Brussels, 9 October 2012
The EU Competitiveness Council will meet in Luxembourg on Wednesday, 10 and Thursday, 11 October chaired by Mr Stavros Malas, Cyprus Minister for Health (responsible for the Research portfolio) and Mr Neoklis Sylikiotis, Cyprus Minister for Commerce, Industry and Tourism. During the first day, which is focused on Horizon 2020 and EIT, the European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for Digital Agenda and Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. On the second day, which will be dominated by discussions on the industrial policy and SMA I priorities, the 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 John Dalli, responsible for Health and Consumer Policy.
Wednesday, 10 October
Horizon 2020 – rules for participation
The Council will seek to reach a partial general approach (provisional agreement pending adoption of European Parliament's opinion) on the rules for participation and dissemination in Horizon 2020, the EU's future funding programme for research and innovation from 2014. This follows the PGA reached earlier in the year on the main Horizon 2020 Regulation. Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will insist on need for coherence and simplification by having single rules applying throughout Horizon 2020, including for so-called 'Article 185' and 'Article 187' initiatives. The second critical aspect is to ensure a radical simplification by achieving a single flat rate for indirect costs.
Although formally speaking the Commission is maintaining its original proposal at this stage, Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will encourage ministers to reach an agreement. This is important in view of the November European Council, which will discuss the next EU budget. Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will emphasise that the full proposed budget of €80 billion is required for Horizon 2020, in order to support the best science, make European industry more competitive and tackle challenges such as healthcare and climate change.
The European Institute of Innovation and Technology
The Council will seek to reach a partial general approach (provisional agreement pending adoption of European Parliament's opinion) on the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). The EIT was established in 2008 to promote the competitiveness of Member States by bringing together excellent higher education institutions, research centres and businesses to focus on major societal challenges. The EIT operates through Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) which bring together 80-100 partners from the different parts of the innovation chain. Three KICs were launched in 2010 in the areas of climate change (Climate KIC), Information and Communication Technologies (EIT ICT Labs) and sustainable energy (KIC InnoEnergy).
The Commission has put forward two proposals concerning the EIT: a Strategic Innovation Agenda which outlines its priorities for the future and an amended EIT Regulation focusing on its consolidation and expansion. The EIT plans to add six new KICs in two phases (Phase 1: Healthy Living, Food for the Future and Raw Material; Phase 2: Added-Value Manufacturing, Urban Mobility, Safe and Secure Societies. The Commission has proposed a budget of € 3.2 billion for the EIT in 2014-2020 (see IP/11/1479)
Open access to scientific Information
Vice President Neelie Kroes will present European Commission proposals on open access to scientific information. In July 2012 the Commission presented a Communication that sets out open access policy for research funded by the Commission through "Horizon 2020" and a Recommendation outlining a complete policy framework for improving access to, and preservation of, scientific information. (IP/12/790 and MEMO/12/565)
Open access gives readers free access to research results over the Internet, without having to pay subscriptions to scientific journals. Broader and more rapid access to scientific papers and data will make it easier for researchers and businesses to build on the findings of public-funded research. This will boost Europe's innovation capacity and give citizens quicker access to the benefits of scientific discoveries.
The Commission has established Open access as a general principle for Horizon 2020. As of 2014, all articles produced with EU funding will have to be made accessible immediately online by the publisher ('gold' open access) or in an open access repository after a 6 or 12 month delay ('green' open access). The Commission has called on Member States to establish policies on open access, on preservation and on e-infrastructures by 2014. The goal is for 60% of all publicly-funded scientific articles in Europe to be available under open access by 2016.
European Research Area
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will present to the Council the Communication on a reinforced European Research Area - Partnership for Excellence and Growth (IP/12/788). The presentation will be followed by a debate. On the basis of the positions taken by Member States, the Cypriot Presidency will propose Conclusions to the December Council.
The goal of the European Research Area Communication is to create the conditions for researchers, research institutions and businesses to better move, compete and co-operate across borders. This will strengthen Member States' research bases, increase their competitiveness and allow them to work together more effectively to tackle major societal challenges. The proposals are a response to the deadline set by EU leaders to make the European Research Area a reality by 2014.
International cooperation in research and innovation
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will also present the recently adopted Communication 'Enhancing and focusing EU international cooperation in research and innovation: a strategic approach' (IP/12/967). An exchange of views is foreseen at the next Competitiveness Council in December.
Thursday, 11 October
European Industrial Policy
The debate will be based on three Communications from the Commission:
1) The review of the Industrial Policy
On 10 October 2012 the Commission adopted an update of the Europe 2020 flagship initiative on Industrial Policy. The update should propose a new partnership with Member States and industry to create the necessary conditions to restore investment and business confidence and also to ensure that European industry can be at the lead of the on-going new industrial revolution.
The Communication focuses on four main elements:
Stimulate investments in new technologies and innovation
Improve market conditions, both in the Single Market and internationally;
Improve access to finance and capital markets; and
Increase investments into people and skills.
The Communication will be accompanied by the 2012 Competitiveness Report and the 2012 Annual Report on Member States competitiveness performance and policies.
2) Construction: unleashing the potential of low energy buildings to restore growth
On 31 July 2012, the Commission adopted a Communication "Strategy for the sustainable competitiveness of the construction sector and its enterprises'. Construction is a crucial sector for the European economy, generating almost 10 % of GDP and providing 20 million jobs, mainly in micro and small enterprises. Buildings' energy performance and resource efficiency in manufacturing, transport and the use of products to construct buildings and infrastructures have an important impact on the quality of life of Europeans. The competitiveness of construction companies is therefore an important issue not only for growth and employment in general but also to ensure the sustainability of the sector.
In order to respond to these key challenges, the European Commission proposes an action plan in the short to the mid-term, focusing on five key objectives: stimulating favourable investment conditions, improving the human-capital, improving resource efficiency, strengthening the internal market and fostering the global competitiveness of EU companies.
The implementation of the action plan will require a collective and coordinated effort not only at EU level, but also at national level, involving all relevant stakeholders. The Commission has proposed setting up a High Level tripartite strategic forum, where all Member States are expected to participate, and the creation of thematic groups in order to provide strategic guidance and to ensure a bottom up initiative from Member States and construction stakeholders. The Commission is planning to organise the first meeting of the High level strategic forum in December 2012.
3) Promoting cultural and creative sectors for growth and jobs in the EU
On 26 September 2012, the Commission adopted a Communication ‘Promoting cultural and creative sectors for growth and jobs in the EU‘. It sets out a multi-layered strategy for these sectors, with the aim of helping them to unleash their full potential to boost jobs and growth. The cultural and creative sectors (CCS) play an important role in European culture and the economy, accounting for up to 4.5% of GDP and up to 8.5 million jobs in the European Union. But the CCS also face major challenges stemming from the digital shift and globalisation, as well as from a high fragmentation of markets along cultural and linguistic lines. Access to finance remains a major difficulty.
The Commission's new strategy, presented by Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, aims to increase the competitiveness and export potential of these sectors, as well as to maximise their spill-over benefits for other areas such as innovation, ICT and urban regeneration. Their importance is even greater if one considers their impact in the fashion and high-end industries, which rely on a significant cultural and creative input: these two sectors account for 3% of EU GDP and employ 6 million people in total.
Vice-President Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, will present the key points of the Communication to Ministers, focusing in particular on actions aimed at strengthening the industrial competitiveness of the CCS and enhancing jobs and growth.
Promoting cultural and creative sectors for growth and jobs in the EU:
Council Conclusions on Key Enabling Technologies and the Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials
In the presence of Vice-President Tajani ministers will be invited to adopt Council Conclusions on Key Enabling Technologies and the Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials.
On 26 June 2012, the European Commission adopted VP Tajani's proposal for an action plan to boost the industrial production of KETs-based products in the EU, e.g. innovative products and applications of the future. The Commission Communication 'A European strategy for Key Enabling Technologies - A bridge to growth and jobs' outlines a single strategy for KETs to allow maximum exploitation of the EU's potential in competitive markets, aiming to keep pace with the EU's main international competitors, restore growth in Europe and create jobs in industry, and at the same time addressing today's major societal challenges.
As a matter of fact, Europe is a global leader in KETs research and development with a global share in patent applications of more than 30%. Despite this, the EU is not translating its dominant R&D base into the production of goods and services needed to stimulate growth and jobs.
Vice-President Tajani welcomes the enhanced support of the Member States to the EU KETs policy and regards it as a condition for success. Vice-President Tajani will provide his views on the draft Council Conclusions presented by the Cyprus Presidency.
Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials
In view of the increasing pressure on the supply of raw materials, the Commission has called Member States, companies and researchers to join forces and develop innovation in the different raw materials sectors. Innovative solutions to better explore, extract and process raw materials, as well as efforts to support improved collecting, sorting and recycling will contribute to provide a wider range of raw materials sources, thereby reducing the import dependence of the EU, improving the competitiveness of its industry and increasing resource efficiency. Finding substitutes will also be part of the answer in the case of certain critical or scarce raw materials.
This is the idea behind the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials, proposed by the Commission in February 2012. The Competitiveness Council will be invited on 11 October to endorse the launch of the Partnership, in order to start developing its Strategic Implementation Plan.
A High Level Conference will kick-off the work on 13 November 2012, in Brussels, which will be structured around 5 work packages addressing both the technological and regulatory/market challenges ahead. The Strategic Implementation Plan is expected to be adopted by mid-2013.
European Steel industry
As an AOB-point Vice President Tajani will inform the ministers about the round table he has organised on the European steel industry.
As from the second half of 2011, several steelmakers in the EU took decision to cut output in response to low demand and prices of steel in the EU. Temporary or permanent stoppages at steel mills affected several countries in the EU. Due to the situation, Commissioners Tajani and Andor convened a High-level Roundtable on the future of the European Steel Industry with the aim of offering a platform for dialogue between industry, the trade unions and the Commission. The first back-to-back meetings of the Roundtable took place on 19 September 2012, with industry and trade unions.
The members of the Roundtable identified following eleven areas of particular importance for the competitiveness of the EU steel industry: (i) international competition (including protectionism and unfair trade practices), (ii) access to raw materials, (iii) extra costs due to legislation, (iv) implementation of EU climate policy (ETS), (v) EU climate policy objectives beyond 2020, (vi) energy costs, (vii) EU resource-efficiency policy, (viii) skills shortages, (ix) possible adaptations of capacities, (x) R&D and innovation and (xi) demand-side measures stimulating recovery in the key sectors.
The next High Level Roundtable, planned to take place in November, will discuss policy recommendations in the relevant areas which could help the steel sector confront the above mentioned challenges.
Single Market Act I: state of play
On 13 April 2011, in response to the economic crisis and the need to foster growth, the European Commission adopted the Single Market Act I (see IP/11/469). It announced twelve key actions to boost European competitiveness and to exploit the untapped potential of the Single Market to generate sustainable economic growth and additional employment, while at the same time helping to restore the confidence of citizens and businesses in the Single Market.
These twelve actions for growth, competitiveness and social progress range from worker mobility to SME finance and consumer protection and from digital content to taxation and trans-European networks. Their aim is to make life easier for everyone in the Single Market: businesses, citizens, consumers and workers.
Since its adoption, the Commission has presented proposals for all its twelve key actions. However, only one of these proposals has so far been adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, namely the review of the EU standardisation system. The remaining eleven proposals are still subject to discussions in the European Parliament and the Council and should be agreed rapidly and where possible by the end of this year, in line with the request by the European Council.1
At the same time, Member States should prepare for the ambitious and timely legal transposition and administrative implementation of the twelve key proposals so that citizens and businesses can benefit from them quickly following their adoption by the European legislators.
Commissioner Barnier will present the current state of play with respect to the adoption of the twelve SMA I key actions and discuss with Ministers how the adoption can be speeded up and transposition and implementation be prepared.
Single Market ACT II: information from the Commission
On 3 October 2012, the Commission adopted Single Market Act II, announcing an additional twelve key actions to further develop the Single Market (IP/12/1054). The twelve new actions are designed to create additional new growth in the Single Market. Given the on-going economic crisis, there is no time to lose. The twelve actions are concentrated on four main drivers for growth, employment and confidence: a) integrated networks, b) cross border mobility of citizens and businesses, c) the digital economy, and d) actions that reinforce cohesion and consumer benefits.
Given the urgent need to act, the Commission commits to tabling all legislative proposals for the new twelve key actions by spring 2013, by which time it expects the legislators to have adopted the twelve key actions of the SMA I.
Commissioner Barnier will present the Single Market Act II and its twelve key actions to Ministers and reiterate the Commission's call to the Council and the European Parliament to adopt the twelve SMA II key actions as a priority by spring 2014.
European Council Conclusions, 23 October 2011, EUCO 52/11