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2389th Council meeting INTERNAL MARKET, CONSUMER AFFAIRS AND TOURISM Brussels, 26 November 2001

European Council - PRES/01/440   26/11/2001

Other available languages: FR DE DA ES NL IT SV PT FI EL

C/01/440

Brussels, 26 November 2001

14400/01 (Presse 440)

2389th Council meeting

INTERNAL MARKET, CONSUMER AFFAIRS AND TOURISM

Brussels, 26 November 2001

President : 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

CONTENTS

PARTICIPANTS 4

ITEMS DEBATED

WORKING TOGETHER FOR THE FUTURE OF EUROPEAN TOURISM 6

EFFECTS OF THE EVENTS OF 11 SEPTEMBER 2001 IN THE UNITED STATES ON THE TOURISM SECTOR IN THE EUROPEAN UNION 7

COSMETIC PRODUCTS - ANIMAL TESTING 8

DANGEROUS SUBSTANCES 9

     AZOCOLOURANTS 9

    - SUBSTANCES CLASSIFIED AS CARCINOGENS, MUTAGENS OR SUBSTANCES TOXIC TO REPRODUCTION - C/M/R 9

    - PHTHALATES/SAFETY OF TOYS 9

PROTECTION OF VULNERABLE ROAD USERS - Council Conclusions 10

FOOD AUTHORITY 14

CONSUMER INDEBTEDNESS - Council Conclusions 15

CONSUMER INVOLVEMENT IN THE SINGLE MARKET 17

GREEN PAPER ON EUROPEAN UNION CONSUMER PROTECTION 18

SIMPLIFYING THE REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT 18

COMMUNITY PATENT 19

INSURANCE MEDIATION 19

PUBLIC CONTRACTS - PROGRESS REPORT 20

    - AWARD OF PUBLIC SUPPLY CONTRACTS, PUBLIC SERVICE CONTRACTS AND PUBLIC WORKS CONTRACTS IN THE WATER, ENERGY AND TRANSPORT SECTORS 20

CROSS-BORDER PAYMENTS IN EURO 21

SERVICES OF GENERAL INTEREST - Council Conclusions 22

JOINT WORK PROGRAMME OF THE THREE PRESIDENCIES (BELGIUM, SPAIN AND DENMARK) 24

PRESENTATIONS BY THE COMMISSION 24

    - INTERNAL MARKET SCOREBOARD, SERVICES STRATEGY AND INTERNAL MARKET STRATEGY REVIEW 24

OTHER BUSINESS 25

    - PROTECTION OF DATA - IMPLEMENTATION OF DIRECTIVE 95/46 25

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

INTERNAL MARKET I

  • Decisions on the accession of the EC to UN/ECE Regulations I

APPOINTMENTS I

  • Economic and Social Committee I

RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE II

  • Science and Technology Centre (STCU) II

_________________

For further information call 02 285 67 00 / 02 285 60 83 / 02 285 63 49

PARTICIPANTS

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

Belgium:

Mr Charles PICQUE

Minister for Economic Affairs and Scientific Research, with responsibility for Policy on Large Towns and Cities

Mr Renaat LANDUYTFlemish Minister for Employment and Tourism
Ms Magda AELVOETMinister for Consumer Protection, Public Health and the Environment
Mr Bernd GENTGES

Minister for Education and Training, Culture and Tourism (German-speaking Community)

Mr Eric TOMAS

Minister of the Brussels Capital Regional Government, with responsibility for Employment, Economic Affairs, Energy and Housing

Denmark:

Mr Jørgen ROSTEDState Secretary

Germany:

Mr Alexander MÜLLER

State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture
Mr Hansjörg GEIGER

State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice

Greece:

Mr Christos PACHTASState Secretary for Economic Affairs and Finance
Mr Christos THEODOROUState Secretary for Development

Spain:

Mr Ramón de MIGUEL Y EGEAState Secretary for European Affairs

France:

Mr Pierre MOSCOVICIMinister attached to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, with responsibility for European Affairs
Mr Jacques BRUNHES

State Secretary to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Housing, with responsibility for Tourism

Ireland:

Mr James BRENNANDeputy Permanent Representative

Italy:

Mr Rocco BUTTIGLIONEMinister without portfolio, Minister for Community Policies
Mr Mario VALDUCCIState Secretary for Production Activities

Luxembourg:

Mr Henri GRETHENMinister for Economic Affairs, Minister for Transport

Netherlands:

Mr Dick BENSCHOPState Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Mr Gerrit YBEMAState Secretary for Economic Affairs
Austria:
Ms Mares ROSSMANNState Secretary, Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Labour

Portugal:

Ms Teresa MOURAState Secretary for European Affairs
Mr Vitor NETOState Secretary for Tourism

Finland:

Mr Kimmo SASIMinister for Foreign Trade and European Affairs

Sweden:

Mr Leif PAGROTSKY

Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with responsibility for Trade

Ms Britta LEJONMinister at the Ministry of Justice, with responsibility for Democracy Issues and Consumer Affairs
United Kingdom:
Ms Patricia HEWITTSecretary of State for Trade and Industry
Commission:
Mr Frits BOLKESTEINMember
Mr David BYRNEMember
Mr Erkki LIIKANENMember
WORKING TOGETHER FOR THE FUTURE OF EUROPEAN TOURISM

The Council heard a presentation by Commissioner LIIKANEN of the Commission communication "Working together for the future of European tourism".

The Council had a brief exchange of views on its broad outlines, and welcomed in particular the strategy and measures for a consistent, integrated approach proposed in the communication.

It instructed COREPER to carry out a technical examination of the communication and to report back as soon as possible.

Tourism and its activities account for more than 20 million jobs and 12% of the EU's GDP. It is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the European economy. The communication, which seeks to increase awareness of the importance of tourism in the EU's economy as a whole, is the final stage in the "Tourism and Employment" process which was launched four years ago. It is the outcome of intense research work in five fundamental areas: information, training, quality, sustainable development and new technologies.

The communication, adopted by the Commission on 13 November 2001, aims in particular to enhance the competitiveness and sustainable development of tourism and highlights the need to improve the consistency of tourism policies and cooperation between the various stakeholders involved. These include the European Commission, the Member States, regional and local authorities, industry, tourism associations and tourist destinations. To gain a political platform for the tourist industry and enhance cooperation and coordination, an annual European Tourism Forum is proposed as an essential interface with the various categories of stakeholders involved.

EFFECTS OF THE EVENTS OF 11 SEPTEMBER 2001 IN THE UNITED STATES ON THE TOURISM SECTOR IN THE EUROPEAN UNION

The Council heard a presentation by Commissioner LIIKANEN of an information note on the effects of the terrorist atrocities on 11 September 2001 in the United States on the tourism sector in the European Union and agreed to return to this subject at a future meeting.

According to the Commission's assessment, the impact of these events is limited in scope and time, although significant in the short term.

The note reviews in general:

 the effects on "inbound" and "outbound" EU tourism;

     specific features of the European tourism market (forms of tourism, destination types and countries);

     specific sectors (air transport, travel agents, tour operators, hotels, other sectors);

     requests from the tourist industry.

COSMETIC PRODUCTS - ANIMAL TESTING

The Council reached a political agreement by a qualified majority, with the Austrian delegation voting against and the German, Netherlands and Danish delegations abstaining, on the amendment to Directive 76/768/EEC seeking to introduce a definitive ban on animal testing for cosmetic products. The common position will be formally adopted at a future Council meeting after the text has been finalised, so that it can be sent to the European Parliament for second reading.

The text approved by the Council provides for a prohibition on:

     the marketing of cosmetic products of which the final formulation has been the subject of animal testing and of cosmetic products containing ingredients which have been the subject of animal testing, using a method other than an alternative method after the validation, acceptance and publication by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) of it;

     the performance of animal testing of finished cosmetic products;

     the performance of animal testing of ingredients or combinations of ingredients when such tests can be replaced by one or more alternative methods listed in Annex V to Directive 67/548/EEC on the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances or in Annex IX to this Directive.

In accordance with the text approved by the Council, the Commission will draw up Annex IX at the latest 18 months after the adoption of the Directive, following a Regulatory Committee procedure and after consulting a Scientific Committee, including alternative methods which offer consumers a degree of protection equivalent to the animal testing which they aim to replace.

Directive 97/18/EC postponed the decision to prohibit animal testing definitively, stipulating that a solution must be found to this problem by means of a sixth amendment to Directive 76/768/EEC, failing which the definitive prohibition would enter into force automatically on 1 July 2002.

DANGEROUS SUBSTANCES

 AZOCOLOURANTS

The Council reached a political agreement, with the German delegation abstaining, on an amendment to Directive 76/769/EEC to ban the use of azocolourants and the placing on the market of some textiles and leather articles. The common position will be formally adopted at a future Council meeting after the text has been finalised, so that it can be sent to the European Parliament for second reading.

The purpose of the amendment is better protection of public health from the cancer risks posed by textiles and leather articles coloured by certain azodyes, whilst ensuring the proper functioning of the internal market.

  • SUBSTANCES CLASSIFIED AS CARCINOGENS, MUTAGENS OR SUBSTANCES TOXIC TO REPRODUCTION - C/M/R

The Council agreed a general approach, pending the Opinion of the European Parliament, on an amendment to Directive 76/469/EEC to ban the marketing of certain "c/m/r" substances classified as carcinogens, mutagens or substances toxic to reproduction. The common position will be adopted after the Opinion of the European Parliament has been examined.

  • PHTHALATES/SAFETY OF TOYS

The Council heard a progress report from the Presidency on the proposal to limit the exposure of young children to the risks posed by toys and childcare articles made of soft PVC containing phthalates.

Several Member States have legislated to ban toys containing phthalates on the grounds that they may pose a risk to the health of young children when the article in question is put in the mouth. In 1999 the Commission, pursuant to Directive 92/59/EEC on general product safety, temporarily banned the use of six phthalates in toys and articles made of soft PVC intended for children under the age of three (Decision 1999/518/EC). The aim of this proposal is thus to find a permanent solution.

PROTECTION OF VULNERABLE ROAD USERS - Council Conclusions

"THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

having discussed the Commission communication of 11 July 2001 entitled "Pedestrian protection: commitment by the European automobile industry",

RECALLING

     its Resolution of 26 June 2000 on the improvement of road safety, in which it invited the Commission, in particular, to submit as quickly as possible legislative proposals for taking the measures mentioned;

     the legislative measure advocated in the above Resolution which consists in "Adopting a Directive on the type-approval of vehicles with a forgiving front design, in the event of a collision, for the most vulnerable road users, in particular children, pedestrians and cyclists";

NOTING

     the intention of the Commission to adopt a recommendation directed at manufacturers' associations inviting them to enter into a voluntary commitment to increase the protection of pedestrians and other road users against injuries resulting from a collision with a motor vehicle;

     the outcome of the negotiations conducted by the Commission with the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) and the continuing negotiations with the Japanese and Korean Manufacturers Associations (JAMA and KAMA);

ADOPTS THE FOLLOWING CONCLUSIONS:

"THE COUNCIL,

1. SUPPORTS

     the efforts undertaken by the Commission to obtain a commitment by the European automobile industry to improve pedestrian safety;

     the willingness of manufacturers to work further to achieve increased safety for vulnerable users;

2. NOTES

     that the commitment by the industry is aimed at bringing new vehicle types into line with the recommendations of the Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) with effect from 1 July 2005 and new vehicles over a period extending from 2010 to 2012,

     that the objectives of the European Enhanced Vehicle-safety Committee (EEVC) should be attained from 2010 for new vehicle types and from 2012 to 2014 for new vehicles, subject to a feasibility study to be conducted by 1 July 2004,

     that, in addition to the aforementioned measures on type approval, the commitment provides for:

= anti-lock braking systems (ABS) to be fitted in all new vehicles from 2003,

    = daytime running lights (DRL) to be fitted in all new vehicles from 2002,

= rigid bull-bars to be no longer fitted to new vehicles from 2002,

    = gradual fitting of active security systems;

3. POINTS OUT

     that recourse to the instrument of voluntary commitment does not seem necessary for the entry into force of the measures recommended by the EEVC to be brought forward, as the timeframes envisaged allow for action to be taken by means of directives,

  that the fitting of ABS to new vehicles from 2003 does not produce a situation that is very different from that created by Directive 98/12/EC, since type-approved vehicles provide for such a device since 31 March 2001 and that several Member States will make it compulsory before 2004; an amendment to this Directive would therefore also make it possible to achieve the same objective,

      that the Council has not yet decided whether it is advisable, whether from the viewpoint of road safety or energy consumption, to provide for daytime running lights (DRL); and that application of such a measure requires preliminary harmonisation of the technical procedures,

      that while the absence of rigid bull-bars from new vehicles constitutes an undoubted step forward in road safety, firstly their use on the roads must be banned, notably by encouraging car component manufacturers to stop selling them as separate accessories and secondly, by extending this measure to all new M1 and N1 vehicles;

4. EMPHASISES the need to guarantee

     the legal validity of the measures envisaged and their compatibility with existing regulations, especially as regards the provisions on the type-approval and acceptance of vehicles,

     transparent and uniform inspection and follow-up procedures,

     the independence and objectivity of the bodies responsible for testing,

   perfect competition between manufacturers, by preventing the marketing of vehicles which do not meet the requirements laid down;

5. CONSIDERS

      that unless it can provide all these guarantees, a voluntary commitment on the part of the automobile manufacturers industry is unacceptable,

      that, if it were to be established that this commitment had been breached, the drafting, adoption and transposition of directives to make the desired measures obligatory would be substantially delayed.

6. ACCEPTS, exceptionally, the principle of a voluntary commitment that will speed up implementation of certain measures improving the safety of pedestrians and other vulnerable road users;

    7. WISHES, given the prospect of a rapid implementation of these measures, that the commitment by the automobile industry to make new vehicle types and new vehicles conform to the objectives of the EEVC should be enforced more swiftly depending upon the feasibility study to be carried out by 1 July 2004;

8. SUBJECTS this agreement, however, to the following conditions:

  • the measure withdrawing rigid bull-bars must be extended to all new M1 and N1 vehicles;

  • Member States will be involved in the agreement's implementation; competent EC type-approval authorities will be involved in control and follow-up procedures; to that end, the Commission could use as a basis the framework adopted for the voluntary agreement on the reduction of CO2 (European Parliament and Council Decision No 1753/2000/EC of 22 June 2000);

  • the Commission will request entry on the agenda of the proceedings of the UN Economic Commission for Europe Working Party 29, of the measures contained in the agreement, for use as a technical basis for a harmonised global regulation for the protection of pedestrians;

  • the daytime running lights (DRL) measure should be deferred until the technical procedures have been defined; the Commission is requested to put the question of daytime lights to the High Level Working Party on Road Safety;

9. EMPHASISES, in conclusion, that it still considers it important to adopt binding directives for all new road safety and environmental protection requirements and that the voluntary commitment cannot be introduced as a process that would discharge the political authorities from their responsibilities vis-a-vis public opinion;

    10. INVITES the Commission, in addition to the measure withdrawing bull-bars, to propose as soon as possible an amendment to Directive 74/483/EEC (1) and to examine the possibilities for banning their use on the road in the medium term;

    11. INVITES the Commission to continue preparation of directives that might supplement and, if necessary, replace the voluntary commitment."

FOOD AUTHORITY

The Council took note of progress on the proposal for a Regulation laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety.

The President gave information on this proposal, currently undergoing its second reading in the European Parliament, in particular on the informal meetings with European Parliament representatives. The aim of those meetings is to harmonise the positions of the Council and the Parliament as far as possible so that the two institutions may reach agreement and avoid the conciliation procedure, enabling the dossier to be completed before the end of the year.

CONSUMER INDEBTEDNESS - Council Conclusions

The Council adopted a Resolution on consumer credit and indebtedness.

Commissioner BYRNE said again that the Commission intended next year to propose a revision of the Directive on consumer credit, which would contribute to preventing the risks of over-indebtedness.

Thus the Council:

    "1. NOTES that the proportion of consumption financed by credit in all its forms is constantly increasing;

    2. NOTES that this growth in credit, which far exceeds GDP, contributes to the growth of the latter;

    3. CONFIRMS its attachment to the implementation of an internal financial services market and harmonisation of legislation in this field, with a high level of consumer protection;

    4. NOTES that both such harmonisation of legislation concerning cross-border retail financial operations and the introduction of a single currency and the development of new technologies also have the aim and consequence of developing cross-border credit operations;

    5. NOTES that while credit is a driving force for economic growth and the welfare of consumers, it also constitutes a risk for credit-providers and a threat of additional cost and insolvency for a growing number of consumers;

    6. NOTES that over-indebtedness affects a significant and growing number of European consumers in all the Member States;

    7. NOTES that such over-indebtedness is in the majority of cases due to increasing uncertainty regarding the occurrence and predictability of variations in income;

    8. NOTES that, while over-indebtedness does not consist solely of debts linked to credit, it is in most cases linked to the existence of credit, and consumer credit in particular;

    9. NOTES that information on indebtedness and over-indebtedness, despite the work done by the Commission, nevertheless remains inadequate, in particular owing to the lack of a systematic study of over-indebtedness, resulting from the incomparability of data, where such data are available in the Member States, and the lack of a harmonised definition of over-indebtedness;

    10. NOTES that ten European Union Member States currently have specific legislation concerning the collective settlement of debts governing the social, legal and economic treatment of over-indebted consumers, whereas ordinary debt collection procedures continue to apply in the other Member States;

    11. NOTES that divergences as regards both the preventive and the social, legal and economic treatment of over-indebtedness in the Member States could therefore give rise to considerable disparities both between European consumers and between credit-providers;

    12. CONSIDERS that, taking into account both the European Community's desire to develop cross-border activities relating to financial services and the growing scale of the phenomenon of indebtedness and over-indebtedness, consideration could be given at Community level to complementing the measures to promote the development of cross-border credit with measures to prevent over-indebtedness throughout the one credit cycle;

    13. TAKES NOTE of the Commission's intention, following the studies and hearings carried out, of proposing, in the context of the revision of the Directive on consumer credit, a certain harmonisation of preventive measures concerning the rules on information for debtors, the responsibility of credit-providers, compensation and costs if contracts are not fulfilled and the role of credit intermediaries or agencies;

    14. CONSIDERS that any European cooperation on the study and prevention of over-indebtedness needs to be based on regular and precise information of both a statistical and an economic, legal and sociological nature, which could draw, in particular, on the statistics collected in the context of the work carried out with regard to indicators concerning poverty and social exclusion and those concerning income and living conditions;

    15. INVITES the Member States and the Commission to consider as soon as possible ways and means of monitoring the development of consumer indebtedness and over-indebtedness within the internal market through an exchange of information at European level, particularly as regards the level of indebtedness and best practice;

    16. INVITES the Commission to continue working towards these objectives."

CONSUMER INVOLVEMENT IN THE SINGLE MARKET

The Council heard information from the Presidency on two recent meetings: "Consumer involvement in the Single Market" and "Consumer credit and Community harmonisation".

The first meeting, which took place in Brussels from 4 to 6 October 2001, dealt with aspects such as product safety, the role of consumers' organisations, new rules for those organisations, and ethical and sustainable consumption.

The second, the Charleroi Conference on 13 and 14 November 2001, brought together 300 representatives of professionals working in the area of credit, social organisations, and consumers from 26 European countries. The conference concluded inter alia that a new European Directive on consumer credit was of vital importance, and that a European Monitoring Centre on Indebtedness should be set up.

The Spanish delegation, as forthcoming Presidency, announced that a Consumer Day would be organised on 15 March 2002 in order to initiate a dialogue with organisations representing consumers, which should enable future challenges in this area to be met.

GREEN PAPER ON EUROPEAN UNION CONSUMER PROTECTION

Having heard a presentation by Commissioner BYRNE of the key aspects of the Green Paper on European Union Consumer Protection, the Council held a brief exchange of views on this issue.

It stressed the importance of improving consumer protection and welcomed the Commission's initiative aimed at the participation of all interested parties through public consultation.

The purpose of the Green Paper is to launch public consultation in order to identify the best route to be followed to improve consumer protection. The Commission invites interested parties to comment by 15 January 2002. Comments are particularly invited on the main barriers faced by consumers and business resulting from differences in national regulations on fair commercial practices in the internal market and on the possible need to reform consumer protection.

SIMPLIFYING THE REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT

The Council noted the information given by Commissioner BOLKESTEIN on progress in the work to improve and simplify the regulatory environment both at Community level and in the Member States, and welcomed the report of the High-Level Advisory Group ("Mandelkern Group") set up in November 2000 by the Ministers for Public Administration.

It awaits with great interest the consultation document on this subject which the Commission will submit to the Laeken European Council and which, according to Commissioner BOLKESTEIN, will serve as a basis for drafting an action plan by July 2002.

COMMUNITY PATENT

The Council held a long discussion on the different aspects of the draft Community patent, in particular the language arrangements and the role of national patent offices in relation to the European Patent Office in Munich. Despite all efforts, it was not possible to reach agreement at this Council meeting.

In these circumstances, the Presidency undertook to consider how best to continue the work so that agreement could be reached on the dossier as a whole in due course.

INSURANCE MEDIATION

The Council reached a unanimous political agreement with a view to adopting its common position on the text of the Directive on insurance mediation. The text will be formally adopted after it has been finalised by the legal/linguistic experts.

As regards professional requirements in particular, the Council agreed that all insurance or reinsurance intermediaries must hold professional indemnity insurance against liability arising from professional negligence, for at least EUR 1 000 000 applying to each claim and in aggregate EUR 1 500 000 per year for all claims.

The proposal for a Directive establishes a regulatory framework aimed at ensuring a high level of professionalism and competence among insurance intermediaries. A single system of registration of intermediaries would facilitate the cross-border exercise of their activities and is consistent with progress towards a single market. The proposal also provides for a high level of protection of policyholders' interests.

The proposal aims in particular to guarantee that (natural or legal) persons that take up or pursue the activity of insurance or reinsurance mediation are registered on the basis of minimum professional requirements. Member States will be able to impose requirements additional to those laid down in the Directive, but only in respect of the intermediaries which they register. In addition, the draft contains minimum requirements for the nature of the information that insurance intermediaries must provide to their customers.

PUBLIC CONTRACTS - PROGRESS REPORT

  • AWARD OF PUBLIC SUPPLY CONTRACTS, PUBLIC SERVICE CONTRACTS AND PUBLIC WORKS CONTRACTS IN THE WATER, ENERGY AND TRANSPORT SECTORS

The Council took note of the progress report from the Presidency on this priority dossier and of the comments by Commissioner BOLKESTEIN.

Updating legislation on public contracts is one of the Community's priorities, as was reaffirmed at the Lisbon and Stockholm summits. The conclusions of the Stockholm summit stated that the two Directives should be adopted before the end of 2001.

In July 2000, the Commission submitted to the Council two proposals for Directives to modernise the legal framework for the award of public contracts, i.e.:

  • a "traditional" Directive for supply contracts, service contracts and works contracts;

    and

  • a "sectors" Directive concerning the award of public contracts in the water, energy and transport sectors.

In the meantime, the Council's competent bodies have made considerable progress on the "traditional" Directive. However, as the Council is still awaiting the Opinion of the European Parliament and in the light of the complexity of the issues to be resolved, it was not possible to submit a text for agreement.

CROSS-BORDER PAYMENTS IN EURO

The Council reached a political agreement, with the Austrian delegation voting against, on a common position on the proposal for a Regulation on cross-border payments in euro.

The agreement was reached on the basis of a Presidency compromise text as amended during the Ministers' discussion. The common position will be adopted at a future Council meeting, after the text has been finalised in the usual way.

The aim of the Regulation, which still requires the agreement of the European Parliament under the co-decision procedure, is, at the same time as the introduction of the euro on 1 January 2002, to reduce bank charges for cross-border payments in euro to bring them into line with those applying at national level for euro transactions.

The compromise concerns in particular the dates of entry into force as regards charges for cross-border payments and credit transfers in euro, i.e. that:

     with effect from 1 July 2002, charges levied by an institution in respect of electronic payments up to EUR 12 500 would be the same as the charges levied for such payments within the State where the institution is located, and that,

     with effect from 1 July 2003 at the latest, charges levied for cross-border credit transfers in euro of that amount would be the same as the charges levied for such payments transacted within the State where the institution is located,

     with effect from 1 January 2006, these amounts would be raised to EUR 50 000.

In addition, the compromise covers Community currencies other than the euro, laying down that the Regulation would also apply to cross-border payments transacted in the currency of another Member State when the latter notifies the Commission of its decision to extend the Regulation's application to its currency.

Finally, as regards Member States' national reporting obligations for balance-of-payments statistics, the compromise text allows for any consequences for undertakings.

SERVICES OF GENERAL INTEREST - Council Conclusions

The Council took note of a report from the Commission to the Laeken European Council on Services of General Interest, in particular the Community framework for granting State aids, and of the Council's positions on this issue, particularly on the subject of liberalisation and the positive effects of competition on the quality of services as a whole, including services of general interest.

The Council adopted the conclusions set out below, which will be forwarded to the Laeken European Council.

"The Council,

HAVING REGARD to the essential role of services of general interest and their vital importance for citizens and consumers as well as for territorial and social cohesion;

RECALLING the three principles stated by the Commission in its communication of 20 September 2000 (2);

RECALLING the Conclusions of the Nice European Council, in particular as regards ways of ensuring greater predictability and increased legal certainty in the application of competition rules relating to services of general interest, as well as the Statement on Services of General Economic Interest annexed to those Conclusions;

    1. WELCOMES the Commission's Report on Services of General Interest (3) submitted in accordance with the Conclusions referred to above.

    2. NOTES WITH SATISFACTION the Commission's intention to increase certainty and predictability of the legal framework in the application of state aid rules to services of general interest;

       WELCOMES the Commission's intention, as a first step, to establish in the near future, in close cooperation with the Member States, Community framework guidelines on state aid, granted to undertakings entrusted with the provision of services of general interest, which will clarify inter alia under which conditions compensatory measures are not covered by the rules on state aid;

         INVITES THE COMMISSION, in the light and on the basis of experience gained with the application of these guidelines, to draw up, as soon as possible, in close cooperation with the Member States, a proposal for a regulation exempting certain aids in this area from the obligation of prior notification, taking account of sectoral specificities;

         INVITES the Commission to report to the Council on the drawing up of such a regulation, in view of the Copenhagen European Council.

      3. ENCOURAGES the Commission also to pursue, where possible, the same objectives of increasing legal certainty and predictability in the application of internal market rules to services of general interest.

    4. AGREES with the need for effective and dynamic evaluation at Community level of the competition effects and performance of services of general interest, while taking due account of national, regional and local specificities and competences;

       CONSIDERS that this evaluation should be carried out within existing structures, in particular through horizontal and sectoral reporting and the Commission's Cardiff report on economic reform, and should cover market structure and performance, including employment aspects, an economic and social assessment of public service obligations, and citizens' and consumers' opinions on the performance of services of general interest and the impact of liberalisation on them;

       WELCOMES in this context the intention of the Commission to submit a communication on evaluation methodology.

    5. EMPHASIZES the importance of the Lisbon Strategy for the provision of services of general interest.

    6. NOTES that the Commission will examine the appropriateness of consolidating and specifying the principles on services of general interest, underlying Article 16 of the Treaty, in a framework directive, while taking due account of the specificities of the different sectors involved, and LOOKS FORWARD to the results of that examination.

    7. CONFIRMS its intention to continue to pay close attention to services of general interest in the ongoing process of economic reform and development of the internal market."

JOINT WORK PROGRAMME OF THE THREE PRESIDENCIES (BELGIUM, SPAIN AND DENMARK)

The Council took note of the updated joint programme of the three Presidencies for the Internal Market, Consumer Affairs and Tourism Council up to the end of 2002.

In particular, the Council noted the emphasis placed, both as regards new legislation and in the non-legislative area, on the benefits of efficient functioning of the internal market for citizens and consumers and for small and medium-sized undertakings.

PRESENTATIONS BY THE COMMISSION

  • INTERNAL MARKET SCOREBOARD, SERVICES STRATEGY AND INTERNAL MARKET STRATEGY REVIEW

The Council heard a presentation by the Commission, inter alia on the new version of its scoreboard, which sets out the progress made towards achieving the objectives of the internal market (November 2001 version).

The Council reiterated in particular the objective of a maximum deficit of 1,5% in the transposition by Member States of internal market directives by spring 2002, as set by the Stockholm European Council. It welcomed the progress made towards this goal. As 10% of directives had not yet been transposed in all Member States, it stressed the importance of making further efforts and reaffirmed its intention of pursuing actively the objective set by the European Council.

OTHER BUSINESS

  • PROTECTION OF DATA - IMPLEMENTATION OF DIRECTIVE 95/46

The Swedish delegation drew the Council's attention to the difficulties encountered in Sweden in implementing the Directive on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data. Commissioner BOLKESTEIN said that the Commission was intending to present an overall evaluation of the implementation of the Directive in late 2002.

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

Documents whose reference numbers are mentioned are accessible on the Council's Internet site http://consilium.europa.eu. Acts adopted which include statements in the minutes accessible to the public are indicated by an asterisk; these statements may be obtained by following the procedure above or from the Press Office.

INTERNAL MARKET

Decisions on the accession of the EC to UN/ECE Regulations

The Council adopted a Decision authorising the Commission to contribute on behalf of the EC to the setting of priorities for the work of the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) in the framework of the Agreement concerning the establishing of global technical regulations for wheeled vehicles, equipment and parts which can be fitted and/or be used on wheeled vehicles ("Parallel Agreement").

APPOINTMENTS

Economic and Social Committee

The Council adopted Decisions appointing two members of the Economic and Social Committee:

     Mr Inger SOLDÉUS was appointed a member of the Economic and Social Committee in place of Mr Sture LINDMARK, who has resigned, for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 20 September 2002;

     Ms Elly KJEMS HOVE was appointed a member of the Economic and Social Committee in place of Ms Helle BUNDGAARD, who has resigned, for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 20 September 2002;

     Ms Ingrid JERNECK was appointed a member of the Economic and Social Committee in place of Ms Aina Margareta REGNELL, for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 20 September 2002;

     Mr Laurent GENSOU was appointed a member of the Economic and Social Committee in place of Mr Bernard MALIBIRADE, for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 20 September 2002;

     Mr K.B. van POPTA was appointed a member of the Economic and Social Committee in place of Mr Colin LUSTENHOUWER, for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 20 September 2002.

RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE

Science and Technology Centre (STCU)

The Council approved the revision of Article XIII of the Statute of the Science and Technology Centre.

(1) Council Directive 74/483/EEC of 17 September 1974 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the external projections of motor vehicles (OJ L 266, 2.10.1974, p. 4).

(2) 12022/00 CONSOM 54 MI 122 CAB 9 COM(2000) 580.

(3) 13235/01 MI 156 ECO 296 CONSOM 87 COM(2001) 598.


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