2255th Council meeting- CONSUMER AFFAIRS -Luxembourg, 13 April 2000
European Council - PRES/00/108 17/04/2000
Luxembourg, 13 April 20007707/00 (Presse 108)
2255th Council meeting- CONSUMER AFFAIRS -Luxembourg, 13 April 2000
President : Mr Armando VARA
Minister attached to the Prime Minister of the Portuguese Republic
IVOPEN DEBATE ON OVER-INDEBTEDNESS PAGEREF _Toc480351576 \h VIIMPLEMENTATION OF CONSUMER LEGISLATION PAGEREF _Toc480351577 \h VI?DIRECTIVES ON TIME-SHARING AND PACKAGE HOLIDAYS - COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS PAGEREF _Toc480351578 \h VI?CONSUMER COMPLAINTS REGARDING DISTANCE SELLING AND COMPARATIVE ADVERTISING PAGEREF _Toc480351579 \h VIIIDISTANCE MARKETING OF CONSUMER FINANCIAL SERVICES PAGEREF _Toc480351580 \h IXWHITE PAPER ON FOOD SAFETY PAGEREF _Toc480351581 \h IXINTEGRATION OF CONSUMER PROTECTION REQUIREMENTS INTO OTHER POLICIES PAGEREF _Toc480351582 \h XPRODUCT SAFETY PAGEREF _Toc480351583 \h XPROMOTING CONSUMER CONFIDENCE ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE PAGEREF _Toc480351584 \h XSEMINAR ON ECONOMIC GLOBALISATION PAGEREF _Toc480351585 \h XIITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATEEXTERNAL RELATIONS PAGEREF _Toc480351586 \h XI--Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons PAGEREF _Toc480351587 \h XI--Relation with the Swiss Confederation PAGEREF _Toc480351588 \h XI--Palestinian Authority PAGEREF _Toc480351589 \h XIIINTERNAL MARKET PAGEREF _Toc480351590 \h XII--Directive on tyre noise of motor vehicles PAGEREF _Toc480351591 \h XII--Autonomous tariff quota for ferro-chrome PAGEREF _Toc480351592 \h XIILAND TRANSPORT PAGEREF _Toc480351593 \h XII--Roadside inspections of commercial vehicles PAGEREF _Toc480351594 \h XIIENVIRONMENT PAGEREF _Toc480351595 \h XIII--Transfrontier movements of wastes PAGEREF _Toc480351596 \h XIIICOURT OF JUSTICE PAGEREF _Toc480351597 \h XIII--Rules of procedure PAGEREF _Toc480351598 \h XIII
For further information call 285 78 33, 285 81 11
The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
The Council adopted a Resolution (reproduced below) on out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes. Delegations and the Commission stressed the importance of the out-of-court bodies which will enable consumers to settle disputes in simplified, efficient way and at low cost. Consumer confidence in the functioning of the internal market will be enhanced allowing further development of e-commerce to take place.
NOTES the rapid development of new forms of marketing of goods and services, in particular through e-commerce, and thereby also an increase in cross-border consumer transactions which will be further enhanced through the introduction of the Euro;
REAFFIRMS its concern as regards strengthening consumers' confidence in the functioning of the internal market and their capacity to take full advantage of the opportunities its offers; (1)
CONSIDERS that, to this end, in addition to improved access to justice, as also foreseen by the Tampere European Council on 15/16 October 1999, the development of practical, efficient and inexpensive procedures for the extra-judicial settlement of consumer disputes should be promoted at national and, in an appropriate form, at Community level;
UNDERLINES that any initiative should be based on voluntary participation; not deprive the consumer of his right of access to the courts as acknowledged in Article 6(1) of the European Human Rights Convention; not prejudice any other means of administrative or judicial redress; fully take account of national legal provisions, tradition and practice, as well as of the Convention of 27 September 1968 on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgements in Civil and Commercial Matters and should not prejudge the on-going discussion on the draft Council Regulation on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters, as well as on the modification of the Brussels Convention;
RECALLS its conclusions of 25 November 1996 on the Commission action plan on consumer access to justice and the settlement of consumer disputes in the internal market (2), which includes inter alia a reference to the Consumer Claim Form, and its Resolution of 19 January 1999 on the consumer dimension of the information society (3) ;
Notes that the Commission Recommendation 98/257 on the principles applicable to the bodies responsible for out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes (4) is an important contribution to the establishment and development of national bodies;
7. Notes that out-of-court bodies exist in Member States which fall outside the scope of the above recommendation, as they do not formally propose and/or impose a solution, but merely attempt to find a solution by common consent, and which therefore are not expected to apply all the principles established in the recommendation, but which also play a useful role for the consumer;
8. WELCOMES the Commission working document on the creation of a European Extra-Judicial Network (EEJ-Net);
9. Welcomes the Commission's suggestion to include in the EEJ-Net, where appropriate, out-of-court bodies or schemes falling outside the scope of the above Recommendation and suggests that Member States see to it that such bodies or schemes apply all the criteria to be developed as outlined in point 11.5 below;
10. INVITES the Member States to:
(1) encourage the activities of bodies for the out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes, also as regards transborder transactions, and where appropriate, the setting-up of such bodies, on the basis of the above Commission Recommendation;
(2) taking account of paragraph 4 above and in the light of the ongoing discussion among stakeholders, create or designate, in addition, in each Member State a central point (Clearing House) to provide information, guidance, practical support and practical assistance to consumers in order to facilitate their access to the relevant out-of-court bodies or schemes at national level or, where appropriate, in the country of the supplier, as well as to the contact points in other Member States;
(3) encourage cooperation between professional and economic organisations and consumer organisations with a view to:
(4) encourage companies as well as professional and economic organisations to "affiliate" or to associate to out-of-court bodies in Member States where they or their members do business with consumers;
(5) communicate to the Commission, if they have not yet done so, the bodies applying the principles of the above Recommendations as well as, where appropriate, other out-of court bodies or schemes.
11. INVITES the Commission to:
(1) assist Member States, where appropriate, on a technical basis in the promotion of activities of existing out-of-court bodies and in the establishment of new bodies;
(2) take action to facilitate the networking of the national central points to form a Community-wide extra-judicial network designed to facilitate the out-of-court settlement of transborder disputes;
(3) support the above network, in accordance with Decision No 283/1999/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25.1.1999 establishing a general framework for Community activities in favour of consumers, (5) and within the limits of the financial framework determined therein;
(4) support on a technical basis the setting up and co-ordination of national central points, in particular by means of technical devices for on-line communication and translation facilities;
(5) develop in close cooperation with Member States common criteria for the assessment of out-of-court bodies falling outside by the scope of the above Recommendation; these criteria should ensure, inter alia, the quality, fairness and effectiveness of such bodies;
(6) consider also encouraging out-of-court bodies and central points to develop, as far as possible, practical arrangements in favour of the consumer, inter alia, where appropriate, the use of especially where a contract has been concluded at a distance a written or on-line procedure, in particular in transfrontier dispute settlement, so as to avoid the need of travel for the consumer;
12. INVITES Member States to keep the Commission regularly informed of the development of national bodies and central points; INVITES the Commission to report regularly to Council on the development of an EEJ-Net and other more specialised networks established for similar purposes."
OPEN DEBATE ON OVER-INDEBTEDNESS
The Council held a debate, re-transmitted live to the press and the interested public, on the problem of over-indebtedness of consumers. Although to a different degree, over-indebtedness is clearly a growing concern in the Member States. The problem may increase in parallel with the greater transborder availability of credit and purchase of goods and services, particularly through e-commerce.
Ministers concentrated their intervention on analysing the various aspects of the problem, on the national measures already adopted or planned, and on any consumer-related activities that might be useful at Community level.
At the end of the debate, the Presidency noted that a number of Member States have already adopted legal and other solutions like counselling of indebted consumers and that most delegations have a preference for continuing to address this issue at national level. However, Member States agreed that a more complete picture of the situation should be obtained at EU level and that, to this end, exchange of information and experiences would be useful.
IMPLEMENTATION OF CONSUMER LEGISLATION
The Council adopted Conclusions on the implementation of the above-mentioned Directives. Following the adoption, the Commission indicated that it may, on the basis of these conclusions and of comments from other Institutions and stakeholders expected until 30 April 2000, propose amendments to both Directives.
"The Council of the European Union
RECALLS that under Article 153 of the Treaty, the Community shall promote consumer interests and ensure a high level of consumer protection;
STRESSES that Directives 90/314/EEC of 13 June 1990 on package travel, package holidays and package tours and 94/47/EC on the protection of purchasers in respect of certain aspects of contracts relating to the purchase of the right to use immovable properties on a timeshare basis, together with the other legal Community acts adopted to date in the field of consumer policy, mark substantial progress in consumer protection in the Community;
RECALLS the Member States' commitment to ensure an efficient and coherent implementation of Community consumer legislation;
WELCOMES the reports by the Commission on the implementation of Directive 90/314/EEC and Directive 94/47/EC and CONSIDERS that these reports are an important contribution to the transparency, improvement and effective implementation of Community legislation;
UNDERLINES that the Commission has invited the governments of Member States as well as all other interested parties to submit to the Commission their comments on the above reports by 30 April 2000;
CONSIDERS that, in order to help the Commission to draw its conclusions in due course and, where appropriate, to submit proposals amending both Directives, the elements listed hereafter could be usefully taken into consideration.
UNDERLINES that the definitive list of elements will, however, result from the outcome of the abovementioned consultation of Member States and other interested parties;
8.1 NOTES that Directive 90/314/EEC inter alia holds the tour operator or the travel agent liable for complete fulfilment of the contract, enabling the consumer to enter into a contract with a partner in his country of residence who shall be liable for the fulfilment of the said contract, and provides for refunding and/or repatriating the consumer in the case of insolvency or bankruptcy of the operator/agency;
NOTES that a considerable number of provisions of this Directive allow a wide-ranging interpretation, thus leading to different approaches by national law-makers, without prejudice to a correct transposition into national legislation by Member States taking account also of national circumstances;
8.2 NOTES that, to date, the following issues appear to be of particular interest:
the following may need clarification
the scope of the Directive as well as
several concepts used in the Directive, inter alia, "pre-arranged combination" (Article 2(1)), "other than occasionally" (Article 2(2)), "reasonable notice" (Article 4(3)), "limitations ... unreasonable" (Article 5(2)), "appropriate solutions" (Article 6) "price" (Article 3(1), Article 4(5)).
the fact that the Directive, as it stands, does not limit consumer liability in case of withdrawal by the consumer within a reasonable time from the contract, may need to be reconsidered;
in Article 7, the coverage of "sufficient evidence of security" in the case of insolvency or bankruptcy of the operator/agency, namely for refunding and/or repatriating the consumer, is the subject of differing interpretation by Member States;
there is ECCJ case law regarding Article 7 and the Commission should analyse this issue together with Member States;
the Commission should carry on its work undertaken with a view to better protecting the consumer regarding contracts on package travel, in particular by supporting the drawing-up of a code of conduct by the parties concerned in this sector.
9.1 NOTES that Directive 94/47/EC provides in particular for improved prior information of the consumer on the properties in question and a right of withdrawal;
9.2 SHARES the Commission's concern as to persistent and significant conflicts, even after implementation of the Directive, between purchasers/consumers and promoters/vendors regarding the right to use immovable properties on a timeshare basis;
9.3 NOTES that, to date, the following issues appear of particular interest:
the protection provided for by the Directive does not cover all contractual aspects relevant to consumers;
the Directive does not take account of the development of new products in the timeshare market;
the Directive does not cover purchasers' rights to use immovable property on a timeshare basis for less than 3 years, nor does it provide for purchasers who have signed a contract referring to a similar right, with a time span of less than one week;
the time limit for contract rescinding might need to be extended so as to ensure that signing of the contract is preceded by a longer reflection period necessary to check all consequences implied;
warranties incumbent upon the vendor as laid down by the Directive may be insufficient to ensure compliance with all obligations. Therefore, the need for new contractual warranties incumbent upon the vendor should be considered so as to ensure wide-ranging consumer protection."
The Council heard a presentation by Commissioner BYRNE on a report, adopted by his Institution on 10 March 2000, on consumer complaints in respect of distance selling (Directive 97/7/EC) and comparative advertising (Directive 97/55/EC) prepared on the basis of information available to date.
Consumer complaints in the two specific areas of distance selling and comparative advertising are a part of the wider issue of redress means and consumer's access to justice, to which the European institutions have been devoting already some attention.
Although the rules and procedures applicable to redress means are essentially regulated by the legal systems of the Member States, numerous initiatives have so far been developed at the Community level to overcome the obstacles to handling effectively consumer disputes, particularly those involving cross-border transactions. However, distance related costs, delays, legal fees, psychological and formal barriers often conspire to form an insurmountable wall designed to frustrate the legitimate consumers' expectation that their claims be heard and corrective measures be taken.
Taking into account the complementary nature of European consumer policy and the Member States' own policies and the potential created by the new Amsterdam Treaty, the Commission considers that future action should concentrate on removing the obstacles to cross-border complaints and help to establish a regulatory framework capable of addressing them in the present circumstances of the Information Society, notably when they involve contracting with businesses located outside the consumer's country of residence.
Furthermore, given that complaints are an essential input to the enforcement and policy making process, the Commission will also explore the feasibility of a common guidelines for the classification of complaints for all the institutions and administrations involved, for the purpose of facilitating their identification and monitoring.
The President thanked the Commission for the report. Underlining the importance of dealing adequately with consumer complaints, an essential element of any consumer-related policy, he invited the Commission to continue the work as foreseen and keep the Council informed of the developments in this area. The Presidency noted that the setting-up of a Community-wide network of national out-of-court bodies, on which a Resolution was adopted at this session, is a relevant initiative in this field.
DISTANCE MARKETING OF CONSUMER FINANCIAL SERVICES
The Council took note of a Commission intervention on the preparation of an inventory of existing national provisions concerning distance marketing of financial services as regards, in particular, the requirements for prior consumer information. Once completed, this inventory should assist Member States in reaching an agreement on this proposal, as foreseen by the Council Conclusions of the "Internal Market" session of December 1999.
According to the Commission, the inventory will allow to prepare a more precise list of information items to be provided to consumers in the context of the proposal. It will be finalised in short, allowing work on the proposal to resume.
The proposal, intended to supplement general Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts, sets out horizontal rules for distance contracts for financial services. The rules will specifically tackle the risks of distance marketing as a particular sales method, without targeting product-specific rules for individual financial services.
The principles governing distance contracts for financial services include :
- the right of the consumer to receive in advance all contractual terms and conditions including the existence or absence of a right of withdrawal and the length of time during which the contractual terms and conditions offered are valid
- the principles applying for payment of the services already provided in case of withdrawal
- provisions against inertia selling and the principles governing unsolicited communications
- provisions whereby professional and consumer organisations can take legal action to ensure the correct implementation of the directive.
WHITE PAPER ON FOOD SAFETY
The Council held an orientation debate on the Commission's White Paper on food safety confirming that a majority of Member States broadly agree with the principles outlined in the document. The debate focussed in particular on the consumer information aspects of the White Paper addressing questions related to the provision of scientific information to the consumers, the need for information campaigns on nutrition at Community level and on possible Community provisions to regulate claims regarding consumer health protection.
All delegations expressed themselves in favour of public availability of the information related to scientific opinions according to procedures guaranteeing transparency. In addition, a majority have underlined the importance of clarity of the information provided to consumers, certain delegations pointing to the serious consequences that might arise in case of misunderstandings in this field. The role of the proposed Food Safety Authority in this area was highlighted.
In relation to nutritional campaigns Member States felt that initiatives should continue to be taken at national or local level in connection with diversity of consumer habits with complementary action at EU level on questions of general interest.
Finally, most delegations were open to the introduction of EU provisions to regulate functional claims on food, as outlined by the Commission's White Paper. The need to avoid uncertainty of consumers through such claims was stressed by all.
The President thanked Member States for their contributions and noted that the results of the debate will be a useful input in the preparation of the Presidency progress report to be presented at the Feira European Council of 19-20 June 2000.
INTEGRATION OF CONSUMER PROTECTION REQUIREMENTS INTO OTHER POLICIES
With a view to improve the integration of consumer protection requirements into other policies, the Council was informed by the Presidency and by the Commission on the work undertaken in other policy areas where consumer-related issues are involved.
The White Paper on food safety, the proposed Directive on e-commerce, the draft Regulation to incorporate the Brussels' convention into EU legislation, the ongoing revision of the Community Eco-label Award Scheme were given as examples.
The Council noted that, in future, this item will be addressed regularly in the framework of implementing the new article 153 of the Amsterdam treaty, which establishes that "consumer protection requirements shall be taken into account in defining and implementing other Community policies activities".
The Council heard a presentation by the Commission on a proposal adopted on 29 March 2000 to improve product safety and increase consumer protection, revising the Directive on General Product Safety (92/59/EEC). Key elements of the revision are the clarification of the scope of the Directive, an increased transparency, more active market surveillance by national authorities and simpler rules for rapid intervention to remove dangerous products from the market. A new element is the prohibition on the export to third countries of products banned in the EU. The proposal also strengthens the operation of the EU's Rapid Alert System and adds the obligation for producers or distributors to inform the authorities when they conclude that a product that they supply is dangerous.
The Commission proposal will be forwarded to the Council and the European Parliament in the next days.
PROMOTING CONSUMER CONFIDENCE ON ELECTRONIC COMMERCE
The Council was informed by Commissioner BYRNE on action envisaged to foster consumer confidence on e-commerce. Over lunch, Ministers expressed their views on the general approach and supported the Commission on the steps envisaged.
At present, consumers do not entirely trust e-commerce as a transaction medium. This is due to the inherent nature of e-commerce and concerns various elements : the consumer bears all the transaction risk because payment is made before receipt, the e-commerce site is less tangible, there is a security risk of transmitting financial and personal details, there might be concerns over performance of the contract and there is uncertainty about how to complain and seek redress.
According to the Commission, consumer confidence can only increase if the majority of transactions proceed smoothly. This could be ensured by a joint effort between all the stakeholders, around three core-elements:
- fostering best business practices through e.g. trustmarks, codes of conduct and chargebacks,
- the development of alternative out-of-court dispute resolutions and the network to link existing national schemes (see above Resolution on EEJ-Net),
- ensuring a legal safety net using Court as a last resort. The future "Brussels" Regulation will allow consumers to seek redress through the courts in their own Member State.
This balanced approach would minimise regulatory burden on business and encourage the evolution of a single on-line Market :
- Businesses will offer potential customers Europe-wide dispute resolution whilst only having to join an out-of-court dispute resolution body in their country of origin,
- Consumers will be encouraged to shop on-line cross-border, reassured by better service and the "Brussels" Regulation.
SEMINAR ON ECONOMIC GLOBALISATION
Over lunch, Ministers were informed by the Presidency on the preparation of a Seminar on economic globalisation, regulation and self-regulation of the markets from the point of view of consumer protection to be held on 8-9 June 2000 in Ponta Delgada (Azores).
ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE
(Decisions for which statements for the Council minutes have been made available to the public are indicated by asterisks; the statements in question may be obtained from the Press Office.)
Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons
The Council adopted a Common Position relating to the 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
This Common Position has been adopted in view of the 2000 Review Conference which will take place in New York from 24 April to 19 May 2000, and has as its objective to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime by promoting the successful outcome of the Conference.
The present Common Position replaces and repeals Common Position 98/289/CFSP.
Relation with the Swiss Confederation
The Council agreed to send to the European Parliament for assent the consolidated texts of seven sectoral agreements with the Swiss Confederation and to transmit also the draft Decision on the conclusion of those agreements.
It is recalled that on 21 June 1999 the European Community, of the one part, and the Swiss Confederation, of the other part, signed seven sectoral agreements and the final acts relating thereto. The Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons was also signed by the Member States, since it is a mixed agreement. These agreements were negotiated as a package and will therefore also be concluded together and will enter into force on the same date.
The seven agreements cover the following areas :
free movement of persons
mutual recognition in relation to conformity assessment
scientific and technological cooperation
The Council adopted a Joint Action on a European Union assistance programme to support the Palestinian Authority in its efforts to counter terrorist activities emanating from the territories under its control.
This second multi-annual programme, which follows the one established in April 1997 and extended in July 1999, will cover a three year period and will be coordinated, as was the case hitherto, by an "European Union Special Adviser", whose tasks are confirmed by the current Joint Action.
The programme aims to support the Palestinian Authority's efforts to counter terrorist activities emanating from the territories under its control, by improving the organisational and operational capacity of the Palestinian Authority in this area and improving its post incident management response. In wider terms, the programme aims to contribute to sustain the Middle East Peace Process.
Directive on tyre noise of motor vehicles
The Council adopted its Common Position on a Directive amending Directive 92/23/EEC relating to tyres for motor vehicles and their trailers. The common position will be forwarded to the European Parliament for its second reading, in accordance with the provisions for the co-decision procedure of the Treaty.
The aim of this draft directive is to limit the noise generated by tyres, not covered by Directive 92/23/EEC.
Autonomous tariff quota for ferro-chrome
The Council adopted a Regulation amending Regulation N°2505/96 opening and providing for the administration of autonomous Community tariff quotas for certain agricultural and industrial products (ferro-chrome).
This Regulation reduces the quota for ferro-chrome of 1 035 000 tonnes, opened by Regulation (EC) N° 2745/99, covering at present the total need of European processing industries for a duty free supply of ferro-chrome in the year 2000.
Since Regulation (EC) N° 2793/99 on certain procedures for Applying the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of South Africa introduces an additional duty free tariff quota for ferro-chrome originating in South Africa of 515 000 tonnes, with effect from 1 January 2000 and applicable when the agreement with the Republic of South Africa enters into force, the quantity for the autonomous quota is reduced accordingly in order to avoid injurious effects on Community producers of this product and to allow South Africa the full benefit of its quota.
Roadside inspections of commercial vehicles
Following the Council's approval of the European Parliament's amendments to the Common Position on a Directive on the roadside inspection of the roadworthiness of commercial vehicles circulating in the Community, the directive is deemed to have been adopted in the form of the Common Position thus amended, in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty.
The aim of the Directive is to improve the safety and ecological quality of heavy commercial vehicles used for the carriage of passengers and goods within the Member States and to introduce uniform assessment of the quality of maintenance of such vehicles, discouraging transporters from gaining a competitive advantage by operating inadequately maintained vehicles.
The Directive sets out to supplement the rules introduced by Directive 96/96/EC which provides for heavy commercial vehicles to undergo compulsory annual roadworthiness tests. The new Directive provides for Member States to introduce unexpected roadside inspections so as to check, throughout the year, the level of maintenance of a representative proportion of the commercial vehicle fleet on the road. The scope of the Directive is broader than that of Directive 96/96/EC, since it covers all commercial vehicles in circulation on the roads of a Member State, including those from third countries.
The roadside checking system consists in inspection of the most visible aspects of the safety and environmental protection systems and equipment fitted to vehicles so as to detect the most obvious defects. Checks may be carried out at the roadside, at ports, at other places where vehicles are parked, or on operators' premises.
Transfrontier movements of wastes
The Council approved the Decision authorising the Commission to negotiate on behalf of the European Community the amendments to the OECD Council Decision C(92)39/final concerning the control of transfrontier movements of wastes destined for recovery operations and the consolidation of seven other OECD Council Acts relating to the transfrontier movements of wastes. In the negotiation mandate a link is made in particular to the Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal, which was signed in 1989 under the aegis of the UN and came into effect in 1992.
The OECD Council Decision on the control of transfrontier movements of wastes destined for recovery operations was adopted on 30 March 1992 and aims at protecting the environment and conserving precious natural resources while providing markets for recoverable wastes. The Decision provides for a simplified means of controlling transfrontier movements of recoverable wastes within the OECD area. Currently, efforts are undertaken to streamline the OECD control systems for trade in recyclable materials and to harmonise procedures with the Basel Convention, the final goal being a harmonised global control system for transboundary movements of wastes.
COURT OF JUSTICE
Rules of procedure
The Council approved a number of amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice. These amendments follow a set of proposals submitted to the Council by the Court on 2 July 1999 in order to modify its rules of procedure, with a view to improving the conduct of proceedings. The amendments, approved by the Council unanimously, concern, in particular, the provision for accelerated procedures in the case of references for a preliminary ruling involving particular urgency.
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