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Brussels, 28 May 2013
Competitiveness Council – 29-30 May 2013
The second meeting of the Competitiveness Council under the mandate of the Irish Presidency of the EU will meet in Brussels on 29 and 30 May 2013.
On 29 May, Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, will chair the Council. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani (Industry and Entrepreneurship); Vice-President Joaquin Almunia, (Competition policy) and Commissioner Michel Barnier (Internal Market and Services).
On 30 May, Irish Minister for Research & Innovation, Seán Sherlock, will chair the Council. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Vice-President Neelie Kroes (Digital Agenda), Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, (Research and Innovation), and Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou (Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth).
Wednesday, 28 May
Statutory audit: progress report and orientation debate
On 30 November 2011 the European Commission adopted a proposal to clarify the role of auditors and introduce more stringent rules for the audit sector aimed in particular at strengthening the independence of auditors as well as greater diversity into the current highly-concentrated audit market (see IP/11/1480).
Furthermore, the Commission is also proposing to create a Single Market for statutory audit services allowing auditors to exercise their profession freely and easily across Europe, once licensed in one Member State. There are also proposals for a strengthened and more coordinated approach to the supervision of auditors in the EU. Taken together, all the measures should enhance the quality of statutory audits in the EU and restore confidence in audited financial statements, in particular those of banks, insurers and large listed companies.
Commissioner Barnier will welcome the Irish Presidency's decision to have a progress report and an orientation debate based on a text prepared by the Presidency.
Single Market Act I and II: state of play
The Single Market can do more to bring about new growth and jobs, to strengthen citizens' and businesses' confidence and to deliver concrete day-to-day benefits to them. Modernising and deepening the Single Market is a continuous exercise. The Single Market must respond to a constantly changing world where social and demographic challenges, new technology and imperatives, such as climate change, must be incorporated in policy thinking.
This is why the Single Market Act I and II - adopted on 13 April 2011 (IP/11/469) and 3 October 2012 (IP/12/1054) respectively - proposed key priority actions for new growth designed to generate real effects on the ground and make citizens and businesses confident to use the Single Market to their advantage.
The Council is expected to discuss the state of play on implementing the Single Market Acts I and II, based on a summary paper from the Irish Presidency. Commissioner Barnier will call again for a rapid examination of the proposals for key actions.
Modernisation of Copyright Law: Content of the Digital Single Market
In its Communication on content in the digital single market of 18 December 2012 (see IP/12/1394), the Commission announced two parallel work streams to ensure an effective single market in the area of copyright.
On the one hand, the Commission is currently completing its on-going review of the EU copyright framework, based on market studies, impact assessment and legal drafting work, with a view to a decision in 2014 on whether to table the resulting legislative reform proposals.
In parallel, the Commission has launched, under the responsibility of Commissioners Barnier, Kroes and Vassiliou, the stakeholder dialogue “Licences for Europe” to address a number of issues on which rapid progress is necessary and possible, namely cross-border availability of content and portability; user generated content and small scale licences, audio-visual cultural heritage and text and data mining. The objective of Licences for Europe is to deliver concrete, market-led solutions on these issues by the end of 2013. A mid-term plenary is scheduled by 4 July.
Commissioner Barnier will report to the Council on the state of play and progress of Licences for Europe so far.
Collective management of Copyright
On 11 July 2012, the European Commission proposed measures to modernise collecting societies and put in place incentives to promote their transparency and efficiency (IP/12/722).
New digital technologies are opening up great opportunities for creators, consumers and businesses alike. Increased demand for online access to cultural content (e.g. music, films, books) does not recognise borders or national restrictions. Neither do the online services used to access them. This is where collecting societies come into play, in particular in the music sector, where they collectively manage the licensing of copyright-protected music tracks for online use on behalf of composers and lyricists and collect and redistribute to them corresponding royalties.
Commissioner Barnier will plead for political agreement to be reached during this Parliament mandate, underlining the need for further development of online services in Europe and explaining that we cannot afford to lose time.
Modernisation of Copyright Law: Private copying and reprography levies
On 31 January 2013 the mediation process on private copying and reprography levies concluded with the presentation of the Mediator’s Recommendations to Commissioner Barnier (IP/13/80). António Vitorino, former European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, who was entrusted with this task by the Internal Market Commissioner, recommended two main streams of action. First, Mr Vitorino proposed fostering increased reliance on licences and contractual arrangements as the best way to ensure that right holders are properly remunerated for their creative efforts and investments. In addition, he recommended measures aimed at reconciling disparate national levy systems within the Single Market.
Commissioner Barnier will explain that it is necessary to move ahead from the status quo which is simply not acceptable in this domain from the Single Market perspective. In this respect, the Commissioner will welcome the Vitorino Recommendations as a good starting point and will present them as non-binding provisions.
COSME – first programme specifically targeted to small enterprises
On 8 February, the European Council agreed on the Programme for Competitiveness and SMEs (COSME), set to become the first European programme specifically targeted at supporting SMEs. Once the Multi-annual Financial Framework is finalised with the European Parliament, COSME will be a funding instrument which will largely continue the activities of the current Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme, but will even better respond to SME needs:
Under its SME guarantee facility, the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) has helped nearly 220 000 SMEs to access loans (IP/13/387).
In this context, the Competitiveness Council will take stock of the substantial progress in negotiations made by the Council and the European Parliament towards final adoption of COSME.
Vice-President Tajani will stress the substantial support COSME will bring to European SMEs - the backbone of Europe’s economy. He will encourage the Council to maintain momentum in its decisions regarding COSME in order to swiftly adopt the programme.
LeaderSHIP - Ensuring future of shipbuilding in Europe
In view of the persisting crisis in the European shipbuilding sector, Vice-President Tajani had proposed at the meeting of the Competitiveness Council in December 2011 a revision of the LeaderShip 2015 initiative.
Making good on this commitment, Vice-President Tajani will present to the Competitiveness Council the new LeaderSHIP2020 initiative which was supported by industry and Member States on 20 February 2013 at a High Level event. Representatives from the European Parliament were also involved in the process.
The new initiative which is being presented now to Ministers focuses on key policy areas, namely a renewed impetus given to green innovation in the sector and the tapping of new emerging markets. To this end LeaderSHIP 2020 will draw from an enlarged range of stakeholders and should optimise the use of financing options, as well as public-private partnerships. Finally, important additions to the new strategy will be the focus on employment and skills and on the potential of smart specialisation of some coastal regions for the Maritime Technology Industry, which should facilitate the greater use of Structural Funds 2014-2020 for maritime industries.
The European ships and maritime equipment industry employs more than 500 000 people and has an average annual turnover of around €72 billion but faces strong competition, and, like many other industries, the effects of an unprecedented crisis (see MEMO/13/116).
In the current difficult climate, the importance of sustaining a strong real economy is more important than ever. In this context, the Competitiveness Council will discuss the implementation of the Commission’s renewed industrial policy both during a working lunch and in a formal discussion.
On this occasion, Vice-President Tajani will present the first main results of the implementation of the Commission’s October 2012 Communication on Industrial Policy and its planned future actions, while calling on the Competitiveness Council to play an active role in support of its priorities.
This discussion is also expected to provide an opportunity to summarise the recent discussions held in Dublin at the Informal Council on entrepreneurship, access to finance and internationalisation of SMEs. Vice-President Tajani will also present the Commission Communication on Trade Defence Instruments adopted on 10 April 2013 (see IP/12/1085). This initiative is designed to improve such instruments for all stakeholders, both producers and importers, favouring a pragmatic and balanced approach.
European Space Industrial policy
Last February, the Commission adopted a Communication setting out a European space policy (see IP/13/172 and MEMO/13/146) designed to unleash the full growth potential of businesses operating in the sector.
The Competitiveness Council will adopt formal conclusions welcoming the Communication as a useful basis for discussion and acknowledging the importance of the objectives identified by the Commission. These include the setting up of a coherent regulatory framework, the development of a strong industrial basis, support to the global competitiveness of the European space industry, the development of a thriving market for space applications and services, as well as guaranteeing Europe’s technological non-dependence and independent access to space.
On this occasion, Vice-President Tajani will welcome the broad general support of the Council to the strategy set out by the Commission, while requesting stronger support from Member States for the implementation work to follow.
Space Surveillance and Tracking Support Programme (SST)
On 28 February, the Commission adopted a proposal establishing a programme to support the establishment of a Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) service at European level (see IP/13/172 and MEMO/13/149). The purpose of the service is to provide alerts aimed at reducing the risk of collision between spacecraft and between spacecraft and debris as well as the risks linked to uncontrolled re-entry of non-operational spacecraft or large debris. An EU initiative to support the setting up of an SST service at European level is a long-standing request of Member States.
The Commission's proposal aims to encourage Member States with relevant space surveillance means to work together and pool those means in order to provide the EU with space surveillance and tracking services.
Vice-President Tajani will welcome the Presidency’s work and progress report on the legislative examination of the Commission’s proposal and encourage the Competitiveness Council to proceed to a swift adoption of this crucial programme.
Copernicus, previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), is the European Programme for the establishment of a European capacity for Earth Observation.
Last February, the European Council proposed to finance Copernicus within the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and allocated within the MFF a maximum of €3 786 billion to the Programme.
In this context, Vice-President Tajani will present to the Competitiveness Council the proposal for the Copernicus Programme regulation that will be adopted on 29 May, stressing the importance of the initiative for protecting the European environment and for the safety of European citizens, while creating opportunities for growth and employment. As such, Vice-President Tajani will stress to the Competitiveness Council the urgency of adopting the regulation and of making the Programme operational.
On 14 November 2012, the Commission adopted a Communication on “Establishing appropriate relations between the EU and the European Space Agency (ESA)” setting out its vision for the framework of the future relations between the European Union and ESA.
As a follow-up to the Conclusions adopted by the Council 19 February last on the subject, Vice-President Tajani will provide a short update of the work done since in this respect by the Commission and its current thinking on how to move forward.
State aid Modernisation (SAM)
On 8 May 2012, the Commission adopted a Communication on State Aid Modernisation (IP/12/458). In December 2012, the Commission presented two proposals for the reforms of Enabling and Procedural Regulations (IP/12/1316) which are cornerstones of the Modernisation and which will contribute to all its key objectives of boosting economic growth, simplification and enforcement focus on cases with the biggest impact on t he internal market.
Ministers will discuss the two Commission proposals on the basis of compromise texts prepared by the Irish Presidency. The Competitiveness Council is invited to adopt a General Approach on both Procedural and Enabling Regulations at its meeting on 29 May. Vice-President Almunia will present the main elements of the reform and highlight that the Presidency compromise texts are a well-balanced package. Therefore, he will urge Ministers to swiftly adopt the new rules so that the EU can rapidly implement these parts of Modernisation.
With the reform of the Enabling Regulation, the Commission asks Council to allow the exemption of new state aid categories so that Member States will be able to implement more growth-enhancing measures without administrative burden. The reform of the Procedural Regulation shall improve the handling of complaints, codify cooperation with national courts and allow the gathering of information directly from market participants and the conduct of sector inquiries. This will allow the Commission to concentrate its resources on the most important and distortive cases and to adopt faster and better-motivated decisions.
Thursday, 30 May
RESEARCH AND INNOVATION
The Council will address two key pieces of legislation for Horizon 2020, the European Union's next funding programme for research and innovation: the Regulation establishing Horizon 2020 for the period 2014-2020 and the Regulation laying down the detailed rules for participants' participation. The Presidency will brief Ministers on the state of play of the negotiations with the European Parliament. Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will emphasise the need for the Council and Parliament to reach an agreement as quickly as possible on the Horizon 2020 package, so as to enable a smooth start of the programme. She will also emphasise simplification as one of the key features of the new programme, and in particular the simplified funding model.
The Irish Presidency will also brief ministers on the state of negotiations on the next Euratom programme (2014-18) on nuclear research and training.
European Research Area
European Union Member States have set a 2014 target for completing the European Research Area. On the basis of a review of the European Research Area Committee (ERAC), the Irish Presidency has proposed a resolution on advisory work linked to ERA. The resolution underlines the need for ERAC and other groups to co-ordinate their contributions to the implementation of ERA and to monitor progress, as well as to increase focus on research-led innovation aspects in the context of Europe 2020 and the Innovation Union.
Following a Presidency conference and expert group report on the state of the ten Joint Programming initiatives (JPIs) launched since 2009, Ministers will also hold a policy debate on how to speed up their implementation. Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will emphasise that efforts should be concentrated on aligning national research activities to the agreed research agendas. Moving towards greater trans-national cooperation in setting and implementing research agendas is one of the key goals of the drive to complete the European Research Area.
In December 2012, Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn presented to the Council the Communication 'Enhancing and focusing EU international cooperation in research and innovation: a strategic approach'. The Communication proposed a new strategy for developing the Union's international cooperation actions in research and innovation, in particular with a view to preparing for Horizon 2020. The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on the strategy. In her intervention, Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will welcome the Council’s support for international cooperation in general, and the strategic approach proposed by the Commission in particular, and will provide indications on how the Commission plans to take the strategy forward.
European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)
The Council is expected to present the state of play of the negotiations on the EIT. Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou will stress the importance of the EIT for the creation of innovation, growth and jobs in Europe and welcome the progress that has been made on the Strategic Innovation Agenda and the amended regulation preparing the EIT's expansion. As part of its Horizon 2020 proposal, the Commission envisages to strengthen the dissemination and outreach role of the EIT as well as consolidate and expand its KICs (see IP/11/1479 and MEMO/12/839).
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 each bring together more than 100 partners from across Europe. To date, three KICs have been created, focusing on climate change (Climate KIC), Information and Communication Technologies (EIT ICT Labs) and sustainable energy (KIC InnoEnergy).
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions
The Council is expected to receive a state of play on the negotiations on the Commission proposal for Horizon 2020 which includes the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). Both the European Parliament and Member States have indicated their willingness to increase the budget of the MSCA during the current negotiations. The MSCA will train the next generation of researchers in Europe and support researchers at all stages of their careers, in all fields and of any nationality. The programme will fund industrial doctorates and other innovative research training that enhances employability, including outside academia.
Since their creation in 1996 the MSCA have supported around 60 000 researchers, becoming a well-established EU programme appreciated by the research community.
The MSCA are expected to become the main programme at EU level for the training of PhD candidates. There will be special measures to support industrial doctorates or joint doctoral degree programmes. Experienced researchers will be encouraged to spend time outside academia during their fellowships. The MSCA will also support exchanges of research and innovation staff across Europe within partnerships that include both academia and other organisations, as well as exchanges around the world to strengthen international cooperation in research and innovation. Under the COFUND scheme, the Commission tops up regional, national and international programmes for research training by up to 40% of the total funding. This mechanism will also be extended to early-stage researchers and boost the synergies with the EU Structural and Investment Funds.
High Performance Computing
Ministers will discuss with Vice President Neelie Kroes the Commission's Communication from February 2012 on High Performance Computing (IP/12/139) with a view to adopting conclusions. The Communication highlighted the importance of HPC in European innovation and called for renewed joint efforts between Member States, industry and the scientific community to position Europe at the forefront for the supply and use of HPC systems by 2020. Most industrial companies using HPC consider it indispensable for their ability to innovate, compete and survive. Examples of European super computers include the CURIE system in France and the HERMIT and JUGENE systems in Germany.