Brussels, 27 September 2001
12188/01 (Presse 333)
2371st Council meeting
INTERNAL MARKET, CONSUMER AFFAIRS AND TOURISM
|Mr Charles PIQUE
Minister for Economic Affairs and Scientific Research, with responsibility for Policy on Large Towns and Cities
Mr Renaat LANDUYT
Flemish Minister for Employment and Tourism
of the Kingdom of Belgium
TOURISM FOR ALL 6
- OUTCOME OF THE BRUGES CONFERENCE (1 and 2 JULY 2001) 6
- PRESIDENCY CONCLUSIONS 6
- TOURISM DIMENSION IN OTHER POLICIES 8
CONSUMER AFFAIRS 9
PREPARATION FOR THE EURO (FROM THE CONSUMER'S POINT OF VIEW) PUBLIC DEBATE 9
DISTANCE MARKETING OF FINANCIAL SERVICES 10
FOOD SUPPLEMENTS 11
EUROPEAN CONTRACT LAW 12
EUROPEAN FOOD AUTHORITY 13
GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD AND FEED 13
INTERNAL MARKET 14
COMMUNITY PATENT 14
INSURANCE MEDIATION 15
STATUTE FOR A EUROPEAN COMPANY 16
SERVICES OF GENERAL INTEREST 17
PUBLIC CONTRACTS 18
COMMUNITY DESIGNS 19
FREE MOVEMENT OF GOODS CONCLUSIONS 20
CROSS-BORDER PAYMENTS IN EURO 22
FREE MOVEMENT OF PERSONS 22
CONTROL OF THE ACQUISITION AND POSSESSION OF WEAPONS 23
RESTRICTIONS ON THE MARKETING AND USE OF CERTAIN DANGEROUS SUBSTANCES AND PREPARATIONS 23
PEDESTRIAN PROTECTION COMMITMENT BY THE EUROPEAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY 24
REVIEW OF PHARMACEUTICALS LEGISLATION 25
STRATEGY FOR A FUTURE CHEMICALS POLICY 26
THE ROLE OF STANDARDISATION IN EUROPE 27
TOWARDS A STRATEGY FOR LIFE SCIENCES AND BIOTECHNOLOGY 27
OTHER BUSINESS 28
- OVER-INDEBTEDNESS OF CONSUMERS 28
- PROBLEM OF DOMESTIC ACCIDENTS 28
- COORDINATION OF HOLIDAYS 28
ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE I
INTERNAL MARKET I
CONSUMER AFFAIRS I
LAND TRANSPORT II
For further information call 02 285 62 19 / 02 285 81 11
The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
|Mr Charles PICQUE||Minister for Economic Affairs and Scientific Research, with responsibility for Policy on Large Towns and Cities|
|Ms Magda AELVOET||Minister for Consumer Protection, Public Health and the Environment|
|Mr Renaat LANDUYT||Flemish Minister for Employment and Tourism|
|Mr Ole STAVAD||Minister for Trade and Industry|
|Mr Alexander MÜLLER||State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture|
|Ms Milena APOSTOLAKI||State Secretary for Development|
|Mr Ramón de MIGUEL Y EGEA||State Secretary for European Affairs|
|Mr François PATRIAT||State Secretary to the Minister for Economic Affairs, Finance and Industry, with responsibility for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, Trade and Craft Industries, and Consumer Affairs|
|Mr Tom KITT||Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (with special responsibility for Labour Affairs, Consumer Rights and International Trade)|
|Mr Rocco BUTTIGLIONE||Minister without portfolio, Minister for Community Policies|
|Mr Mario VALDUCCI||State Secretary for Production Activities|
|Mr Marc UNGEHEUER||Deputy Permanent Representative|
|Mr Dick BENSCHOP||State Secretary for Foreign Affairs|
|Ms Mares ROSSMANN||State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Labour|
|Ms Margarida FIGUEIREDO||Deputy Permanent Representative|
|Mr Kimmo SASI||Minister for Foreign Trade and European Affairs|
|Mr Leif PAGROTSKY||
Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with responsibility for Trade
|Mr Hans-Eric HOLMQVIST||State Secretary at the Ministry of Justice|
|United Kingdom :|
|Ms Melanie JOHNSON||Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Competition, Consumers and Markets|
* * *
Mr Frits BOLKESTEIN
Mr David BYRNE
Mr Erkki LIIKANEN
TOURISM FOR ALL
The Council noted a report by the Presidency on the European Ministerial Conference which it organised in Bruges on 1 and 2 July 2001 and the conclusions drawn by the Presidency. The Conference was part of the follow-up to the conclusions of the Council meeting on Tourism and Employment on 21 July 1999.
The Belgian Presidency believes that in our society as many individuals as possible should have the opportunity to participate in tourist activities, and that existing financial, physical and mental obstacles should be reduced as much as possible. The Presidency organised a European Ministerial Conference on 1 and 2 July 2001 in Bruges, on the theme "Tourism for All" and the accessibility to tourism for disabled people in particular. After this Conference, the Presidency convened a Council Working Group on 4 September 2001, in view of the fact that this is an ideal platform for studying the theme in more detail among experts. The Council Working Group has discussed the content of the draft conclusions of the Presidency. During this meeting, as well as during the European Ministerial Conference in Bruges, there was a large consensus about the theme in general, and the accessibility for disabled people in particular, and a willingness to jointly progress on this in the future.
The Presidency calls on the Council to
1. TAKE NOTE of the summary document, as a follow-up to the Conclusions of the Council of 21 June 1999, on the interim results of the working groups state of affairs on 1st July 2001 distributed at the European Ministerial Conference in Bruges on 1 and 2 July 2001,
TAKE NOTE that for each priority area (information, training, quality, sustainable development and information and communication technologies) policy advice and specific actions are proposed;
2. RECOGNISE the high efficiency of the working method adopted within the working groups to combine the expertise from different Member States as well as the tourism industry and other stakeholder groups, and to reach agreement on priority actions to be taken;
3. Bearing in mind the discussion during the European Ministerial Conference in Bruges, RECOGNISE the necessity, to:
make tourism activities accessible as much as possible to specific target groups, in particular to young and elderly people, families living in poverty, unemployed and disabled people for reasons of enhancing equal opportunities, and in order to achieve social inclusion. The actual implementation will be carried out by governments, industry and other stakeholders working in the field, who have acquired expertise;
pay specific attention to the various Community programmes for those projects that will have a direct or indirect positive effect on tourism participation by a population or specific target groups, from the point of view of both social welfare and economic policy. This concerns, in particular, projects to be supported by the European Structural Funds (including the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund) or within specific programmes such as the 6th Framework programme for Research and Technological Development, to support policy cooperation between Member States to combat social exclusion, and to make use of the European Year of Disabled People 2003;
provide specific modules in education and training programmes for professionals in the tourism sector concerning the reception and provision of services to disabled people;
achieve simplified systems of tourism labelling and appropriate accessibility criteria with a view to proportionate transparent information on the various aspects of the tourism offer.
4. The Presidency calls on the Commission and the Member States, within their respective spheres of competence and within the limits determined by the principle of subsidiarity to:
refer, in the final Commission communication "Framing the Future for European Tourism", to general measures relating to the accessibility of the tourist supply and tourist activities of disabled people and to specific measures for simplified systems of tourism labelling and to define appropriate accessibility criteria on the one hand and to stimulate specific modules in education and training programmes concerning the reception and provision of services to disabled people on the other hand;
take the necessary measures to provide specific actions relating to the tourist activity of disabled people in the official programme of the European Year of Disabled People 2003;
provide an instrument in order to set up a systematic inventory of initiatives and measures to promote the tourist activity of specific target groups, and to enable an appropriate exchange of information between Member States.
The Council noted information from the Presidency on the tourism dimension in other policies and asked the Commission to submit, at the next Council meeting on the Internal Market, Consumer Affairs and Tourism on 26 November, an information note on the repercussions of the events of 11 September in the United States on the tourist industry in the Community.
The Presidency drew up its information note following the Ministerial Conference in Bruges on 1 and 2 July 2001 on "Tourism for all". It addresses a number of topics which illustrate the challenges facing the tourist industry at European level.
It deals in particular with the following topics:
1. Harmonisation of VAT rates in the hotel and catering sector and public transport;
2. Harmonisation of VAT deductibility;
3. Harmonisation of commercial communication;
4. Food hygiene;
5. Tour managers, couriers and tourist guides in the EU;
6. Air traffic management.
PREPARATION FOR THE EURO (FROM THE CONSUMER'S POINT OF VIEW) PUBLIC DEBATE
The Council held an open debate televised for the benefit of the press and the public on the Member States' preparations for the introduction of the euro (from the consumer's point of view).
At the close of the debate, the President made the following comments:
the Member States must maintain a high degree of vigilance to ensure that the switch to the euro remains a neutral operation. A series of measures must be taken to ensure that prices are kept under control;
the public must be provided with information spelling out the fact that prices are not influenced by the euro;
it is not up to the Member States alone to provide information. Manufacturers and traders must also communicate the various measures which they are taking to maintain price levels in the switch to the single currency;
some States stress the importance of the role of competition and the role of consumers themselves;
the Member States must set a good example in the rounding off of prices resulting from the switch to the single currency;
the situation regarding the adjustment of SMEs is progressing, but they must nevertheless remain a prime target for training and information campaigns;
dual indication of prices has proved very useful and remains an important way of educating the consumer;
the Member States are making numerous efforts to combat fraud;
all the Member States are devoting great care and attention to ensuring the credibility of the euro and protection of consumers.
DISTANCE MARKETING OF FINANCIAL SERVICES
The Council reached political agreement, by a qualified majority, with the Luxembourg delegation voting against, on the common position with a view to the adoption of the Directive on distance marketing of financial services. Once the text has been finalised, the common position will be formally adopted and sent to the European Parliament for a second reading, in accordance with the codecision procedure provided for in the Treaty.
The purpose of the common position is to supplement Framework Directive 97/7/EC of 20 May 1997 on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts. The aim is a high degree of harmonisation of national provisions and a very high level of consumer protection. The principal features are detailed prior information and a right of withdrawal for consumers.
The Council reached political agreement by a qualified majority, with the Austrian, Danish and Greek delegations voting against and the Spanish delegation abstaining, on its common position with the view to the adoption of a Directive on the approximation of the laws of the Member States on food supplements. Once the text has been finalised, the common position will be formally adopted and sent to the European Parliament for a second reading, in accordance with the codecision procedure provided for in the Treaty.
An increasing number of products are marketed in the Community as being foods containing concentrated sources of nutrients and designed to supplement the intake of those nutrients from the normal diet in particular vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, fibre and various plant and herbal extracts.
Those products are regulated in Member States by differing national rules that may impede their free movement or create unequal conditions of competition, and thus have a direct impact on the functioning of the internal market.
As a first stage, the Directive is to lay down specific rules for vitamins and minerals used as ingredients of food supplements. Food supplements containing vitamins or minerals as well as other ingredients should also be in conformity with the specific rules on vitamins and minerals laid down in the Directive.
EUROPEAN CONTRACT LAW
The Council took note of the Commission communication on European contract law.
The communication, adopted by the Commission in July, launched a debate on potential problems within the internal market resulting from differences between national contract laws. Its aim is to gather information on the need for possible Community action.
The communication presents four different possibilities for discussion:
leave the solution of any identified problems to the market;
identify the elements common to most rules of national contract law and turn them into guidelines useful for national legislators when drawing up legislative initiatives, national courts and arbitrators in their decisions and contracting parties in drafting their contracts;
review and amend all existing Community legislation in this area to simplify and improve it;
create a new Community legal instrument which could, for example, be an optional model chosen by the contracting parties or a safety net of fallback provisions, if the contracting parties have not agreed a solution to a possible problem in the contract.
EUROPEAN FOOD AUTHORITY
The Council noted the progress made on the proposal for a Regulation. It agreed to ask the Permanent Representatives Committee to make every effort, in the context of the European Parliament's second reading, to reconcile the points of view of the two institutions and thus facilitate adoption of the Regulation before the end of the year.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD AND FEED
The Council noted the Commission's presentation of its two proposals for Regulations, one concerning traceability and labelling of GMOs and products produced from GMOs and the other concerning genetically modified food and feed. The Council asked the appropriate bodies to press ahead with the proceedings.
Over lunch, the Council noted a progress report by the Presidency and held a wide-ranging exchange of views on the outstanding problems concerning the creation of a Community patent. Having noted the principal difficulties of the various delegations with the common approach which it was proposing, the Presidency said that it would do everything possible to draw up a compromise text that all delegations could accept, in order to reach agreement by the end of the year. The Permanent Representatives Committee was invited to press ahead with work on all aspects of the creation of the Community patent. The President of the Council pointed out that all delegations had insisted on the need for the Community patent to be credible.
As regards developments to date, the Lisbon European Council's conclusions, subsequently confirmed by the Feira and Stockholm European Councils, requested that a Community patent including the utility model be available by the end of 2001 at the latest. The proposal for a Regulation aims at creating a single patent which will be valid throughout the territory of the European Union and proposes that it be issued by the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich, in accordance with the patentability requirements and procedures laid down in the European Patent Convention (EPC) and its Implementing Regulations.
At its meeting on 30 and 31 May 2001, the Internal Market, Consumer Affairs and Tourism Council agreed to a common approach to guide the continued discussions. Since then, sustained discussions in the competent Council bodies have focused on the financial arrangements, the role of national offices, the language regime and further examination of the articles of the proposal for a Regulation.
The Council noted a progress report by the Presidency and asked the Permanent Representatives Committee to continue its efforts to finish examining the proposal in time for the next Council meeting on 26 November 2001.
The proposed Directive aims at establishing a legal framework for the professional activity of insurance intermediaries throughout the European Union. The Directive fits into the framework of the three life insurance Directives (79/267/EEC, 90/619/EEC and 92/96/EEC) and the three non-life insurance Directives (73/239/EEC, 88/357/EEC and 92/49/EEC) and takes account of the various legislative changes made since the adoption of Directive 77/92/EEC on insurance intermediaries.
It establishes minimum requirements both for the professional competence of the intermediaries and for the information provided to consumers when preparing a contract. Under the Directive, registered intermediaries will have the opportunity to provide their services under clear legal rules in the Internal Market and thus contribute to an efficient functioning of insurance markets under stringent standards.
STATUTE FOR A EUROPEAN COMPANY
The Council examined the amendments suggested by the European Parliament, which had been reconsulted further to the position adopted by the Council in December 2000, but decided not to incorporate them. The Council confirmed its intention of formally adopting the Regulation, together with the Directive supplementing the Statute for a European Company with regard to the involvement of employees, at the meeting of the Employment and Social Policy Council on 8 October 2001.
The agreement reached by the Nice European Council in December 2000 on the involvement of employees broke the deadlock on this issue after 30 years of negotiations. The Employment and Social Policy Council on 20 December 2000 was then able to establish a favourable position with a view to a political agreement, and decided to reconsult the European Parliament.
SERVICES OF GENERAL INTEREST
The Council took note of the Commission's intention of adopting a report on services of general interest in the near future, and of substantial contributions from several delegations on the subject which bore witness to the Member States' interest in the subject. The Council will debate the Commission report at its next meeting on 26 November, with a view to drafting a paper for the European Council in Laeken in December.
The Presidency conclusions from the meeting of the European Council in Nice on 7, 8 and 9 December 2000 contain a section on services of general interest in which the European Council, having taken note of the Commission communication on services of general interest of 20 September 2000 and approved the declaration on services of general interest adopted by the Council on 30 November 2000, invited the Council and the Commission to continue their discussions in the framework of these guidelines and the provisions of Article 16 of the Treaty. The European Council noted the Commission's intention to consider, in close cooperation with the Member States, ways of ensuring greater predictability and increased legal certainty in the application of competition rules relating to services of general interest. The Council and the Commission will report on the implementation of these guidelines for the European Council in December 2001.
The Council noted a progress report from the Presidency on this priority issue and asked the Permanent Representatives Committee to press ahead with discussions.
The new legislative package, i.e.:
the proposal for a Directive on the coordination of procedures for the award of public supply contracts, public service contracts and public works contracts; and
the proposal for a Directive coordinating the procurement procedures of entities operating in the water, energy and transport sectors,
presented by the Commission at the meeting of the Internal Market Council in May 2000, has two objectives: the first is to simplify and clarify the existing Community Directives, and the second is to adapt them to modern administrative needs in an economic environment that is changing as a result of factors such as liberalisation of telecommunications or the transition to the new economy. With the object of enhancing transparency in the award process and of combating corruption and organised crime, the legislative package also includes measures designed to make for greater clarity in the criteria determining the award of the contract and the selection of tenderers.
Both proposals have the objectives of:
the introduction of electronic purchasing mechanisms and the consequences of these in terms of reducing the length of an award procedure;
clarification of provisions relating to technical specifications; this will encourage effective competition through the participation of the greatest possible number of tenderers and, in particular, innovative businesses;
a strengthening of the provisions relating to award criteria;
a simplification of thresholds, the number of which has been reduced; and
the introduction of a common procurement vocabulary.
The Council noted the progress made regarding the final obstacle to adoption of the proposal for a Regulation on Community designs. It instructed the Permanent Representatives Committee to finalise the Regulation with a view to its adoption by the Council, without further discussion, at a forthcoming meeting.
At its meeting on 30 November 2000 the Council reached political agreement on all aspects of the proposal for a Regulation except one. Contacts which have taken place in the meantime have produced significant progress towards resolving that final point. The proposal for a Regulation, which requires unanimity in the Council, provides for the creation of a design right which will be valid throughout the Community and will be registered at the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market in Alicante, the Office which has managed the Community trademark since 1996.
FREE MOVEMENT OF GOODS CONCLUSIONS
The Council noted the Commission's presentation of its report on the application of Regulation (EC) No 2679/98 on the free movement of goods, and adopted conclusions on the subject.
The Commission report examines the results of implementing the Regulation since its entry into force. The purpose of the Regulation is to combat serious obstacles to the free movement of goods in the internal market. A Council Resolution was adopted at the same time as the Regulation to express the political commitment of the Council and the Member States to assisting the Commission in its efforts to strengthen free movement of goods.
In adopting the following conclusions, the Council lent its support to a more dynamic approach to applying the Regulation, by means of the adoption of a vade-mecum and the creation of a website.
REFERRING TO the terms of the Resolution of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, of 7 December 1998 on the free movement of goods and to the commitments made therein,
RECALLING that the free movement of goods is an essential foundation for the internal market,
1. TAKES NOTE of the Commission's report on the application of Regulation (EC) No 2679/98;
2. STRESSES the importance for operators, the Commission and the Member States of the rapid provision of as complete information as possible in the case of a barrier or risk of a barrier, particularly on the nature and location of any obstacles to freedom of movement and on alternative routes, and of regular exchanges on the application of the Regulation;
3. AGREES on the basis of the experience acquired during the limited period in which the Regulation has been applied that the Regulation should be applied even more dynamically by the Member States and the Commission in close cooperation, while as the above Resolution emphasised taking account of fundamental rights including the right or freedom to go on strike, as recognised by the Member States;
4. WELCOMES the Commission's proposals on:
the adoption of a vade-mecum intended for the Member States and for operators; this document, which should be prepared by the Commission in close cooperation with the Member States and taking account of the wishes of economic operators, should specify the procedures to be followed if there is a risk of a barrier or if there is an actual barrier to freedom of movement:
raising awareness in the media and amongst economic operators, in particular through the creation of a specific internet site;
5. WELCOMES with interest the Commission's presentation of a preliminary draft standard form intended to help Member States fulfil their obligations under Article 3(1) of the Regulation and INVITES the Commission to finalise this standard form in cooperation with the Member States;
6. RECALLS lastly that, in adopting the above Resolution, the Member States agreed "to ensure that rapid and effective review procedures are available for any person who has been harmed as a result of a breach of the Treaty caused by an obstacle within the meaning of Article 1 of Regulation (EC) No 2679/98."
CROSS-BORDER PAYMENTS IN EURO
Commissioner BOLKESTEIN presented the Commission proposal, the purpose of which is to reduce bank charges for cross-border payments in euro to the level of national rates. The Council noted the proposal and the comments made by a number of delegations.
FREE MOVEMENT OF PERSONS
The Council noted the Commission's presentation of its proposal for a Directive on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. The Council agreed with the Commission on the importance of the proposal and asked the Permanent Representatives Committee to examine it as soon as possible.
The proposal will be dealt with by the Internal Market Council, but since it covers a number of sectors, including the internal market, justice and home affairs and certain social aspects, the General Affairs Council and Coreper II will be kept informed of progress as the proposal makes its way through the various Council configurations.
CONTROL OF THE ACQUISITION AND POSSESSION OF WEAPONS
The Council noted the Commission's presentation of its report on the implementation of Directive 91/477/EEC on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons, the aim of which is to facilitate control of weapons in the internal market's area of free movement without frontiers.
In its report, the Commission confirms that it intends, early in 2002, to submit legislative proposals taking account of the work done at the UN.
RESTRICTIONS ON THE MARKETING AND USE OF CERTAIN DANGEROUS SUBSTANCES AND PREPARATIONS
The Council reached unanimous political agreement on its common position on the proposal for a Directive amending Council Directive 76/769/EEC relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations, with specific reference to pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE) (24th amendment). Once the text has been finalised in the Community languages, the common position will be adopted and sent to the European Parliament for a second reading.
Pentabromodiphenyl ether (pentaBDE) is a brominated flame retardant used almost exclusively in the manufacture of flexible polyurethane foam for furniture and upholstery. The risks to the environment of pentaBDE have been assessed. The risk assessment identified a need to reduce the risks arising from production and use of such foam. On the basis of the assessment, the Commission proposed, on 15 January 2001, that the use and placing on the market of articles containing pentaBDE be prohibited. As regards the other brominated flame retardants used in applications other than polyurethane foam, i.e. decaBDE and octaBDE, it was suggested that no action be taken until the results of the ongoing risk assessment are available.
PEDESTRIAN PROTECTION COMMITMENT BY THE EUROPEAN AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY
The Council noted the Commission communication on pedestrian protection and awaits with interest the report which the Commission is to submit in December on further developments.
The Commission issued a communication on pedestrian protection and the commitment by the European automobile industry in which it describes the results of the Commission's approach. In December 2000 the Commission discussed the possibility of using an industry self-commitment to increase the protection of pedestrians and other road users from injury. It entered into discussions with the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) and parallel negotiations with the Japanese and Korean Manufacturers' Associations. In February 2001 a public hearing was held to enable all interested parties to express their views.
The first phase of negotiations with the European industry was completed in July 2001. The industry undertook to adopt some passive safety measures and other active protection measures (including, for example, electronic sensors). In the light of experience and of the opinions of the other European bodies, the Commission will decide whether legislation is nevertheless necessary. In Japan and the Republic of Korea, the industry has indicated that it will make a similar commitment by the end of the year.
The Commission's decision on whether to continue accepting the voluntary commitment in future or to propose either a framework directive or a directive based on the traditional approach will be deferred until December 2001 at the latest.
REVIEW OF PHARMACEUTICALS LEGISLATION
The Council noted the Commission's presentation of its proposals for the review of pharmaceuticals legislation, as follows:
amendment of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2309/93 laying down Community procedures for the authorisation and supervision of medicinal products for human and veterinary use and establishing a European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products
amendment of the Directive on the Community code relating to medicinal products for human use, and
amendment of the Directive on the Community code relating to veterinary medicinal products. (Neither of these Directives has actually been adopted, but the Commission has already announced its intention of amending them.)
The aims of the review of European pharmaceuticals legislation are to:
ensure a high level of protection of the health of European citizens (make available innovative, safe products to patients as rapidly as possible),
step up market surveillance (greater pharmacovigilance),
improve the level of animal health (increase the number of veterinary medicines),
complete the internal market in pharmaceutical products, bearing in mind the challenges of globalisation,
establish a legal framework which will promote the competitiveness of the European industry,
rationalise and simplify the system and the procedures, and make them more transparent.
In addition, the area of competence of the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (EMEA/London) would be extended. There are also plans to reform the decentralised procedure (which applies, for example, to generic medicines) and the arbitration procedure.
STRATEGY FOR A FUTURE CHEMICALS POLICY
The Council noted the progress report by the Commission on the strategy for a future chemicals policy.
In February 2001 the Commission launched its White Paper on the strategy.
The White Paper will be followed by legislative initiatives on the part of the Commission. In particular, there are plans for a single coherent system for all chemical substances (REACH model, registration, evaluation and authorisation/rapid restriction of chemicals). The system will be managed by the Member States and by the European Chemicals Bureau (ECB). Collaboration with
the industry is vital (e.g. for providing the authorities with information and for risk assessment).
The new approach will mean amending or consolidating the following legal instruments:
Council Directive 67/548/EEC on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances, as amended;
Council Directive 88/379/EEC on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous preparations, recently replaced by 1999/45/EC;
Council Regulation (EEC) No 793/93 on the evaluation and control of the risks of existing substances;
Directive 76/769/EEC on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations.
THE ROLE OF STANDARDISATION IN EUROPE
The Council noted the Commission's presentation of its report on the implementation of the Council Resolution on the role of standardisation in Europe. The Council adopted this Resolution in October 1999, with a request to the Commission to report back to it by 30 June 2001 on the follow-up action it had taken.
TOWARDS A STRATEGY FOR LIFE SCIENCES AND BIOTECHNOLOGY
The Council noted the Commission's intentions regarding preparation of a strategy for biotechnology in Europe.
In September the Commission launched a public consultation on life sciences and biotechnology by publishing a consultation document entitled "Towards a strategic vision of life sciences and biotechnology" covering a wide range of biotechnology issues.
That document sets out the Commission's current thinking and raises a number of specific questions on which it would particularly like to gather reactions. The topics addressed include the technological possibilities available and their safety in use; the research to be supported, the ethical implications and the implications for society of the research and the technological applications; the need for information and public participation; questions concerning regulation of GMOs in the short and long terms; the various approaches at international level and in the various international organisations; and the specific needs of the developing countries.
The Council noted the Belgian delegation's note on initiatives relating to the over-indebtedness of consumers in the European Community.
With over-indebtedness now affecting a large number of European citizens in all the Member States, the Belgian delegation considers that coordinated action should be considered at Community level to limit the harmful effects of over-indebtedness, and proposes that a European network be set up for that purpose.
The Council noted a statement by the Belgian delegation, which wished to draw attention to the White Paper drawn up by the NGO ECOSA on the problem of domestic accidents. The report contains important comments on the problem and argues for a more coordinated European approach.
The Belgian delegation therefore called on the Council and the Commission also to consider the matter and to discuss it at a later date.
The Council noted an information note from the Austrian delegation on the question of better seasonal distribution of tourist activities in Europe by means of measures to make tourist flows more flexible. Further to the Austrian initiative, which was welcomed by several delegations, the Commission was invited despite the very limited Community competence in this area to study the subject and brief the Council as soon as possible.
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.)
The Information Society
The Council adopted a Decision authorising the Commission to negotiate on behalf of the European Community, within the competent bodies of the Council of Europe, a draft Convention on information and legal cooperation on information society services. The Commission will conduct the negotiations in consultation with the special committee appointed by the Council. The objective of the negotiations is to ensure that the Council of Europe's Convention on information and legal cooperation on information society services makes it possible to set up, in the field concerned, a mandatory system of prior regulatory information (without a standstill period) and a mechanism for regular administrative cooperation with third countries.
Medicinal products for human use
The Council adopted a Directive on the Community code relating to medicinal products for human use.
Since the Community legislation in this area has been amended substantially on several occasions, it is sensible to bring together a number of Directives in a single consolidated text for the sake of clarity.
General product safety
Further to the agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council in the Conciliation Committee on 25 June 2001, the Council formally adopted the Directive on general product safety. Subject to approval of the joint text by the Parliament, the Directive will be finally adopted.
The Directive, which amends Directive 92/59/CEE adopted in June 1992 introduces clearer and more efficient rules to ensure that only safe products are put on the market. The overall aim is to harmonise the measures of the Member States aimed at imposing a general obligation to market only safe products, to ensure both a consistent and high level of protection of consumer health and safety throughout the EC and the proper functioning of the internal market.
(For more information on the content of the Directive, see press release 10236/01 Presse 258.)
Drivers' working time - opening of the conciliation procedure
As the Council was unable to approve all the second-reading amendments passed by the European Parliament on the common position with a view to the adoption of the Directive concerning the organisation of working time for mobile workers performing road transport activities and for self-employed drivers, the opening of a conciliation procedure should be requested.
Directive on the maximum length of buses
The Council adopted by a qualified majority, with the Danish delegation voting against, its common position on amendment of Directive 96/53/EC laying down for certain road vehicles circulating within the Community the maximum authorised dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorised weights in international traffic.
The draft Directive seeks to harmonise the maximum authorised length of buses and to amend the manoeuvrability criteria applicable to them, notably with a view to enabling the free circulation in practice of buses on Community territory and eliminating distortions of competition on the cabotage market in the passenger transport sector. It provides for a maximum authorised length of 12 m for buses with two axles, 15 m for buses with more than two axles , and 18,75 m for buses with trailers.
Sixth Environment Action Programme
Following the political agreement reached at the Environment Council meeting on 7 June 2001, the Council formally adopted its common position on the Decision laying down the Sixth Community Environment Action Programme. The common position will now be sent to the European Parliament for a second reading in accordance with the codecision procedure.
The proposal establishes a programme for Community action on the environment for the next ten years. It focuses in particular on climate change, nature and biodiversity, environment and health as well as quality of life, and natural resources and wastes. For each of these areas, the Programme indicates key environmental objectives and certain targets, and identifies a number of actions to achieve them.
Seven thematic strategies are to be developed by the Commission in order to establish further quantifiable and time-bound objectives. These strategies will cover air quality, the marine environment, resource use, pesticides, waste recycling, soil protection issues and the urban environment. They should be ready for implementation at the latest five years after the adoption of the Programme.
The initiatives to be taken to meet the objectives of the Programme will consist of a range of measures, including legislation, voluntary agreements and improved information and involvement of consumers, enterprises and public bodies. These initiatives will be presented progressively and at the latest four years after the adoption of the Programme.
National emission ceilings and large combustion plants *
Following the agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council in the Conciliation Committee in June, the Council formally adopted two Directives marking an important step in the Community strategy against atmospheric pollution. These are:
the amendment of Directive 88/609/EEC on the limitation of emissions of certain acidifying pollutants into the air from large combustion plants (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, dust);
the Directive fixing national emission ceilings for four atmospheric pollutants (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia).
The European Parliament approved the texts in plenary on 20 September 2001. The Directives are therefore finally adopted.
(For more information on the content of the two Directives, see press release 10244/01 Presse 266.)
The Council adopted a Decision authorising the Commission to negotiate, on behalf of the European Community, a Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment which will be annexed to the 1991 ESPOO Convention on environmental impact assessment in a transboundary context, concluded under the auspices of the UN Economic Commission for Europe.
Cooperation agreements between Euratom and Russia in the nuclear sector
The Council adopted a Decision authorising the Commission to conclude two cooperation agreements between the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the Russian Federation in the fields of nuclear safety and controlled nuclear fusion.
The Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Russian Federation, of the other part, which entered into force on 1 December 1997, stipulates that the parties will cooperate in the nuclear sector.
Under the nuclear safety agreement, cooperation covers the following fields in particular:
(a) Reactor safety research
(b) Radiation protection
(c) Nuclear waste management
(d) Decommissioning, decontamination and dismantling of nuclear installations
(e) Research and development on accountancy and control of nuclear material.
Cooperation is implemented in particular through:
exchange of technical information by means of reports, visits, seminars, technical meetings, etc.,
exchange of personnel between laboratories and/or bodies, including for training purposes,
exchange of samples, materials, instruments and apparatus for experimental purposes,
participation in joint studies and activities.
Cooperation Agreement between Euratom and Kazakhstan in the nuclear sector
The Council adopted a Decision authorising the Commission to conclude a cooperation agreement on thermonuclear fusion between the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the Republic of Kazakhstan.
The objective of the Agreement is to maintain and intensify cooperation between the Parties in the areas covered by their respective fusion programmes in order to develop the scientific understanding and technological capability underlying a fusion power system. Cooperation may relate in particular to studies, fusion technology, applied plasma physics and programme policies and plans. It may, inter alia, take the form of exchange and provision of information, exchange and provision of personnel, meetings, exchange and provision of samples, instruments and apparatus for experimental and evaluation purposes and participation in joint studies and activities.
Financial aid for technical coal research projects
The Council adopted an assent pursuant to Article 55 of the ECSC Treaty on the granting of financial aid for technical coal research projects.
Control measures applicable to highly migratory fish
The Council adopted a Regulation laying down control measures applicable to fishing for certain stocks of highly migratory fish.
The Community has since November 1997 been a Contracting Party to the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). That Convention provides a framework for regional cooperation on the conservation and management of resources of tuna and tuna-like fish in the Atlantic ocean and adjacent seas through an International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas and the adoption of recommendations on conservation and management in the Convention area that become obligatory for Contracting Parties. ICCAT has adopted a number of recommendations creating control and surveillance obligations, notably on the establishment and transmissions of statistics, inspection in port, vessel surveillance by satellite, vessel observations and transhipments, and checks on non-Contracting Parties' and on stateless vessels. The Regulation adopted implements these recommendations.
Veterinary medicinal products
The Council adopted a Directive on the Community code relating to veterinary medicinal products.
Since the Community legislation in this area has been amended substantially on several occasions, it is sensible to bring together a number of Directives in a single consolidated text for the sake of clarity.
Economic and Social Committee
The Council adopted Decisions appointing two members of the Economic and Social Committee:
Mr Jean-Marc BILQUEZ was appointed a member of the Economic and Social Committee in place of Mr Jean-Claude QUENTIN, for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 20 September 2002;
Mr Eric SENECHAL was appointed a member of the Economic and Social Committee in place of Mr Lucien REBUFFEL, for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 20 September 2002.