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The Council will meet on Tuesday 4 February at midday. At the
level of principles the ministers appear to be prepared to push
forward, but whenever they come down to technical details minor
problems take on enormous proportions and deadlocks follow in
rapid succession. The following points are on the agenda.
1. Review of work on completing the internal market
The Dutch presidency, which has doubled the frequency of
Council meetings on the internal market, is proposing that from
now on each meeting should review the work in hand aimed at
achieving the objectives set out in the Commission White
Paper. It should be borne in mind that the joint programme of
the Dutch and UK presidencies calls for the adoption of
95 decisions of thus kind. The meeting will certainly have to
note delays in the work of all the institutions. Some of the
Commission proposals awaited are late, essentially because of a
shortage of staff in key departments of the Commission. In the
Council the handling of the tax proposals in the White Paper
has been very slow; there is a lack of coordination between the
different Council meetings considering proposals of importance
to the internal market (for example, plant health, veterinary
aspects and food legislation are handled by meetings of
agriculture ministers); and there are shortcomings in the
working parties of experts preparing the items which go before
the Council meetings proper. The Commission expects  decision-
mailing in the Council to become easier once the  institutional
reforms adopted by the Intergovernmental  Conference have been
ratified. It is therefore recommending  that the proceedings
should be conducted in the "Luxembourg  spirit" straightaway.
The Parliamentary bodies too have still  to be mobilized so
that Parliamentary opinions on individual  proposals can be
delivered more promptly, although the  Commission is very happy
with the support Parliament has been  giving to the principles
it has outlined.
2. Community patent
The Luxembourg Conference on the Community Patent, which was
called following a decision of the Council meeting on the
internal market held on 7 October 1985, completed its work on
18 December 1985. Its purpose was to allow the 1975 Community
Patent Convention to operate in a limited number of Member
States (the seven States whicch have ratified it - the text of
the Convention stipulates that all the States which have signed
it must ratify it before it enters into force), and to agree on
a judicial machinery for the settlement of disputes.
         
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The Luxembourg Conference recommended that a Common Appeal
Court be set up, which would refer questions to the Court of
Justice of the European Comunities where there was a danger of
a conflict of interpretation. Thus seven-country entry into
force is being held up by those who are reluctant to endorse
the principle of "variable geometry", and by the new Member
States.
It is not expected that there will be any discussion of the
substance at this meeting, but procedural steps may be mapped
out.
3. Abolition of certain postal charges for customs
presentation
This question, which is of immediate interest to the public,
faces opposition on the part of half the Member States, who
feel that these small charges correspond to a real service
supplied by post offices.
The Commission proposal is based on Article 235, and needs an
unanimous vote for its adoption.

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