Brussels, 5 December 200014000/00 (Presse 466)
2318th Council meeting INDUSTRY / ENERGY Brussels, 5 December 2000
President : Mr Christian PIERRET
State Secretary to the Minister for Economic Affairs, Finance and Industry, with responsibility for Industry
IVMULTIANNUAL PROGRAMME FOR ENTERPRISE AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP PAGEREF _Toc501546722 \h VIIECSC QUESTIONS PAGEREF _Toc501546723 \h VII?EXPIRY OF THE ECSC TREATY PAGEREF _Toc501546724 \h VII?FOURTEENTH COMMISSION REPORT TO THE COUNCIL ON THE MONITORING OF ARTICLE 95 ECSC STEEL AID CASES, October 2000 PAGEREF _Toc501546725 \h VIIREGULATION ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF COMPETITION RULES PAGEREF _Toc501546726 \h VIIISITUATION IN WORLD SHIPBUILDING - CONCLUSIONS PAGEREF _Toc501546727 \h VIIIOIL MARKET PAGEREF _Toc501546728 \h XGREEN PAPER ON SECURITY OF ENERGY SUPPLY PAGEREF _Toc501546729 \h XPROMOTION OF ELECTRICITY FROM RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES IN THE INTERNAL ELECTRICITY MARKET PAGEREF _Toc501546730 \h XCOMMUNITY ACTION PLAN TO IMPROVE ENERGY EFFICIENCY - CONCLUSIONS PAGEREF _Toc501546731 \h XIMEDITERRANEAN DIMENSION OF EUROPEAN ENERGY AND TRANSPORT POLICY PAGEREF _Toc501546732 \h XIVELECTRICITY AND GAS INTERNAL MARKETS FOLLOW-UP TO THE LISBON CONCLUSIONS PAGEREF _Toc501546733 \h XIVENERGY CHARTER TREATY PAGEREF _Toc501546734 \h XVSTRATEGY FOR INTEGRATING THE ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT INTO ENERGY POLICY PAGEREF _Toc501546735 \h XVIMPLEMENTATION OF THE SYNERGY PROGRAMME PAGEREF _Toc501546736 \h XVITEMS 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.) PAGEREF _Toc501546737 \h XVEXTERNAL RELATIONS PAGEREF _Toc501546738 \h XV--Balkans - CARDS and European Agency for Reconstruction PAGEREF _Toc501546739 \h XVTELECOMMUNICATIONS PAGEREF _Toc501546740 \h XV--Unbundled Access to the Local Loop PAGEREF _Toc501546741 \h XVCUSTOMS UNION PAGEREF _Toc501546742 \h XVI--Reciprocal EU-EFTA Agreement PAGEREF _Toc501546743 \h XVI--Trade between the Community, Ceuta and Melilla PAGEREF _Toc501546744 \h XVIENVIRONMENT PAGEREF _Toc501546745 \h XVI--Accidental or deliberate marine pollution - Community cooperation framework PAGEREF _Toc501546746 \h XVIEDUCATION PAGEREF _Toc501546747 \h XVII--Renewal of EU/US and EU/Canada cooperation agreements PAGEREF _Toc501546748 \h XVIIECOFIN PAGEREF _Toc501546749 \h XVII--Supervisory Committee of the Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) - Conclusions PAGEREF _Toc501546750 \h XVII_
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The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
On the eve of the Council meeting the Ministers held a debate on innovation and industrial competitiveness based on the following documents presented by the Commission:
The Presidency summed up the debate, noting that broad agreement had been reached on European goals for innovation and competitiveness, namely
The Council then adopted the following conclusions on "Innovation as a factor for competitiveness":
"THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
followed by the document "Enterprise policy action to improve Europe's competitiveness";
that the Commission has established an annual work cycle to improve competitiveness, involving the identification and examination by the Commission and the Member States of priority issues with the aim of identifying good practices, their implementation by the Member States and follow-up by the Commission of the results obtained;
CONFIRMS that innovation is an essential factor for strengthening Europe's competitiveness and requires, subject to the principle of subsidiarity, a joint effort by the Member States of the European Union and the Commission;
WELCOMES the five objectives stated in the communication entitled "Innovation in a knowledge-driven economy", namely:
EMPHASISES that there is a considerable need to promote the entrepreneurial spirit in a competitive market environment and to make the territory of the European Union more attractive to investors so as to increase the capacity for innovation;
EMPHASISES the importance of research and development, both private and public, and of its support by national and Community authorities, as well as through the Research and Development Framework Programme;
RECALLS that innovation requires public policies and relies not only on technological development and the creation of innovative enterprises but also on the development of skills and processes throughout manufacturing industry and business services, taking account of the need for sustainable development;
WELCOMES the Commission's plans for European innovation and enterprise scoreboards as useful instruments for identifying the relevant challenges at European Union and Member State level.
ACCORDINGLY, THE COUNCIL CALLS ON THE MEMBER STATES AND THE COMMISSION TO:
WORK TOGETHER to identify the priority areas of action affecting European competitiveness and innovation in order to achieve the five objectives stated in the communication;
STRENGTHEN the benchmarking of national and Community innovation policies and the exchange of good practices in the light of the quantitative and qualitative criteria applied, and if necessary adjusted, in these scoreboards, and implement projects to identify or disseminate these good practices with a view to applying them as far as possible;
PROMOTE the entrepreneurial spirit in the European Union inter alia by making an effort to develop forms of entrepreneurial training in the school and university system and through vocational and lifelong training and also to give particular encouragement to scientific and technical training and careers which are often marked by shortages in recruitment, especially among women;
MAKE a significant effort to assist the process of adapting skills and giving everyone access to the new knowledge and jobs resulting from innovation and the new information and communication technologies so as to reduce the risk of a digital divide in society; the main priority is to give practical effect to all measures directed towards this objective included in the e-Europe Action Plan;
CONTINUE the simplification and improvement of the administrative, regulatory and tax environment of enterprises and improve the operation of the internal market, including the area of electronic commerce, and thus help to strengthen their capacity for innovation and their competitiveness;
IMPROVE the interfaces crucial to innovation that exist between enterprises, sources of finance for innovation and the education, training and public research system, taking account of the specific needs of SMEs and considering, for example, the establishment of a European quality network of advanced training for industry;
13. REAFFIRM that it makes strategic sense for Europe to adopt a Community patent in the interests of enterprises and innovation that is affordable and easily accessible to users and combines quality, efficiency and legal certainty;
14. DEVELOP an effective European standardisation policy that is in the interests of innovation and is geared to the needs of industry;
15. TAKE INTO ACCOUNT the major role of the information and communication technology industries and the biotechnology industries in disseminating technologies and innovations throughout the economic and social fabric, and emphasise the research and development effort and the ethical considerations that have to be linked with them;
16. DIRECT official funding, whether national or Community, for enterprises towards high-risk areas where markets are failing (seed funding, funding for initial stages of development, micro credits, etc.), DEVELOP back-up measures to help set up enterprises with high growth potential (incubators, guidance, etc.) and EXTEND the use of guarantee mechanisms for own-fund investments and for micro credit;
17. ENCOURAGE enterprises to invest in research and technological development and to recruit researchers by means of appropriate policies and measures;
18. EXPLOIT more fully the results of research and development and recognise that the dissemination of knowledge has to be one of the objectives of research and innovation policies at both Community and national level.
TO THIS END, THE COUNCIL REQUESTS THE COMMISSION TO:
19. ANALYSE the major trends concerning services, the rapid development of the Internet and the funding requirements of innovation, particularly in the context of the forthcoming review of the Community rules on State aid for research and development, scheduled for February 2001 at the latest;
20. CONTINUE its efforts on behalf of innovation, notably through the dissemination of "good practices", the networking of the main European players in the field of innovation and the provision of support for trans-national networks for the dissemination of technologies;
21. LIAISE with the European Investment Bank (EIB) group, and in particular the European Investment Fund, to implement the latest conclusions adopted by the Council on the financing of enterprises, in particular SMEs;
22. STRENGTHEN the scientific and technological bases of Community industry in the future Research and Development Framework Programme of the European Union so as to promote the development of international competitiveness, particularly where the players are deterred by the risks attaching to innovation;
23. REPORT to the Council annually on the Union's progress on the subject of innovation through the drawing up of the annual report on the Union's international competitiveness, including specific sectoral studies, and of the annual enterprise and innovation scoreboards incorporating quantitative and qualitative objectives, so that the Council can submit its contribution to the Spring European Council."
MULTIANNUAL PROGRAMME FOR ENTERPRISE AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The Council reached political agreement on the Decision on a Multiannual Programme for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, in particular for SMEs (2001-2005). Once the text has been finalised in the Community languages the Decision will be adopted without debate at one of the Council's forthcoming meetings.
The Programme, which follows on from the current Programme due to expire on 31 December 2000, will provide financial support for the development of enterprise policies using a new coordination method, the new "BEST" procedure.
The Programme is intended to enhance the growth and competitiveness of business in a knowledge-driven globalised economy, to promote entrepreneurship, to simplify and improve the administrative and regulatory framework for business so that research, innovation and business creation in particular can flourish, to improve the financial environment for business, especially SMEs and to give business easier access to Community support services, programmes and networks and to improve the coordination of these facilities. The Programme is to be implemented in over thirty countries, namely the Member States of the European Economic Area and the candidate countries. The financial reference amount for implementation of the Programme is EUR 450 million.
The Council took note of the state of play regarding expiry of the ECSC Treaty. It also acknowledged the text of the ECSC Protocol to be forwarded for adoption at the Nice European Council from 7 to 9 December 2000.
For the record, in September 2000 the Commission sent the Council four documents setting up a legal framework to regulate the financial consequences of expiry of the ECSC Treaty on 23 July 2002. The documents reflect the intentions of the Council and the representatives of the governments of the Member States expressed in the Resolutions of July 1998 and June 1999, in particular as regards the following principles:
The Council took note of the Commission presentation of the 14th Report on the monitoring of Article 95 ECSC steel aid cases.
The history behind the report is that, with the unanimous assent of the Council in 1993 and 1995, the Commission approved State aid to certain steel enterprises. The granting of that aid was subject to certain conditions, one of which was for the Commission to submit to the Council twice a year its monitoring report on fulfilment of the conditions to qualify for the aid.
REGULATION ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF COMPETITION RULES
The Council heard Commissioner MONTI's presentation on the proposal for a Regulation on the implementation of the rules on competition laid down in Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty.
The President of the Council asked the delegations to send in their comments on the subject in writing so that the Council could come back to this important item at a future meeting. Their comments should include:
- without prejudice to future discussion on the details of the proposed reform, their opinions on the proposal for a directly applicable exception system for Articles 81 and 82, which would involve dropping the notification system;
- the principles for operating and the efficiency of the network to be established between the Commission and national competition authorities;
- the balance proposed by the draft Regulation - better application of competition law benefiting many businesses by allowing the enforcement effort to focus on the most serious infringements and reducing the current administrative burden on industry - between protection of competition and legal constraints on industry.
The proposal, forwarded from the Commission to the Council in October, makes significant changes to the system for applying Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty. It aims to strengthen protection of competition in the Community. It does not concern State aid or merger control. It proposes a system whereby national competition authorities and courts could apply Article 81 in its entirety, as is already the case for Article 82. Competition authorities and the Commission would act in consultation within the framework of a network to punish infringements of Community competition rules.
Current arrangements are based on a system whereby the Commission must be notified of agreements, and the Commission has sole responsibility for authorising agreements which restrict competition. Experience has shown that the notification system is not effective in terms of protecting competition, and its abolition would allow the Commission to concentrate on fighting the most serious restrictions and abuses. Enhancing the Commission's powers of action to uncover and punish cartels and other breaches has also been proposed.
Increased involvement of national competition authorities and courts is the cornerstone of the proposal, but greater decentralisation must not lead to a renationalisation of competition policy, since all economic operators must be treated without discrimination throughout the territory of the Community. The proposal therefore retains the Commission's autonomous power of decision and sets up information and cooperation mechanisms designed to ensure that the rules are applied consistently throughout the Community.
One of the main aspects of the proposal is the application by all decision-making bodies of a single rule of law as soon as there are any repercussions for trade between the Member States. In the future, businesses will therefore have to deal with a single body of Community law when their operations affect trade. This will guarantee a level playing field for economic operators throughout the Community and considerably lower the costs for them of implementing their agreements. Furthermore, doing away with the notification system will cut down the red tape involved in the present system.
SITUATION IN WORLD SHIPBUILDING - CONCLUSIONS
The Council noted the report on the situation in world shipbuilding presented by Commissioners LIIKANEN and MONTI. After the presentation the Council adopted the following conclusions:
"THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,
RECALLING the Council's conclusions of 9 November 1999 and 18 May 2000 on world shipbuilding and unfair competition by Korea;
NOTING that the negotiations held with Korea at three successive meetings after the signing of "Agreed Minutes", with the aim of restoring fair and transparent competitive conditions and obtaining an increase in prices kept artificially low by Korea, have to date ended in failure;
HAVING CONSIDERED the report from the Commission,
VOICES its serious concern at the critical situation in shipbuilding, characterised by very low prices and significant overcapacity attributable mainly to Korean shipyards;
URGES Korea as a matter of urgency to act swiftly to help restore normal competitive conditions to the world shipbuilding market and to implement its commitments under the "agreed minutes", specifically by ensuring an effective price surveillance mechanism;
the Commission to continue monitoring the market situation closely and organise an annual discussion on the issues with Member States and industry, within the Maritime Industries Forum;
the Commission and the Member States to continue to work closely with the industry on competitiveness issues and INVITES the Commission to investigate the possibility of facilitating use of subsidies for research and development;
the Commission to envisage the implementation of all possible measures against Korea under procedures approved by international bodies, so as to bring this situation of unfair competition to an end as soon as possible and, if appropriate, to explore all possible avenues in commercial policy;
the Commission to examine swiftly the complaint lodged by European operators under the Trade Barriers Regulation (TBR) in order to bring it before the World Trade Organisation as soon as possible;
the Commission and the Member States to keep the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank informed of developments, with particular regard to the trade complaint by European operators, and to reiterate once again their desire for rigorous monitoring and evaluation of Korea's compliance with the conditions under which it has been granted IMF and World Bank aid in exchange for restructuring financial and industrial conglomerates, particularly in respect of shipbuilding;
The Council WELCOMES the Commission's determination to support and adopt trade measures against the unfair competition of Korea and ASKS the Commission to make every effort to report to the Council as early as possible in April and in any event before 1 May 2001, with a view to proposing that this case be brought before the WTO should the Commission fail to reach an agreement with that country that is satisfactory to the European Union and to fulfil its obligations under Article 12 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1540/98 of 29 June 1998.
Moreover, the Council TAKES NOTE of the Commission initiative, failing a satisfactory agreement with Korea, to put in place a temporary and appropriate mechanism by that date, intended to counter Korea's unfair practices, pending conclusion of the procedure under way before the WTO as described in the Commission decision of 29 November 2000. Implementation of this mechanism under Commission supervision must not result in distortion of competition within the European Union.
At lunch the Council held a broad exchange of views, on the basis of information supplied by the Presidency and the Commission, concerning the results of the 7th International Energy Forum held in Riyadh on 17 to 19 November.
At the close of the exchange of views, the Presidency noted general support for:
- the initiatives launched by Saudi Arabia at the end of the Forum,
- the continuation and intensification of dialogue between oil producers and consumers,
- the working out of a long-term view of energy policy within the European Union.
GREEN PAPER ON SECURITY OF ENERGY SUPPLY
The Council noted the presentation by Ms DE PALACIO, Vice-President of the Commission, on the Green Paper on a strategy for the future and place of different energy sources in improving the security of supply.
The Green Paper describes the energy supply situation in the European Union and sketches out a long-term energy strategy structured focussing on five key areas:
- active energy-saving policy and diversification towards non-polluting energy forms (devising a tax instrument),
- alternative transport policy (transport will account for 40% of emissions in 2010),
- doubling the share of renewables from the present 6% to 12% in 2010,
- preserving a degree of autonomy: maintaining a minimum coal-production platform, analysing the mid-term contribution of nuclear energy, including waste management,
- solutions at Community level: strengthening the strategic oil stocks mechanism, planning the same for gas, fostering more consistent energy taxes.
PROMOTION OF ELECTRICITY FROM RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES IN THE INTERNAL ELECTRICITY MARKET
The Council reached agreement on establishing a common position on the Directive on the promotion of electricity from renewable energy sources in the internal electricity market. After legal/linguistic editing the common position will be adopted and sent to the European Parliament for its second reading under the co-decision procedure.
The common position is fourfold:
Member States would set and comply with national indicative targets for future consumption of electricity from renewable energy sources. The European Union's overall indicative target, as recommended in the 1997 White Paper, is for the share of renewable energy sources in its energy balance to be doubled by 2010, from 6% at present to 12% of gross internal energy consumption. The indicative share of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in total Community electricity consumption should thus reach 22,1%;
national indicative targets would be set taking account of the reference values in the Annex to the Directive;
a system would be introduced for certifying the origin of electricity from renewable energy sources.
back-up measures would be taken to create fair conditions and make it easier for electricity from renewable energy sources to penetrate the internal electricity market, subject to the rules on competition,
the Commission would monitor the application of support arrangements for the producers of electricity from renewable energy sources. Member States operate different mechanisms of support for renewable energy sources at the national level, including green certificates, investment aid, tax exemptions or reductions, tax refunds and direct price-support schemes. An important means of achieving the objective of this Directive is to guarantee the proper functioning of these mechanisms, until a Community framework is implemented, so as to retain investors' confidence.
The revised State-aid guidelines for environmental protection will be consistent with the Community objective of promoting electricity from renewable sources as pursued by this Directive. They will thus provide transparent and appropriate criteria for the authorisation of State-aid schemes in favour of renewable energies. The revised State-aid guidelines will be defined in accordance with the relevant Treaty provisions.
No more than four years after the entry into force of the Directive the Commission will produce a report evaluating application of the mechanisms. The report will be accompanied, where appropriate, by proposals for harmonising support arrangements, for which a transitional period of seven years has been planned.
COMMUNITY ACTION PLAN TO IMPROVE ENERGY EFFICIENCY - CONCLUSIONS
RECALLS its conclusions of 30 May 2000 on the Action Plan to improve energy efficiency in the European Community (1), and in particular their paragraph 8 which stresses the need to set priorities and objectives;
CONSIDERS that measures on energy efficiency contribute to the implementation of its Strategy for integrating environmental aspects and sustainable development into energy policy, adopted on 2 December 1999; STRESSES in this respect the importance of the work conducted by other relevant Council formations;
3. TAKING ACCOUNT of the importance given to energy efficiency in its conclusions of 10 October 2000 concerning common and co-ordinated policies and measures in the European Union to reduce greenhouse gases emissions, thus contributing to the objectives of the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP);
4. CONFIRMS that further common and coordinated policies and measures are necessary, taking into account national priorities and characteristics, to promote rational use of energy through the national and Community programmes; AND NOTES that the procedure by which co-ordinated actions and measures are developed and implemented needs to be improved;
5. CONSIDERS that an increased effort in energy efficiency contributes to improving security of supply and reducing energy dependency; this effort is of particular importance in the context of the current situation on the oil market;
6. UNDERLINES that energy-efficient measures in industry, domestic and tertiary sectors and transport can contribute to reducing the vulnerability of Member States' economies to external factors, and in particular to oil dependence, thus contributing to the objectives of energy policy in the EU, i.e. security of energy supply, competitiveness and protection of the environment;
7. UNDERLINES that economic instruments can create appropriate price signals and incentives for promoting energy efficiency; STRESSES the importance of taking into account the guidelines of 19 June 2000, set out by the Council (2), when promoting the efficient use of energy;
8. INVITES the Commission, within the framework of the current financial perspectives, to envisage appropriate financial support for actions concerning energy efficiency in its forthcoming proposals for the continuation of the specific programme for the promotion of energy efficiency (SAVE)(3) within the multiannual framework programme for actions in the energy sector (19982002)(4) and of the Energy component of the Research Framework programme beyond 2002;
9. RECOMMENDS that the following criteria, instruments and priorities be taken into account by the Commission, without prejudice to actions undertaken in the context of national priorities, in execution of the current Action Plan and other measures within the overall plan to save energy and diversify sources that it intends to submit to the European Council of Gothenburg in the first half of 2001; AND INVITES the Commission to report on its progress in that endeavour.
II. HORIZONTAL CRITERIA
When selecting measures and actions in the Action Plan, the following horizontal criteria should be applied:
III. HORIZONTAL INSTRUMENTS
The following horizontal instruments could be used, in an integrated or in a step-by-step manner, in order to implement the selected measures, bearing in mind that some of these instruments may be relevant only in certain sectors, irrespective of their common or co-ordinated nature:
promotion of combined heat and power (CHP), including information on best practices;
improved information schemes, for instance through increased use of energy management agencies at the appropriate level;
promotion of energy services through the development of a Community strategy.
MEDITERRANEAN DIMENSION OF EUROPEAN ENERGY AND TRANSPORT POLICY
The Council noted that the Commission intended to submit a communication on the Mediterranean dimension of energy and transport in the near future.
Since the beginning of the Barcelona Process in 1995 energy has been considered one of the six priorities of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (the others being industry, water, the environment, transport and the information society).
ELECTRICITY AND GAS INTERNAL MARKETS FOLLOW-UP TO THE LISBON CONCLUSIONS
The Council took note of the information provided by the Commission on the follow-up to the conclusions of the European Council in Lisbon in March 2000 which asked the Commission, the Council and the Member States to speed up liberalisation in areas such as gas and electricity so as to achieve a fully operational internal market in those sectors.
The Commission is to make a progress report with appropriate proposals for the European Council in Stockholm next spring.
ENERGY CHARTER TREATY
The Council took note of the progress report taking stock of developments in the Energy Charter process since the last meeting of the Charter Conference on 29 June 2000, in particular in the four areas of Charter activity, namely transit, energy efficiency, investments and trade.
STRATEGY FOR INTEGRATING THE ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT INTO ENERGY POLICY
The Council took note of the information presented by Ms DE PALACIO on the outcome of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Climate Change (COP6) at The Hague from 13 to 24 November 2000.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SYNERGY PROGRAMME
The Council took note of the information from the Commission on implementation of the SYNERGY Programme.
The SYNERGY Programme is one of six programmes implementing the multi-annual framework for actions in the energy sector (1998-2002) established by the Council Decision of December 1998. SYNERGY is intended to enhance energy cooperation, assist third countries in the definition, formulation and implementation of energy policy, and promote industrial cooperation between the Community and third countries in the energy sector. EUR 15 million have been earmarked for the Programme.
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.)
Balkans - CARDS and European Agency for Reconstruction
The Council adopted two Regulations concerning:
- assistance for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and amending Regulations (EEC) No 3906/89, Decision 97/256/EC and Regulation (EEC) No 1360/90 (CARDS),
- the European Agency for Reconstruction.
The Council had reached agreement on the two abovementioned Regulations at its meeting on 20 November. Following revision of the text by the lawyer/linguists, the Council was able to adopt the two Regulations formally (see General Affairs Council Press Release of 20.11.2000, 13430/00, Presse 435, p.12).
Unbundled Access to the Local Loop
The Council having approved the amendments made by the European Parliament at first reading to the proposal for a Regulation on unbundled access to the local loop, which aims to introduce fair competition in local access networks, the Regulation was adopted as amended by the European Parliament.
The "local loop" refers to the physical circuit between the subscriber's premises and the telecommunications operator's local switch or equivalent facility in the local access network.
This Regulation responds to the conclusions of the Lisbon and Feira European Councils, which had highlighted this topic as a short-term priority and underlined the necessity of introducing competition in local access networks by the end of 2000. The lack of competition in this part of the market is considered a significant obstacle to the widespread provision of low-cost internet access.
The Regulation is relatively short and simple, focussing on what is strictly necessary to achieve the objective of greater competition. It sets out basic obligations on incumbent operators to make available by 31 December 2000 shared and full access to the local loop together with a reference offer. National regulatory authorities (NRAs) are required to ensure that prices for unbundled access follow the principle of cost orientation and are granted a power to impose changes to the reference offer where justified, and a role in the resolution of disputes.
Reciprocal EU-EFTA Agreement
The Council adopted the Decision concerning the approval of an Agreement in the form of an Exchange of Letters between the Community and each of the EFTA countries that grants tariff preferences under the Generalised System of Preferences (Norway and Switzerland), providing that goods with content of Norwegian or Swiss origin shall be treated on their arrival on the customs territory of the Community as goods with content of Community origin (reciprocal agreement).
Trade between the Community, Ceuta and Melilla
The Council adopted the Regulation concerning the definition of the concept of "originating products" and methods of administrative cooperation in trade between the customs territory of the Community and Ceuta and Melilla.
Accidental or deliberate marine pollution - Community cooperation framework
Following agreement reached on 11 October 2000 at the Conciliation Committee meeting between the European Parliament and the Council, the Council adopted formally the Decision setting up a Community framework for cooperation in the field of accidental or deliberate marine pollution. The Parliament had approved the joint draft on 30 November 2000. The Decision has thus been definitively adopted.
The framework for cooperation set up by the Decision is intended to support and supplement existing instruments for the protection of the marine environment, coastlines and human health against the risks of pollution at sea, excluding continuous streams of pollution originating from land-based sources. It targets accidental or deliberate pollution be it from ships, offshore platforms, shorelines or river estuaries and includes the release of harmful substances into the marine environment, including those linked to the presence of dumped materials such as munitions.
The aim of this framework for cooperation is to help and improve Member States' capabilities to respond to incidents involving accidental spills or imminent threats of spills of oil or other harmful substances at sea. It will also serve to contribute to the prevention of such risks and is intended to consolidate the conditions for efficient mutual assistance between Member States in this field. It is also intended to promote cooperation between Member States to ensure that damage is compensated according to the polluter-pays principle.
The framework will bring about increased simplification of actions already undertaken since 1978, encompassing in one single act a Community Information System and an Action Programme. A budget of EUR 7 million has been foreseen for implementation of the Decision between 2000 and 2006.
Renewal of EU/US and EU/Canada cooperation agreements
The Council adopted two Decisions authorising the signature of agreements between the European Union and the Governments of the United States and Canada renewing a cooperation programme in higher education and vocational training. The new agreements will renew the cooperation programme established in 1995.
The agreements will be signed at the summits between the European Union and the United States on 18 December in Washington and with Canada on 19 December in Ottawa. The decisions concerning the final conclusion of the agreements by the Council are planned for adoption in February/March 2001.
Supervisory Committee of the Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) - Conclusions
1. has noted with interest the high-quality report of the Supervisory Committee, which is independent of the Institutions;
2. shares inter alia the Supervisory Committee's concern at the delays noted with regard to the transition from UCLAF to OLAF and the attendant transformation;
3. points out that the legislator's aim was to give OLAF complete independence to perform its operational tasks, strengthened by the Supervisory Committee, with autonomy in administrative and budgetary matters; notes that that aim has not yet been attained sufficiently;
4. shares the Supervisory Committee's analysis as to the need to improve methods and procedures to make OLAF's operational activity more effective; in particular, supports the efforts made by the Director of OLAF to improve transparency in the management of operational activities, and notably to step up his monitoring of the opening of investigations and the transmission of files to disciplinary or judicial authorities; supports the assignment of magistrates, within OLAF, responsible for providing legal advice and support, particularly in order to rationalise the conduct of investigations and to guarantee the quality of reports;
5. emphasises that the Director of OLAF, who has been given the power of appointing authority, is competent to establish, in compliance with the Staff Regulations of Officials and the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of the European Communities (CEOS), the conditions and procedures for recruitment of his staff taking into account the special nature of the tasks of OLAF; regrets that the secretariat of the Supervisory Committee does not yet have appropriate operating funds;
the Council shares the view of the Supervisory Committee that the Director of OLAF must rapidly recruit the staff provided for in the establishment plan, while observing a high level of professional competence;
6. calls upon the Supervisory Committee to continue its supportive role providing OLAF with constructive and critical assistance."
(1)doc. 8136/00 ENER 23 ENV 146 TRANS 62 IND 28 COM(2000) 247 final.
(2)Council recommendation on the broad guidelines of the economic policies of the Member States and the Community. (OJ L 210 of 21.8.2000, p. 1).
(3)OJ L 79 of 30.3.2000, p. 6.
(4)OJ L 7 of 13.1.1999, p. 16.
(5)Council Directive 92/75/EEC of 22 September 1992 on the indication by labelling and standard product information of the consumption of energy and other resources by household appliances (OJ L 297 of 13.10.1992, p. 16).
(6)Council Directive 93/76/EEC of 13 September 1993 to limit carbon dioxide emissions by improving energy efficiency (SAVE) (OJ L 237 of 22.9.1993, p. 28).
(7)Council Directive 92/42/EEC of 21.5.1992 on efficiency requirements for new hot-water boilers fired with liquid or gaseous fuels (OJ L 195 of 14.7.1992, p. 132).
(8) Council Directive 89/106/EEC of 21 December 1988 on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to construction products (OJ L 40 of 11.2.1989, p. 12).