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European Commission

Press Memo

Competitiveness Council

Brussels, 23 May 2014

Competitiveness Council – 26 May 2014

The second meeting of the EU's Council of Ministers under the mandate of the Greek EU Presidency will take place in Brussels on 26 May 2014.

Kostas Hatzidakis, Minister for Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, will chair the Council for the industry and internal market points. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship; Vice-President Joaquín Almunia, Commissioner for Competition; Commissioner Michel Barnier responsible for Internal Market and Services and Commissioner Karel De Gucht, responsible for Trade.

In the afternoon, Christos Vasilakos, Secretary General for Research and Technology at the Ministry for Education and Research, will chair the Council for the research and space points. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship and Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, responsible for Research and Innovation.


eCall: automated emergency call for road accidents mandatory in cars and vans

The Council is expected to adopt a general approach on a Regulation requiring the mandatory equipment of all new models of passenger cars and light commercial vehicles with the eCall in-vehicle system. The e-call system aims at mitigating the consequences of serious road accidents across the EU by reducing the time it takes for emergency services to locate accidents.

The "eCall" system automatically dials 112 - Europe's single emergency number - in the event of a serious accident and communicates the vehicle's location to emergency services, even if the driver is unconscious or unable to make a phone call. This allows emergency services to provide assistance to vehicle drivers and passengers more quickly and as a consequence will help to save lives and to treat injuries rapidly. The system also helps reducing secondary accidents caused by unsecured accident sites. It is estimated that eCall can speed up emergency response times by 40% in urban areas and 50% in the countryside, and save up to 2500 lives a year (MEMO/13/547). In addition to the road safety benefits, eCall can also have a significant impact on reducing the congestion caused by traffic accidents. The eCall system remains dormant and is activated only in case of accident. When it is dormant, it does not allow cars to be located.

The European Parliament supported the introduction of the eCall system in the vehicle type-approval legislation and adopted its position on the proposal on 26 February 2014. After receiving a mandate by the Council, the Presidency is expected to start negotiations with the European Parliament as soon as possible with a view to reach an early second reading agreement.

More information on eCall:

Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) – state of play

Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) are the indispensable technological bricks which drive innovation in many traditional and newly emerging sectors and provide a major source of employment in Europe. EU is a global leader in the development of KETs, however, it has difficulty to translate its knowledge base into goods and services. KETs are one of the priorities in the Commission's re-industrialization strategy, as highlighted by the recent Communication for a European Industrial Renaissance.

The EU strategy for KETs aims to close the innovation gap in KETs and to reverse the trend of deindustrialisation, to accelerate the rate of transfer, use and exploitation of KETs in the EU in order to stimulate growth and jobs.

The European Council in its conclusions of 20/21 March 2014 underlined the crucial importance of KETs for Europe’s industrial competitiveness and called to strengthen KETs of high industrial interest such as batteries for electro-mobility, intelligent materials, high performance production and industrial bioprocesses by swiftly identifying projects of European interest. This could be done by creating Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI). The IPCEI Communication, which will soon be adopted by the Commission in the context of the modernisation of State Aids, highlights the importance of this instrument for KETs.

Vice-President Tajani will inform Ministers about on-going implementation of the KETs strategy. A significant progress has been made in adapting and aligning different European instruments in support of KETs deployment (in particular H2020, Structural Funds, EIB) and work is also ongoing in support of SME’s specific needs as well as regarding the promotion of the required industrial skills. Vice-President Tajani will also underline that implementation of the European Council Conclusions and of the EU strategy for KETs will require strengthened cooperation between the different industries, large Companies and SMEs, and the stakeholders involved.

More information on KETs:

Revision of the EU list of Critical Raw Materials, and way forward on the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials

Securing the supply of raw materials is key to the competitiveness of Europe’s companies. This is why the Raw Materials Initiative was adopted in 2008, later renewed in 2011. Vice-President Tajani will inform the Council on a significant progress made in implementing this initiative.

Vice-President Tajani will also present a new list of critical raw materials for the EU which will be adopted by the Commission on the same day. Two main parameters are taken into account to measure whether a raw material is critical or not: its economic importance and the risk of supply. 20 raw materials are now considered critical by the EU. The 2014 critical raw materials list includes 13 of the 14 materials identified in the previous list of 2011, with only tantalum moving out of the list (thanks to a lower supply risk). Six new materials are included: borates, chromium, coking coal, magnesite, phosphate rock and silicon metal. The purpose of the list is to contribute to the implementation of the EU industrial policy and to ensure that European industrial competitiveness is strengthened. It should also help to incentivise the European production of critical raw materials and facilitate the launching of new mining activities. Furthermore, the list is being used to help prioritise needs and actions. For example, it serves as a supporting element when negotiating trade agreements, challenging trade distortion measures or promoting research and innovation. The new report also contains recommendations for the next exercise which is planned in 2016.

Significant progress has also been made on the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials. The High Level Steering Group of the Partnership adopted an ambitious Strategic Implementation Plan, which proposes a series of concrete actions, both technological and non-technological, and in the international cooperation field. More than 800 partners from all over Europe have recently committed to implement it, in the framework of 80 “Raw Materials Commitments”, recognised by the High Level Steering Group. In the coming years, the European Innovation Partnership and the Horizon 2020 programme are expected to drive progress in a wide range of areas. The Commission will produce a Communication on the EIP to explain how the Commission itself (represented by three Commissioners for Enterprise and Industry, for the Environment and for Research and Innovation), the Member States, industry, academia and NGOs intend to work together to put the Strategic Implementation Plan into practice.

More information on raw materials:

Towards a shared EU-ESA vision for space fostering competitiveness

The Council will adopt conclusions on the future of EU-ESA relations, as a follow-up to the Commission’s progress report from February this year (COM(2014)56). The conclusions confirm the importance and need for establishing appropriate, stable and transparent relations between the two organisations in order to maximise the impact of European investments in space, and make the best use of competencies available in Europe. The Council is expected to welcome the Commission’s intention to perform an impact assessment on a range of options for the evolution of the EU-ESA relations – among which a revision of the 2004 EU/ESA framework agreement or the creation of an “EU pillar” within ESA – before presenting any future proposals. According to the Council, this assessment should be done in cooperation with the Director General of ESA and should take into account, among other aspects, possible impacts on the industrial landscape and competitiveness of the European space industry. The Council further stresses the importance of having a long-term European vision and strategy for all major space activities in Europe (at national and European level) as a tool to achieve optimisation of public resources and skills and implement an efficient and effective European space policy.

More information on EU-ESA:

Sentinel 1A: the first images of the first ever Copernicus satellite

Vice President Tajani will inform Ministers about the first ever Copernicus satellite (Sentinel-1A) which was successfully launched from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on 3 April 2014 (IP/14/357). Two days after launch, Sentinel-1A has passed its initial instrument checks and technical verifications of the ground segment. The first raw image taken by the radar instrument of the satellite reached the Svalbard ground station in Norway on Sunday 6 April. The first data were then transmitted to southern Italy's Matera ground station, before being automatically sent to the processing and archiving centre in Farnborough, United Kingdom, both part of the Copernicus Space Component ground segment. This demonstrated that the full chain of the instrument, from commanding to the generation of the final data by the ground segment, is functioning well. This result was reached at world record speed, only 2.5 days after the launch of the satellite.

The satellite is not yet in its operational orbit, nor is it calibrated for supplying true data. These tasks will be carried out during the commissioning phase, which will take about three months to complete. According to the Copernicus data policy, Sentinel-1A data will then be made publicly available. The preliminary images released by ESA since 16 April already demonstrate though the societal and economic benefits that will be gained (IP/14/541).

Thanks to its radar equipment, and unlike many other observation satellites, Sentinel-1A will operate day and night, see through rain and clouds, sweeping in a systematic way the whole globe (i.e. the same area will be covered every 12 days). It will image landmasses, coastal zones and shipping routes at high resolution. It will monitor sea ice and the arctic environment; survey marine oil-spills; and detect ships in coastal zones for maritime security. It will also spur the growth of the observation service industry, contribute to climate monitoring, as well as provide support in emergency and crisis situations.

Sentinel-1A was built by an industrial consortium led by Thales Alenia Space Italy as Prime Contractor. Astrium was responsible for the construction of the radar equipment. Arianespace was contracted to launch the spacecraft.

More information:


Trade mark package

The Council will discuss progress on the review of the European trade mark system. On 27 March 2013, the European Commission presented a package of initiatives to make trade mark registration systems all over the European Union cheaper, quicker, more reliable and predictable (IP/13/287). The aim of the reform is to make it easier for businesses to be innovative and to benefit from more effective trade mark protection against counterfeits, including fake goods in transit through the EU's territory.

As regards fees, the Commission proposed a principle of "one-class-per-fee" that applies both for Community trade mark applications and for national trade mark applications. This should enable any business – particularly SMEs – to apply for trade mark protection according to their actual business needs, at a cost that covers those individual needs only. Consequently at EU level, businesses should be able to pay substantially less when seeking to obtain protection for one class of product only.

Commissioner Barnier will stress the importance of the trade mark package as a key element of the Union's strategy on competitiveness and encourage Member States to further pursue their efforts to conclude the first reading of the trade mark package in the Council.

More information:

'Trade Secrets' Directive

The Council will also discuss the so-called Trade Secrets Directive. On 28 November 2013, the European Commission proposed new rules on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure (IP/13/1176). They include the introduction of a common definition of trade secrets, as well as means through which victims of trade secret misappropriation can obtain redress. The draft Directive would make it easier for national courts to deal with the misappropriation of confidential business information, to remove the trade secret infringing products from the market and make it easier for victims to receive damages for illegal actions.

Trade secrets are used by companies of all sizes in all economic sectors to protect a wide range of different information. They are particularly important for smaller businesses that lack the human and financial resources to seek out, manage and enforce a large portfolio of Intellectual Property Rights.

Commissioner Barnier will congratulate the Greek Presidency for its excellent work on reaching agreement on a Council general approach on this dossier. The Commissioner is also expected to emphasise the importance of the initiative for innovation and growth and highlight the need to achieve a balanced approach.

More information:

Unitary patent and UPC

The Commission will present an information point on the progress concerning the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court (UPC). The EU Regulations creating the Unitary Patent were adopted in December 2013, but their entry into application is dependent on the ratification of the UPC Agreement by a sufficient number of Member States (13 Member States, including France, Germany and the UK). To date, Austria, Belgium, France and Malta have ratified the UPC Agreement. On 25 May, Denmark will hold a referendum on the issue. In parallel, technical implementation work by the relevant committees of the Member States is taking place. While the March European Council called for a rapid ratification of the UPC Agreement and the carrying out of the necessary legal and administrative arrangements so that the Unitary Patent regime can enter into force by the end of 2014, the ratification progress and the pace of the technical implementation remains too slow.

Commissioner Barnier will recall the importance of the Unitary Patent and the UPC for the competitiveness of Europe and encourage Member States to ratify the UPC Agreement and finalise the technical implementation without delay. The Commissioner is also expected to propose holding an in-depth debate on the state of implementation at the Competitiveness Council in September.

More information:


Research Infrastructures

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on the prioritisation of research infrastructure projects included in the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). The prioritisation has been carried out by ESFRI in response to Council conclusions on the European Research Area adopted in December 2012. The Council is expected to welcome ESFRI's contribution, and to endorse the outcome of the prioritisation. Member States are expected to confirm their commitment to focus available national resources on the respective priority projects they are financially participating in.

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will welcome the work of ESFRI and the Council conclusions and highlight the importance of world-class research infrastructures that are openly accessible to European researchers. She will underline the Commission’s willingness to support the priority projects by providing exceptional financial support through the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2014-2015 in complementarity to the Member States’ funding. She will also welcome ESFRI's planned update of the roadmap.

Mediterranean Cooperation

The Presidency will lead a follow up discussion to a debate on closer research cooperation in the Mediterranean area held at the 13 May informal Competitiveness Council. Several Member States support a move towards long-term, structured cooperation on the basis of Article 185 of the EU treaty. Member States will be asked whether they support the idea of such an initiative.

European Innovation Partnerships

Since 2011, five European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs) have been launched to accelerate research, development and market deployment of innovations to tackle major societal challenges, pool expertise and resources and boost the competitiveness of EU industry.

The Commission committed from the outset to assess progress and evaluate the overall performance of the EIPs in 2013. To this end, it set up an independent expert group under the chairmanship of Mr Esko Aho, which issued a report in February.

The Presidency will report on an exchange of views on the EIP evaluation held at the 13 May informal Competitiveness Council. Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will welcome the main conclusions of the expert group and provide information on the progress of the EIPs.

Public Sector Innovation

Fostering innovation in the public sector can have a significant impact on the economy.

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will inform on progress made in the follow-up and implementation of the recommendations of the expert group on public sector innovation, as welcomed by Ministers during the discussion at the 3 December Competitiveness Council.

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