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Conseil/00/19

Brussels, 31 January 20005565/00 (Presse 19)

2241st Council meeting- ECOFIN -Brussels, 31 January 2000

President : Mr Joaquim PINA MOURA

Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs of the Portuguese Republic

CONTENTS

PARTICIPANTS 

ITEMS DEBATED

IVPRESIDENCY AND COMMISSION WORK PROGRAMMES - OPEN DEBATE PAGEREF _Toc474229974 \h IVIMPLEMENTATION OF THE STABILITY AND GROWTH PACT PAGEREF _Toc474229975 \h IV?Updated stability programme of Finland, 1999-2003 PAGEREF _Toc474229976 \h IV?Updated Stability Programme of the Netherlands, 1999-2002 PAGEREF _Toc474229977 \h V?Updated Stability Programme of Ireland, 2000-2002 PAGEREF _Toc474229978 \h VII?Updated Convergence Programme of Sweden, 1999-2002 PAGEREF _Toc474229979 \h VIII?Updated Convergence Programme of Greece, 1999-2002 PAGEREF _Toc474229980 \h IXHIGH-LEVEL WORKING GROUP ON TAXATION - COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS PAGEREF _Toc474229981 \h XEURO COIN ISSUES - COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS PAGEREF _Toc474229982 \h XIITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATEJUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS--Trafficking in and manufacture of firearms PAGEREF _Toc474229985 \h XIIEXTERNAL TRADE--International Jute Council PAGEREF _Toc474229987 \h XIIENVIRONMENT--Monitoring of CO2 emissions from passenger cars - Convening of the Conciliation Committee PAGEREF _Toc474229989 \h XII--Regulation on substances that deplete the ozone layer - Convening of the Conciliation Committee PAGEREF _Toc474229990 \h XIILABOUR AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS--Organisation of working time - Convening of the Conciliation Committee PAGEREF _Toc474229992 \h XIIINTERNAL MARKET--Technical harmonisation of vehicles and vehicle parts and equipment - "Parallel Agreement"* PAGEREF _Toc474229994 \h XIII--Tariff and statistical nomenclature * PAGEREF _Toc474229995 \h XIIIAGRICULTURE PAGEREF _Toc474229996 \h XIIIAPPOINTMENTS--Committee of the Regions PAGEREF _Toc474229998 \h XIIIDECISION ADOPTED ON 1 FEBRUARY 2000 BY WRITTEN PROCEDURE--Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - support to democratic forces PAGEREF _Toc474230000 \h XIVANNEX PAGEREF _Toc474230001 \h XIV_________________

For further information call 285 64 23 or 285 74 59

PARTICIPANTS

The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:

Belgium :

Mr Didier REYNDERSMinister for Finance
Denmark :
Ms Marianne JELVEDMinister for Economic Affairs
Mr Michael DITHMERState Secretary for Economic Affairs
Germany :
Mr Hans EICHELFederal Minister for Finance
Mr Caio KOCH-WESERState Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance
Greece :
Mr Yannos PAPANTONIOUMinister for the National Economy and Finance
Spain :
Mr Cristobal MONTORO MORENOState Secretary for Economic Affairs
France :
Mr Christian SAUTTERMinister for Economic Affairs, Finance and Industry
Ireland :
Mr Charlie McCREEVYMinister for Finance
Italy :
Mr Giuliano AMATOMinister for the Treasury, the Budget and Economic Planning
Mr Vincenzo VISCOMinister for Finance
Luxembourg :
Mr Jean-Claude JUNCKERPrime Minister, Minister for Finance, Minister for Labour and Employment
Mr Henri GRETHENMinister for Economic Affairs
Netherlands :
Mr Gerrit ZALMMinister for Finance
Austria :
Mr Gregor WOSCHNAGGAmbassador, Permanent Representative
Portugal :
Mr Joaquim PINA MOURAMinister for Finance and Economic Affairs
Mr António NOGUEIRA LEITEState Secretary for the Treasury and Finance
Finland :
Mr Sauli NIINISTÖMinister for Finance
Sweden :
Mr Bosse RINGHOLMMinister for Finance
Mr Sven HEGELUNDState Secretary, Ministry of Finance
United-Kingdom :
Mr Gordon BROWNChancellor of the Exchequer
Commission :
Mr Pedro SOLBES MIRAMember
Mr Frits BOLKESTEINMember
Other participants :
Mr Philippe MAYSTADTPresident of the European Investment Bank
Mr Jean LEMIERREChairman of the Economic and Financial Committee
Mr Norman GLASSChairman of the Economic Policy Committee
_Toc474229973EURO 11 - COMMON UNDERSTANDING

The Euro 11 Ministers and the ECB share the view that growth is now very robust in the Euro area and is increasingly rooted in domestic demand. As a consequence, the Euro has potential for appreciation, firmly based on growth and internal price stability. A strong economy goes along with a strong currency.

Fiscal consolidation will be continued. Ministers share a common commitment to strengthen the structural reform process, so as to ensure a high and non-inflationary level of growth in the Euro area.

PRESIDENCY AND COMMISSION WORK PROGRAMMES - OPEN DEBATE

The Council session started with the customary open debate - transmitted by TV to the press and wider public - on the Presidency work programme in the ECOFIN area during the first half of the year 2000.

President PINA MOURA introduced the debate indicating that the Portuguese presidency working programme shall focus on

- EMU, economic policy and employment

- Financial services

- Tax policy

- Financial management: protection of financial interests of the EU and fraud prevention.

He invited his colleagues to address during the debate in particular the following issues:

- Role of ECOFIN in the preparation of the Lisbon Summit,

- Tax package

- Economic Policy co-ordination.

On his side, Commissioner SOLBES insisted on the need to speed up structural reforms in order to reinvigorate the EU's capacity for growth and job creation; efforts should concentrate on a limited number of essential reforms, such as

- the need for more integrated and more efficient financial markets

- the development of risk capital, and

- the improvement of the quality and sustainability of public finances.

In their interventions in the debate, Ministers fully endorsed the Presidency's ambitious work programme and pledged their full support for its implementation.

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE STABILITY AND GROWTH PACT

Under this heading, the Council addressed the updating of the stability programmes of Finland, the Netherlands and Ireland as well as the updating of the convergence programmes of Sweden and Greece. For each programme the Council approved an opinion which is reproduced below:

  • Updated stability programme of Finland, 1999-2003

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community,

Having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1466/97 of 7 July 1997 on the strengthening of the surveillance of budgetary positions and the surveillance and co-ordination of economic policies(1), and in particular Article 5 (3) thereof,

Having regard to the recommendation of the Commission,

After consulting the Economic and Financial Committee,

HAS DELIVERED THIS OPINION:

On 31 January 2000 the Council examined Finland's updated Stability Programme, which covers the period 1999-2003. The Council notes with satisfaction that the Finnish general government balance turned into a surplus in 1998 and, after an expected outturn of just over 3 percent of GDP in 1999, is projected to register surpluses above 4 percent of GDP throughout the period 2000-2003, while the general government debt to GDP ratio is projected to continue to decline. Moreover, the Council considers that the Programme is consistent with the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines.

The Council welcomes the record of implementation of the 1998 Programme(2), where the projections then made for the improvement of the budget balance and the reduction in government debt have been exceeded.

The macroeconomic scenario presented in the updated Stability Programme appears realistic for 1999 and 2000, but it carries the risk that the economy may overheat and threaten price stability if wage moderation weakens. It is therefore important that wage moderation is sustained.

The Council commends the fiscal strategy of the updated Stability Programme. This builds on the previous Programme and aims at reaching surpluses above 4 percent of GDP through a reduction in government expenditure in relation to GDP but at the same time reduces the tax burden.

The Council notes with satisfaction that the debt reduction could now actually exceed the expectations in the updated Programme due to more extensive privatisation measures - with proceeds directed towards debt reduction - than assumed in the Programme

Finland has already fulfilled the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact in 1999. This will continue to be the case during the updated Programme period as the surplus target of 4.7 percent of GDP in 2003 is clearly sufficient to provide a safety margin against breaching the 3 percent of GDP deficit threshold in normal cyclical fluctuations. Moreover, the Council considers that the continued fiscal consolidation effort embodied in the updated Programme is also justified in view of the future effects of population ageing.

The Council welcomes the fact that the updated Programme addresses the issue of structural reforms. Fiscal and labour market reform is needed to reduce the current heavy overall taxation and social contribution burden on labour. Regarding public expenditure, it is opportune to review benefit entitlements and the structure of the pension system. The reductions in government expenditure and revenue relative to GDP foreseen in the Programme are themselves consistent with increasing employment, which the government identifies as its main economic objective. Further structural reforms in market services and in the labour market would also support employment creation. The Council recommends that such reforms be applied with energy and consistency.

  • Updated Stability Programme of the Netherlands, 1999-2002

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community,

Having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1466/97 of 7 July 1997 on the strengthening of the surveillance of budgetary positions and the surveillance and co-ordination of economic policies(3), and in particular Article 5(3) thereof,

Having regard to the recommendation of the Commission,

After consulting the Economic and Financial Committee,

HAS DELIVERED THIS OPINION:

On 31 January 2000 the Council examined the 1999 update of the stability programme of the Netherlands which covers the period 1999-2002. The Council notes with satisfaction that the Dutch general government deficit for 1998 and that estimated for 1999 are lower than those projected in the initial 1998 stability programme; in fact the budgetary outcome for 1999 is estimated to be in small surplus instead of a planned deficit of 1.3% of GDP. The general government debt ratio was also lower than projected in both 1998 and 1999. Economic growth in 1999 also exceeded the projection of the initial programme. The Council considers that the updated programme is consistent with the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines.

The 1999 update maintains the approach of the initial 1998 stability programme identifying three macroeconomic scenarios as a basis for the fiscal projections to 2002; the update is based on actual forecasts for the year 2000 and uses the cautious scenario as the basic framework of assumptions for 2001 and 2002. Under this scenario annual growth would be 2.0% in 2001-2002 and the general government deficit would reach 1.1% of GDP in 2002. The 1999 update also takes into account the fiscal reform to be implemented in 2001 the budgetary cost of which is estimated at about 0.6% of GDP.

As in its opinion on the initial programme(4) the Council acknowledges that the adoption of the cautious macroeconomic scenario as basis for the fiscal strategy of the government was made on grounds of prudence; the Council notes, however, that recent economic developments render unlikely the average GDP growth rates underlying the budgetary projections of the cautious scenario. Moreover, recent economic forecasts of GDP growth for the Netherlands, including the Commission Autumn 1999 forecasts, point to real GDP growth rates for 2001 substantially higher

than that assumed in the cautious scenario.

The Council considers that the Dutch method of using cautious growth assumptions and expenditure targeting and control has been instrumental in achieving the good results registered until now. However, this method also tends to make it more difficult to assess whether the medium-term outcome of the deficit is compatible with the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact. Based on the information now available, the Council considers that the middle and favourable scenarios provide a range of more plausible macroeconomic assumptions and therefore a more relevant framework in assessing the public finance projections of the updated stability programme than the cautious scenario. The underlying budgetary position of the general government in 2002 would broadly provide adequate safety margin to prevent the deficit from breaching the 3% of GDP threshold in normal circumstances, thus fulfilling the Stability and Growth Pact requirements.

The Council notes that tax reductions in recent years have contributed to wage moderation and improvement in employment; in this context the Council welcomes the tax reform planned to be implemented in 2001 which aims at reducing the tax burden on earned income. Taking into account the government surplus already achieved in 1999, current strong economic growth and possible inflationary pressures, the Council recommends to the Dutch authorities to strengthen the envisaged budgetary position in 2000 and the following years, unless a significant deceleration in activity materializes. Such strengthening of the budgetary position would be fully consistent with the recommendations of the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines. The Council welcomes the intention of the Dutch government to submit future updates of its stability programme shortly after the presentation of its annual budget memorandum which will reflect the most recent forecasts for the economy.

  • Updated Stability Programme of Ireland, 2000-2002

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community,

Having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1466/97 of 7 July 1997(5) on the strengthening of surveillance and the surveillance and co-ordination of economic policies, and in particular Article 5 (3) thereof,

Having regard to the recommendation of the Commission,

After consulting the Economic and Financial Committee,

HAS DELIVERED THIS OPINION:

On 31 January 2000, the Council examined Ireland's updated stability programme, which covers the period 2000-2002(6).

The Council welcomes the record of implementation of the programme in 1999. The Irish economy continued to expand rapidly, with real GDP rising by 8.4% and employment increasing by about 4.75%. In the context of this very favourable economic performance, the projections made for the improvement in the budgetary situation were exceeded by a significant margin. The Council notes with satisfaction that the Irish general government balance remained in substantial surplus in 1999 and that there was another sharp decline in the government debt/GDP ratio.

Ireland already fulfilled its obligations under the Stability and Growth Pact in 1999. This will continue to be the case in the period 2000-2002. The Council notes that the projected surplus on the general government balance, even after taking account of significant pre-funding of state pension liabilities, is clearly sufficient in each year to provide a safety margin against breaching the 3 percent of GDP reference value of the Treaty in the event of normal cyclical fluctuations. The Council notes also that the government debt/GDP ratio will decline steadily over the programme period.

The Council considers the macroeconomic scenario presented in the updated stability programme to be realistic. However, the economy is now at an advanced stage of the cycle and there is a need to use available domestic policy instruments to address the risk of inflation pressures. In this context, the Council recalls the recommendations to Ireland provided in the 1999 Broad Economic Policy Guidelines and urges the national authorities to be ready to use budgetary policy to ensure economic stability. Given the extent of overheating in the economy, the Council considers such action to be warranted in implementing the budget for 2000 and in planning beyond, while acknowledging the supply side objectives of Ireland's medium-term budgetary strategy.

The Council welcomes the fact that the updated programme addresses the issue of structural reforms. In particular, the publication of the National Development Plan 2000-2006 responds to the suggestion of the Council for a detailed plan to meet the physical and human capital needs of the still rapidly expanding economy, while taking account of an expected reduction in transfers from the Structural Funds.

  • Updated Convergence Programme of Sweden, 1999-2002

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community,

Having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1466/97 of 7 July 1997 on the strengthening of the surveillance of budgetary positions and the surveillance and co-ordination of economic policies(7), and in particular Article 9 (3) thereof,

Having regard to the recommendation of the Commission,

After consulting the Economic and Financial Committee,

HAS DELIVERED THIS OPINION:

On 31 January 2000 the Council examined Sweden's updated Convergence Programme, which covers the period 1999 - 2002. The Council notes with satisfaction that the updated Programme envisages continued government surpluses throughout the period to 2002 as the authorities make further progress towards their medium term objective of a budget surplus of 2% of GDP over the cycle. The Council considers this target appropriate and welcomes the emphasis given by the Programme on macroeconomic stability. The Council further notes with satisfaction that the debt ratio is expected to fall over the Programme period, reaching 52% of GDP in 2002.

The improvement of government finances in Sweden has been impressive: from a deficit of about 12% of GDP in 1993 the budgetary position turned to a surplus of more than 2% of GDP by 1998. This budgetary consolidation process, together with the adjustment from a high to a low inflation environment, has laid the ground for solid economic growth, which will be harvested during the period covered by the Programme. The updated Programme's cautious assumptions on economic growth, particularly towards the end of the period, augment the probability of achieving the objectives set for government finances. The surpluses targeted in the updated Programme provide a large enough safety margin for the general government not to breach the 3% of GDP reference value in normal circumstances. The Council thus considers that Sweden continues to comply with the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact.

Inflation has been low since 1996 and Sweden continues to fulfil comfortably the convergence criterion. However, while actual output is widely judged to have been below or close to potential for a number of years, this will change in future and efforts need to be maintained to keep inflation under control. Continued wage moderation is of utmost importance, perhaps particularly so in Sweden, and the wage negotiations for 2001 will prove challenging in an environment of recent high economic growth. In this context, the Council notes that the fiscal policy stance followed since 1999 could become too expansionary in the current high-growth environment.

Trends in Swedish long-term interest rates in recent years clearly reflect the favourable development of economic fundamentals, which is expected to continue in the future. The spread of Swedish long-term interest rates against euro rates has remained fairly stable during 1999, with Sweden fulfilling the interest rate criterion. Regarding the exchange rate, although the krona has displayed less volatility in recent years, the Council re-iterates that Sweden needs to demonstrate its ability to stay in line with an appropriate parity between the krona and the euro over a sufficient period of time without severe tensions. To this end, the Council, as stated in its opinion of the 1998 Convergence Programme(8), expects Sweden to decide to join the ERM2 in due course.

In order to obtain sustainable economic growth, structural measures are being undertaken with a view to enhancing the supply side of the economy. In this context, the Council notes with satisfaction that the strategy adopted in the updated Programme is consistent with the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines, particularly the efforts to lower the very high tax burden. To this end, both the benefit and taxation systems have been scrutinised and efforts to reform the 'welfare' state have been taken. The Council welcomes these efforts and encourages the Swedish government to continue these initiatives with determination.

  • Updated Convergence Programme of Greece, 1999-2002

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community,

Having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1466/97 of 7 July 1997 on the strengthening of the surveillance of budgetary positions and the surveillance and co-ordination of economic policies(9), and in particular Article 9(3) thereof,

Having regard to the recommendation of the Commission,

After consulting the Economic and Financial Committee,

HAS DELIVERED THIS OPINION:

On 31 January 2000 the Council examined the 1999 update of the convergence programme of Greece which covers the period 1999-2002. The Council notes that the 1999 update maintains as a central objective the compliance with the convergence criteria which will allow Greece to participate in monetary union from January 2001. The budgetary and structural policies outlined in the programme are in compliance with the 1999 Broad Economic Policy Guidelines.

The Council notes with satisfaction the significant improvement in public finances in recent years. Developments over the past year indicate that the budgetary target set in the 1998 convergence programme has been met: the general government deficit is estimated at 1.5% at the end of 1999, 0.6% of GDP lower than projected in the 1998 programme; the debt ratio was reduced by 1.2 percentage points to 104.2% of GDP.

The updated programme is based on macroeconomic projections showing strong investment-led growth and medium-term price stability. The 1999 update, building on the budgetary consolidation achieved so far and on good prospects for GDP growth, is projecting the general government deficit to turn to a surplus of 0.2% of GDP in 2002. The debt ratio is projected to fall to 98.0% of GDP in 2002. The Council considers that the underlying budgetary position of the general government provides an adequate safety margin in the course of the programme to prevent the deficit from breaching the 3% of GDP threshold in normal circumstances. In this sense, the updated convergence programme complies with the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact.

Considerable progress has been made over the past year in reducing price inflation; the deflator of private consumption exceeded marginally the projection of the 1998 programme in 1998, while no deviation is estimated for 1999 from the projected average rate of increase of 2.5%; however, the increase in oil prices is slowing down the process of disinflation at present.

The Council considers that within the high growth environment projected in the convergence programme, particular effort must be made by Greece to ensure that the progress made towards disinflation acquires a lasting character; such an effort seems to be all the more necessary in view of the convergence of monetary conditions in Greece to those prevailing in the euro zone and the potential implications of such a development on demand and prices; in this context, the Council welcomes the revaluation of the central rate of the Greek drachma as from 17 January 2000 which will support the authorities in their efforts to further reduce inflation in Greece; the Council invites the Greek government to reinforce the anti-inflationary stance of the policy instruments at its disposal, including budgetary and incomes policies; the wage agreements in 2000 in both public and private sectors and the co-operation of all social partners are essential to secure an environment of low-inflation. As regards budgetary policy, the budgetary targets set in the programme are considered by the Council as a minimum and the Greek authorities are invited to do their best to achieve better outcomes than planned; in addition, the Council considers that the Greek authorities must be ready to tighten fiscal policy further from 2001 if inflation pressures emerge.

The Council acknowledges that considerable progress has been made in recent period in Greece in introducing structural reforms, namely in the functioning of the wider public sector; it invites the Greek government to continue decisively in this direction by reinforcing the momentum of reforms with a view to enhancing competitive conditions and the good operation of labour, goods and capital markets; such reforms are necessary both in order to enhance the productive potential of the economy and to reduce inflationary pressures.

HIGH-LEVEL WORKING GROUP ON TAXATION - COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS

Pursuant to the European Council Conclusions of 10 and 11 December, the Council decided to set up a high-level Working Group on taxation to fulfil the mandate agreed by the European Council (paragraphs 34-38 of the conclusions). The Group should have its first meeting in February 2000.

The political importance accorded to the Group should be reflected in the appointment by each Member State and the Commission of a high level representative. The Council noted that the Group will be chaired by Mr Manuel BAGANHA, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Finance in Portugal.

EURO COIN ISSUES - COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS

Euro collector coin issue

To ensure that Euro collector coins will be readily distinguishable from Euro coins intended for circulation:

  • The face value of collector coins should be different from that of the coins intended for circulation (i.e. Euro coins cannot have a face value equal to the 8 denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 Euro cent and 1 and 2 Euro);

  • Collector coins should not use images, which are similar to the common sides of the euro coins intended for circulation. Furthermore, as far as possible, the designs used should also be at least slightly different from those of the national sides of circulation coins;

  • Out of colour, diameter and thickness, euro collector coins should differ significantly from the coins intended for circulation in two respects;

  • Collector coins should not have a shaped edge with fine scallops, or "Spanish flower";

  • The identity of the issuing Member State should be clearly and easily recognisable.

Furthermore:

  • Euro collector coins may be sold at or above face value;

  • Approval for the volume of collector coins issue should be sought on an aggregate basis rather than for each individual issue

  • With respect to collector coins' denominations, that may coincide with the low denominations of euro banknotes, there does not seem to exist any significant risk of substitution. However, Member States should stand ready to consider any demands by the ECB on this matter;

  • While Euro collector coins will have legal tender status in the issuing Member State, the competent authorities (NCBs, Mints or other institutions) should set up temporary arrangements through which owners of euro collector coins issued in other euro area Member States can receive the face value of those coins while bearing the costs related to this transaction.

The detailed technical specifications of euro coins.

Consistently with and further to the technical specifications laid down in Council Regulation (EC) No 975/98 of 3 May 1998, the Member States' mint directors have agreed detailed modalities on technical measurements and tolerances to be observed as the basis for the current production of coins.

This agreement is welcomed. Efforts should continue, in contact with the relevant industries, to upgrade the specifications over time by building upon the experience gained in production.

The organisation of test centres for euro coins where manufacturers of coin validating equipment can conduct tests on the basis of minted euro coins was also welcomed.

Furthermore, note was taken of the request by the vending industry to have the possibility to test its equipment with minted euro coins in their premises and Mint directors were invited to consider the issue.

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).

JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS

Trafficking in and manufacture of firearms

The Council adopted a decision authorising the Commission to participate, on behalf of the European Union, in the negotiation of the draft protocol to the UN Convention against organized crime to combat the illegal trafficking in and the manufacture of firearms, their parts, components and ammunition.

The Council also adopted a common position on the proposed protocol mentioned above which is reproduced in Annex.

EXTERNAL TRADE

International Jute Council

The Council agreed on the Community position to be taken at the forthcoming meetings of the Preparatory Committee (PREPCOM) and the Special Session of the International Jute Council (IJC) on 6/9 February 2000 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, given the fact that the Community is in favour of continuing international cooperation in the jute sector after the expiration on 10 April 2000 of the actual agreement

ENVIRONMENT

Monitoring of CO2 emissions from passenger cars - Convening of the Conciliation Committee

The Council, having not been able to accept all the amendments to the common position adopted by the European Parliament on the proposed decision establishing a scheme to monitor CO2 emissions from new passenger cars, a conciliation committee is convened, in accordance with the provisions of the co-decision procedure of the Treaty (Art. 251).

Regulation on substances that deplete the ozone layer - Convening of the Conciliation Committee

The Council was not able to accept all the amendments to the common position adopted by the European Parliament and consequently decided to convene the conciliation committee, in accordance with the provisions of the co-decision procedure of the Treaty (Art. 251).

LABOUR AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS

Organisation of working time - Convening of the Conciliation Committee

The Council was not in a position to accept all the amendments to the common position adopted by the European Parliament on the proposed Directive on the organisation of working time to cover sectors and activities excluded from Directive 93/104/EC. The conciliation committee is therefore convened, in accordance with the provisions of the co-decision procedure of the Treaty (Art. 251).

INTERNAL MARKET

Technical harmonisation of vehicles and vehicle parts and equipment - "Parallel Agreement"*

The Council adopted the decision regarding the conclusion, by the Community, of the Agreement concerning the establishment of global technical regulations for wheeled vehicles, equipment and parts which can be fitted and/or be used on wheeled vehicles.

The Agreement - which was negotiated in the framework of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE) - is generally referred to as a "Parallel Agreement", as it will apply in parallel to a 1958 UN-ECE agreement (revised in the meantime) which already provided for international technical harmonisation of wheeled vehicles. The main reason for the "parallel agreement" is to allow certain countries such as the USA, who are not parties to the earlier Agreement but are important markets and/or manufacturers of cars, to participate in the international harmonisation effort in this area.

The purpose of the new Agreement is to establish a global process by which contracting parties from all regions of the world can jointly develop global technical regulations regarding the safety, environmental protection, energy efficiency, and anti-theft performance of wheeled vehicles and their parts and equipment. By harmonising existing technical regulations and developing new ones, technical barriers to international trade should also be greatly reduced.

Tariff and statistical nomenclature *

The Council adopted by qualified majority, the Italian delegation abstaining, an amendment to Regulation No 2658/87 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and the Common Customs Tariff aimed at simplifying the combined nomenclature and taking into account the Community's own needs in this sector.

AGRICULTURE

The Council adopted an amendment to Decision 95/514/EC on the equivalence of field inspections carried out in third countries on seed-producing crops and on the equivalence of seed produced in third countries.

The amendment aims at prolonging until 31 January 2000 the recognition of the equivalence of beet seed, fodder plant seed, cereal seed and seed of oil and fibre plants produced in third countries with those produced in the Community.

APPOINTMENTS

Committee of the Regions

The Council adopted Decisions appointing

    - Mr Stanislaw TILLICH in place of Mr Günter Meyer, Ms Muriel Mary BARKER in place of Ms Pam Warhurst and Ms Simone BEISSEL in place of Ms Anne Brasseur, as full members of the Committee of the Regions for the remainder of the Committee's terms of office, i.e. until 25 January 2002;

    - Mr Ronald-Mike NEUMEYER, in place of Mr Klaus Wedemeier and Mr Jésus GAMALLO ALLER in place of Mr Juan Rodriguez Yuste as alternate members of the Committee of the Regions for the remainder of the Committee's term of office, i.e.25 January 2002.

DECISION ADOPTED ON 1 FEBRUARY 2000 BY WRITTEN PROCEDURE

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - support to democratic forces

The Council adopted, by written procedure on 1st February 2000, a Decision implementing Common Position 1999/691/CFSP on support to democratic forces in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY).

In its conclusions of 24 January 2000 the Council, in the framework of its support to democratic forces in the FRY, called for the extension of the "Energy for Democracy" initiative. In line with these conclusions, the present decision authorises the supply, sale or export of petroleum and petroleum products to the Serbian municipalities of Sombor, Subotica, Kragujevac, Kraljevo and Novi Sad.

              ANNEX

COUNCIL COMMON POSITION 2000/ /JHA

of

on the proposed Protocol against the illicit manufacturing

of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components

and ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention

against Transnational Organised Crime

"THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

Having regard to the Treaty on European Union, and in particular Article 34 (2) (a) thereof,

Having regard to the initiative of the Portuguese Republic,

Whereas:

    (1) The importance is recognised of international cooperation in criminal matters for the purposes of preventing and combating all serious forms of crime, including illicit arms trafficking, as provided for in Article 29 of the Treaty,

    (2) Arrangements have been made for the development and negotiation of a protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime;

    (3) The United Nations General Assembly has decided that the final text of the draft Convention and the Protocols thereto should be submitted to it for early adoption prior to a high-level signing conference which will take place in Palermo;

    (4) A number of international instruments adopted in the Union and in other fora already provide for the adoption of measures to combat the illegal manufacture of and trafficking in destructive devices;

    (5) A Joint Action was adopted on 17 December 1998 on the European Union's contribution to combating the destabilising accumulation and spread of small arms and light weapons (10);

    (6) It is desired to contribute as fully as possible to the negotiation of the proposed Protocol and to avoid incompatibility between the proposed Protocol and instruments drawn up in the Union;

    (7) The Council in its Conclusions of 5 October 1998 requested the Presidency to propose one or several Joint Positions, in accordance with the Treaty on European Union, in relation to the draft United Nations Convention and its Protocols;

    (8) Account is taken of the Joint Position adopted by the Council on 29 March 1999 on the proposed United Nations Convention against organised crime (11),

HAS ADOPTED THIS COMMON POSITION:

Article 1

In the negotiation of the draft United Nations Protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition, the Member States of the European Union shall support the definition of a firearm based on the concept of a lethal barrelled weapon that expels, is designed to expel, or may be readily converted to expel a shot, bullet or projectile by the action of an explosive, but excluding antique firearms or their replicas. In that context the definition of an antique firearm should be dealt with under domestic law but should not include a firearm manufactured after 1870.

Article 2

For the purposes of the draft Protocol, explosive weapons such as bombs, grenades, rockets or missiles should not be regarded as firearms. However, provision should be made in the text for the criminalisation of the illicit manufacture of and trafficking in such weapons.

Article 3

    1. Member States agree that further consideration of any question relating to the illicit manufacture of and trafficking in explosives by criminals and their use for criminal purposes should await the outcome of the study to be carried out by the ad hoc expert group identified in United Nations General Assembly Resolution E/1999/30 and the possible elaboration of an international instrument on the illicit manufacture of and trafficking in explosives by the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on Elaboration of a Convention against transnational organised crime.

    2. Member States shall support the work of the United Nations ad hoc expert group and shall seek to ensure that its activities will be completed as quickly as possible.

Article 4

The Council shall endeavour to achieve further Common Positions, as necessary, in relation to the draft Protocol."

(1) OJ L209, 2.8.1997.

(2) The first stability programme of Finland, 1998-2002, was the subject of Council Opinion of 12 October 1998 (OJ C372, 2.12.1998).

(3)OJ L 209, 2.8.1997

(4) OJC3, 6.1.1999

(5)OJ L209 2.8.1997

(6)The stability programme for Ireland 1999-2001 was the subject of Council Opinion of 18 January 1999 (OJ C42 17.2.99).

(7) OJ L209, 2.8.1997

(8)Council Opinion of 8 February 1999 on the convergence programme of Sweden, 1998-2001 (OJ C 68, 11.3.1999).

(9)OJ L209, 02.08.1997

(10)OJ L 9, 15.1.1999, p. 1.

(11)OJ L 87, 31.3.1999, p. 1.


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