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Brussels, 24 September 2014
Competitiveness Council – 25-26 September
On 25 September, Sandro Gozi, Italian Secretary of State for European Policy will chair the Council for the industry and internal market points. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Michel Barnier responsible for Internal Market and Services; Commissioner Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship; and Commissioner Neven Mimica, Commissioner for Consumer Policy. On 26 September, Stefania Giannini, Italian Minister for Research, will chair the Council for the research points and the Commission will be represented by Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, responsible for Research, Innovation and Science and Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda.
Thursday, 25 September
Mainstreaming industrial competitiveness
While Europe is showing signs of recovery, the economy is still fragile and struggling to get itself back on track for growth. Decisive action needs to be taken to recover investment levels notably in the industrial sector. Our industry needs to address challenges to remain globally competitive and provide a pull to the rest of the economy.
Commissioner Nelli Feroci will present the yearly Commission reports on the competitiveness of the EU and the Members States. These reports show that actions are needed on many fronts including in finance, skills, internal market, and support to SMEs. Ministers are expected to discuss how to strengthen the mainstreaming of industrial competitiveness in overall policies at both European and national level.
The Competitiveness Council is expected to send a strong message to the new Commission by adopting a set of Conclusions on the mainstreaming of industrial competitiveness, which strongly emphasise the importance of maintaining a vigorous and competitive real economy and express the political will to restore the proper place of industrial policy among the other EU policies.
INDUSTRY AND INTERNAL MARKET
Europe 2020 strategy: mid-term review
The Council will discuss the mid-term review of the EU's economic growth programme. Early in 2010, the Commission proposed the Europe 2020 strategy which was launched as the EU’s strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (IP/10/225). The aim was to improve the EU's competitiveness while maintaining its social market economy model and improving significantly its resource efficiency. When it was launched, the Europe 2020 strategy was a front runner in advocating a growth model going beyond simply increasing GDP.
On 5 March 2014, the Commission adopted the Communication 'Taking stock of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth', followed by a discussion on the implementation of the strategy at the European Council of 20-21 March 2014 (MEMO/14/149). Building on this Communication, on 5 May 2014 the Commission launched a public consultation on the Europe 2020 strategy until 31 October 2014, inviting all interested parties to contribute their views (IP/14/504). The Commission will then analyse the responses and put forward proposals for the pursuit of the strategy which will be discussed at next year’s Spring European Council.
During the policy debate, Vice-President Barnier will stress the importance of the review. He will suggest that focus could shift further from crisis management to mid- and long-term policies and reforms. He will also point out that there is a need to build on the existing work and continue to fully exploit the potential of the EU Single Market in all its dimensions, as initiated by the Single Market Acts I and II.
Commissioner Nelli Feroci will stress that the Europe 2020 Strategy and the European Semester have been useful instruments to coordinate the efforts of all Member States on the same common objectives. He will stress how microeconomic reforms under the Country Specific Recommendations are contributing to create a good base for a better business environment in Europe.
Report from the Commission on “A New Deal for European Defence”
Vice-President Barnier and Commissioner Nelli Feroci will present the Commission's Implementation Roadmap: A New Deal for European Defence, adopted on 24 June 2014 (IP/14/718). The roadmap is the follow-up to the Commission's Communication on defence adopted in July 2013 and the conclusions of the European Council. It sets out how the Commission plans to implement measures to strengthen the Single Market for defence, to promote a more competitive defence industry and to foster synergies between civil and military research.
Vice-President Barnier and Commissioner Nelli Feroci will stress that defence should remain a priority on the EU agenda due to increasing instability, especially in the EU neighbourhood, and constant budget cuts in EU Member States. They will give details about the priorities and the timetable set up by the Roadmap in order to deliver concrete outcomes to the European Council in June 2015.
Implementation of the Patent Package
The Council will hear a presentation on the implementation of the so-called 'patent package', which creates, alongside the current system of 'European patents' having to be validated in each Member State, a new unitary title (European patent with unitary effect – 'Unitary Patent', or 'UP') producing effects directly in all the (presently 25) Member States participating in the enhanced cooperation that made the adoption of the package possible. The package also creates a new single jurisdiction common to all signatories of the corresponding international agreement (the 'Unified Patent Court' (UPC) Agreement), that will have exclusive competence on all European patents (both 'classical' and 'unitary'). The patent package will considerably simplify both the acquisition and protection of patents in Europe, leading to a very significant decrease in the cost of managing and protecting intellectual property portfolios in the EU.
Vice-President Barnier will call for the preparatory work to be completed as rapidly as possible, so that the EU can demonstrate its ability to deliver concrete and decisive progress in its quest for greater competitiveness and knowledge-based growth. By considerably reducing the cost of protecting innovation, the Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court will foster investment, growth and jobs.
The Council will have a discussion around potential action at EU level in the context of extending geographic indication protection to non-agricultural products.
The Commission is currently analysing the merits of extending EU-wide geographical indication protection to non-agricultural (industrial) products. A Green Paper “Making the most out of Europe's traditional know-how: towards the extension of geographical indication protection to non-agricultural products” was published on 15 July 2014 (IP/14/832). The ongoing public consultation will run until 28 October 2014. Its results will be published at the beginning of 2015. The Commission will use the results to decide on appropriate steps forward in this field.
Vice-President Barnier will note that geographical indications ensure fair competition for producers and provide protection against misuse of the indicated name by illegitimate producers. Geographic indication protection can contribute to preserving existing jobs, especially in remote areas. Thus, such a protection would support the economic and social development of European regions, benefiting society as a whole.
Commissioner Mimica will present the main points of the European Commission report on the functioning of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation and share his view on how to ensure successful enforcement of consumer rights at times when more and more businesses operate across borders. Enforcement remains in the hands of the Member States, but it is clear that the European Union needs a framework for tackling more effectively widespread infringements concerning several or all EU countries at the same time. In this context, it is necessary to carefully reflect on the tools that would enable better cooperation amongst national authorities, and on the role of the Commission.
The European Commission published the report on the functioning of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004) on 1 July 2014. The Regulation sets up a network bringing together the national authorities in charge of European consumer rules enforcement and the European Commission and enables them to work together on cross-border infringements. The report follows an external evaluation carried out in 2012 and a public consultation conducted in 2013-2014. It summarises the tangible results of the good cooperation between national authorities and the European Commission so far and outlines the challenges ahead.
Friday, 26 September
Europe 2020 strategy: Mid-term review - Research and Innovation as sources of renewed growth
The Council will hold a debate in the context of the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 Strategy and of the Commission Communication on Research and Innovation as renewed sources of growth, published on 10 June 2014. This Communication highlights the importance of investing in research and innovation in order to allow Europe to capture new growth opportunities. It also states that the quality of such investment must increase to get the most value for every euro invested. The Communication therefore calls for far-reaching priority reforms in order to increase the quality of national strategies, programmes and institutions.
The debate is expected to feed into Conclusions on this Communication that the Presidency plans to put forward for adoption to the December Competitiveness Council. It should also support the ongoing mid-term Review of the Europe 2020 Strategy and its flagship initiatives including the Innovation Union.
Second progress report on the European Research Area
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will present the Council with the key findings of the second progress report on the European Research Area (ERA), where researchers and scientific knowledge can circulate freely. The report finds that the partnership between Member States, research stakeholders and the Commission has made good progress in delivering ERA, and that the conditions for achieving it are in place at the European level. Reforms must now be implemented at the Member State level to make ERA work. At the same time, the report concludes that the "single market for research" has already proven to be good for performance of Member States and research institutions.
The report was published on 16 September 2014 and presents individual country reports that give a snapshot of implementation on the ground, notably at the level of research organisations.
Member States are due to put forward 'ERA Roadmaps' by mid-2015, which will outline their next steps towards ERA implementation. The Commission, research stakeholder organisations and Member States will meet in Brussels in March 2015 to take stock.
During lunch, the Presidency will lead an informal, follow-up discussion on closer research cooperation in the Mediterranean area.
Vice President Kroes will present the Big Data Communication to the Council. In October 2013, the European Council recognised the socio-economic potential of 'Big Data' and 'data-driven innovation' as key enablers for productivity and better services in Europe. As a response, on 2 July 2014, the Commission adopted the Communication "Towards a thriving data-driven economy" aiming at putting Europe at the forefront of the global data revolution. As a next step, the Commission seeks to launch a debate with the Parliament, Council and all key stakeholders on a more detailed EU action plan to complement and implement the strategy. The Commission aims to report back to the European Council on the initiatives taken in the field of big data and the data-driven economy in Spring 2015.