, resource efficiency and raw materials; and Inclusive, innovative and secure societies.
More information: IP/11/1475
Horizon 2020 website:
Joint Programming Initiatives
The Council is expected to adopt Council conclusions launching five Joint Programming Initiatives:
The microbial challenge - An emerging threat to human health;
Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans;
Water Challenges for a Changing World;
Urban Europe - Global Challenges, Local Solutions;
Connecting Climate Knowledge for Europe.
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will highlight the importance of these initiatives, which will be important in addressing societal challenges between now and 2020. She will stress the need for participating Member States to pool resources to generate critical mass in addressing common challenges. She will emphasise that the time has come to move from planning to action and from commitment in principle to actual coordination of national research programmes through these.
Partnering in research and innovation
The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on Partnering in research and innovation.
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will welcome these Council conclusions and will highlight the importance of putting the partnering approach at the centre of European research and innovation policy in the future.
This will help to maximise the efficient use of scarce resources and contribute to enhancing Europe's capacity to respond to major societal challenges, thus boosting economic growth.
More information: IP/11/1059
European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Active and Healthy Ageing
Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, will call on the Council to endorse the Strategic Implementation Plan of the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Active and Healthy Ageing – a pilot project aimed at removing barriers to innovation in support of the financial sustainability of European healthcare systems, improving the quality of care and creating market opportunities to deal with Europe's demographic challenges. The EIP brings public and private sectors together to work on advances in integrated care models for chronic diseases; the use of remote monitoring; deploying new solutions to help older people remain independent, active and mobile for longer; and promoting innovation for age-friendly buildings, cities and environments (see IP/11/1309).
Communication on the European Earth Monitoring Programme (GMES) and its operations (from 2014 onwards)
The European Commission has proposed to finance the GMES programme (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) for the period 2014-2020 outside the EU financial framework, for which an estimated budget of €5.8 billion is deemed necessary.
Vice President Tajani will present the communication published on 30 November
The Commission proposed to set up a specific GMES fund similar to the model chosen for the European Development Fund, with financial contributions from all 27 EU Member States based on their gross national income (GNI). This will require an agreement between the EU Member States meeting within the Council. The programme will be coordinated by the Commission and its financial management could be delegated to the Global Navigation Satellite System Agency (GSA).
Draft “Orientations concerning added value and benefits of space for the security of European citizens"
In the margins of the Competitiveness Council, the joint Eighth Space Council with ESA will take place. The ‘space’ Ministers of 29 Member States of the EU and ESA will adopt orientations on the value and benefits of space technologies and applications to the security of the European citizens. The orientations underline the contribution of the flagship programmes, GMES, Galileo and EGNOS, to enhancing EU security objectives, and address also the role of satellite communications in crisis response and crisis management operations. The need for an effective Space Situation Awareness (SSA) system at European level is also emphasised in order to protect valuable space assets in orbit and critical infrastructures on the ground.
Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, will present the findings of the latest edition of the Consumer Markets Scoreboard, stressing the value of this tool in identifying those parts of the single market which might be failing consumers, thus enabling policy responses to be developed at both EU and national levels.
The Commissioner will highlight, in particular, the importance of the Scoreboard findings to national policy makers and stakeholders, and will encourage their use in the preparation of National Reform Programmes.
The Sixth Consumer Markets Scoreboard was published on 21 October 2011. It ranks 51 goods and services markets. The Annual Growth Survey, published in November (IP/11/1381), recognises the role of the Scoreboard in boosting the Single Market, in line with the objectives of the Europe2020 Strategy.
Alternative Dispute Resolution and Online Dispute Resolution
Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, will set out the envisaged role of the recently adopted (29 November) legislative proposals on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) towards boosting growth in Europe as part of the Single Market Act and the Digital Agenda for Europe (IP/11/1461).
The Commissioner will note with approval Council and Parliament's commitment to adopt the package by the end of 2012.
The proposed Directive on ADR would allow EU consumers to resolve any disputes with traders without having to go to court. The proposed ODR Regulation would create a single EU-wide online platform to deal with contractual disputes between consumers and traders, arising from cross-border e-commerce transactions.
Consumer Programme 2014-2020
Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, will emphasise the importance of the proposed Consumer Programme 2014-2020 in placing consumers at the heart of the Single Market.
The Commissioner will call on the support of Ministers towards adoption of the Programme.
With a global envelope of €197 million over seven years, the Programme rests on four pillars: (1) product safety, (2) consumer information, education and awareness, (3) consolidating consumer rights and strengthening redress, and (4) effective cross-border enforcement of consumer rights.