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C/03/140

Brussels, 19 May 2003

9413/03 (Presse 140)

2510th Council meeting - Competitiveness (Internal market, Industry, Research) - Brussels, 19 May 2003

President :

Mr Apostolos TSOCHATZOPOULOS

Minister of Development of the Hellenic Republic

CONTENTS (1)

PARTICIPANTS 4

ITEMS DEBATED

Horizontal issues 6

     INTERNAL MARKET SCOREBOARD / INTERNAL MARKET STRATEGY 2003-2006 6

Individual policy files 6

     TAKE-OVER BIDS 6

     MEASURING INSTRUMENTS 7

     DRUG PRECURSORS 7

     CREDIT FOR CONSUMERS 7

     SALES PROMOTION IN THE INTERNAL MARKET 8

     DETERGENTS 8

     NONYLPHENOL (NP), NONYLPHENOLETHOXYLATES (NPE), CEMENT 9

     INFORMAL MEETING ON EUROPEAN TOURISM (CRETE 6 MAY 2003) 9

Meetings on Consumer Policy (eretria 7-8 may) 9

other business 9

     a) Commission Action Plan on the New Approach Directives 9

     b) European Contract Law 10

     c) Right of EU citizens and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States 10

     d) Environmental liability 10

     e) Community Patent 11

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

ENVIRONMENT

  • Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment I

  • Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers I

  • Recreational craft - public deliberation II

FISHERIES

  • EC/Republic of Guinea Fishing Agreement II

  • Tuna tracking III

  • Food additive - E425 Konjac - public deliberation III

  • Sweeteners for use in foodstuffs - public deliberation III

PARTICIPANTS

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

Belgium :

Mr François ROUXDeputy Permanent Representative
Denmark :
Mr Bendt BENDTSENMinister for Economic Affairs, Trade and Industry
Germany :
Mr Hansjörg GEIGERState Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice
Mr Georg Wilhelm ADAMOWITSCH State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Labour
Greece :
Mr Apostolos TSOCHATZOPOULOSMinister for Development
Spain :
Mr Ramón DE MIGUEL Y EGEAState Secretary for European Affairs
France :
Ms Noëlle LENOIRMinister attached to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, with responsibility for European Affairs
Ireland :
Ms Mary HARNEYTánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Italy :
Mr Rocco BUTTIGLIONEMinister without portfolio, Minister for Community policies
Mr Mario VALDUCCIState Secretary for Production Activities
Luxembourg
Mr Henri GRETHENMinister for Economic Affairs
Netherlands :
Mr Atzo NICOLAÏState Secretary for European Affairs
Austria :
Mr Martin BARTENSTEINFederal Minister for Economic Affairs and Labour
Portugal :
Mr José Luís ARNAUTMinister attached to the Prime Minister
Mr Carlos COSTA NEVESState Secretary for European Affairs
Finland :
Mr Mauri PEKKARINENMinister for Trade and Industry
Sweden :
Mr Leif PAGROTSKYMinister for Industry, Employment and Communications
Ms Ann-Christin NYKVISTMinister for Agriculture
United Kingdom :
Mr Alan JOHNSONMinister of State for Employment Relations, Industry and the Regions

* * *

Commission :
Mr Erkki LIIKANENMember
Mr Frits BOLKESTEIN Member
Mr Philippe BUSQUINMember

The Governments of the Acceding States were represented as follows:

Czech Republic :

Mr Miroslav SOMOLDeputy Minister, Ministry for Industry and Trade
Estonia :
Mr Meelis ATONENMinister for Economic Affairs and Communications
Cyprus :
Mr Sotiris SOTIRIOUPermanent Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism
Latvia :
Mr Kaspars GERARDSState Secretary Ministry of Economics
Lithuania :
Mr Nerijus EIDUKEVICIUSVice-Minister for Economy
Hungary :
Mr Péter GOTTFRIEDDeputy State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Malta:
Mr Tony ABELAParliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs
Poland :
Mr Marek SZCZEPANSKIDeputy Minister at the Ministry of Economy, Labour and Social Affairs
Slovakia :
Mr Lazlo POMOTHYState Secretary at the Ministry of Economy
Slovenia :
Mr Matjaz LOGARState Secretary

ITEMS DEBATED

Horizontal issues

  • INTERNAL MARKET SCOREBOARD / INTERNAL MARKET STRATEGY 2003-2006

The Council, following an introduction by Commissioner Bolkestein on the Commission's "Internal Market Scoreboard" and its "Internal Market Strategy for 2003 - 2006", proceeded to an exchange of views on the two Commission communications.

The Council welcomed both documents as important inputs to the ongoing efforts to further improve the functioning of the Internal Market in the broader framework of economic reform and competitiveness.

The Council commented in particular on the so-called transposition deficit and the ranking of the Member States, as the latest Scoreboard shows that only 5 Member States meet the 1,5 percent target of non-transposition set by the Stockholm and Barcelona European Councils and the average transposition deficit for the Union as a whole has grown from 1,8 percent a year ago to 2,4 percent today.

Regarding the Internal Market Strategy document, the Council reiterated the importance of enhancing the performance of the Internal Market in order to meet the objectives set out in the Lisbon economic reform process.

The Council agreed to revert to the Internal Market strategy at its session in September.

Individual policy files

  • TAKE-OVER BIDS

The Council held an extensive exchange of views on the proposal for a Directive on take-over bids, in particular on the scope of and the appropriate relationship between Articles 9 and 11 of the proposal. It discussed various possible solutions for this issue and instructed the Permanent Representatives Committee to pursue the examination with the aim of paving the way for a rapid adoption of the Directive.

The intensive preparatory work so far has resulted in a broad convergence of views both on the main thrust and the ultimate objectives of the draft Directive as well as on individual provisions.

However, no agreement has yet been reached on the key provisions of the draft Directive, that is a fair and balanced solution for Articles 9 and 11, related to defensive measures once a take-over bid has been made public and provisions for neutralisations of a number of agreements which could frustrate or unduly inhibit the launching or the successful conclusions of the bid.

The proposed Directive aims at establishing a European legal framework for take-over bids as part of the ongoing process towards a more advanced integration of the European financial markets and the further harmonisation of European company law and corporate governance rules.

  • MEASURING INSTRUMENTS

The Council reached unanimous political agreement in public session on the common position concerning the amended draft Directive on measuring instruments. After finalisation of the document, it will be presented to the Council again for formal adoption and be sent to the European Parliament with a view to reaching agreement at second reading.

The European Parliament adopted its opinion at first reading on 3 July 2001. EP amendments in first reading have been examined in great detail and a number of them have been integrated in the current compromise text.

The proposed Directive on measuring instruments aims at replacing the framework directive of 1971 and more than 20 individual directives on instruments by an overall legal act and seeks to clarify and to simplify the legal metrological framework. Laying down enhanced responsibility for the manufacturer and a supervising role for notified bodies and Member State' authorities, the proposal basically provides for essential requirements and conformity assessment requirements for ten types of instruments. It refrains from detailed technical specifications which would be too restrictive in today's situation of rapid technical specifications. Moreover, its concept is built on the notion of presumption of conformity as declared by the manufacturer and on an exchange of information on certificates between authorities.

  • DRUG PRECURSORS

The Council reached an unanimous political agreement in public session concerning its common position on a Regulation on drug precursors. Once the text is formally adopted, it will be sent to the European Parliament with a view for an agreement at second reading.

In the context of the legitimate trade drug precursors, the proposal aims to transform into a Regulation the existing Directive 92/109/EEC concerning the surveillance of trade of drug precursors regarding the internal market. Its purpose is to establish harmonised measures for the intra-Community control and monitoring of certain substances frequently used for the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances with a view to preventing the diversion of such substances.

  • CREDIT FOR CONSUMERS

The Council proceeded to a policy debate on the draft Directive on the harmonisation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning credit for consumers and took note of concluding comments by Commissioner Byrne on Member States' positions on this file.

The Council expressed a generally favourable view on the proposal, as the existing Community legislation on consumer credit no longer reflects the current situation on the consumer credit market. It recognised that, following the development of new credit instruments and activities, a reform is important in terms of an effective consumer protection and functioning of the internal market.

In order to establish guidance for future work on this file, the Member States clarified their positions on key issues such as:

  • the objective of a total harmonisation, as proposed by the Commission, in relation to provisions allowing a certain degree of flexibility for Member States;

  • the forms of credit falling within the scope of the Directive, notably as refers to mortgage credit;

  • conditions of coverage of creditors and credit intermediaries, such as registration requirements and possible controls.

It is recalled that Directive 87/102/EEC concerning consumer credit, amended in 1990 and 1998, established the Community framework for consumer credit with a view to promoting the setting-up of a common market for credit and establishing minimum Community rules to protect consumers.

In 1995 and 1996, the Commission presented reports on the operation of the 1987 and 1990 Directives. According notably to these reports, there are great differences between the laws of the various Member States in relation to credit for natural persons in general and consumer credit in particular. The result has been a distortion of competition between creditors in the internal market and restricted scope for consumers to obtain credit in other Member States.

  • SALES PROMOTION IN THE INTERNAL MARKET

The Council held an exchange of views on the amended proposal for a Regulation concerning sales promotion in the internal market. The interventions by Ministers in order to provide guidance for further work on this file took account of a revised compromise text submitted by the Presidency.

Delegations generally welcomed the compromise as a step in the right direction. They confirmed progress reached so far and identified the main remaining problems, which need to be discussed further.

Work will continue in co-operation with the incoming Presidency, with a view to reaching as soon as possible an agreement on this proposal.

  • DETERGENTS

The Council, in public session, reached a political agreement by qualified majority, the German and Portuguese delegations voting against, on a Presidency compromise text concerning a Regulation on detergents. The common position will formally be adopted at a forthcoming Council session once the text is finalised and be sent to the EP with a view to an agreement at second reading.

The objective of the proposal is the free movement of detergents in the Internal Market by supplementing existing chemical legislation and by updating the existing detergent directives. It focuses on the biodegradability of surfactants and on the protection of the environment.

  • NONYLPHENOL (NP), NONYLPHENOLETHOXYLATES (NPE), CEMENT

The Council, in public session, adopted by qualified majority, the Portuguese delegation voting against and the Italian delegation abstaining, the Directive relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of nonylphenol, nonylphenolethoxylates and cement, as amended by the European Parliament at first reading.

Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, participating together with the other accession countries as observers in the meeting, expressed concerns about the implementation of the provision for cement.

The Directive amending for the 26th time directive 76/769/EEC, introduce harmonised provisions on the marketing and use of NP, NPE and cement.(NP is used as an intermediate in the production of NPE (e.g. for use in detergents and paints), in the production of resins, plastics, stabilisers in the polymer industry, in the manufacture of phenolic oximes, and in some speciality paints. The proposal is intended to preserve the Internal Market and at the same time ensure a high level of protection of health and the environment.

  • INFORMAL MEETING ON EUROPEAN TOURISM (CRETE 6 MAY 2003)

The Council welcomed written information submitted by the Presidency concerning the outcome of the informal meeting on European Tourism held in Crete on 6 May.

At the brief ensuing exchange of views, Ministers stressed the need for re-inforcing the EU tourism industry and referred in this context to measures proposed by the Commission for improving both short- and long-term competitiveness and contained in its communication "Working together for the future of European Tourism".

Meetings on Consumer Policy (eretria 7-8 may)

The Council took note of written information by the Presidency concerning the European Conference of Consumer Organisations and the Informal Ministerial Meeting on "EU rules on consumer protection and their enforcements" in Eretria on 7 and 8 May.

Welcoming this information, Commissioner Byrne announced proposals on a future legal framework for co-operation on the enforcement of consumer protection laws and on unfair commercial practices.

other business

  • a) Commission Action Plan on the New Approach Directives

The Council took note of written information from the Commission with regard to the Commission's communication "Enhancing the Implementation of the New Approach Directives" which sets out that the Commission's intention to strengthen the foundations of the system of free movement of goods in anticipation of an enlarged European Union.

The New Approach (complemented by the Global Approach) is a legislative technique used in the area of the free movement of goods. For almost 15 years, the directives based on it have played a central role in the effort to ensure free movement of goods in the single market. Economic integration and trade facilitation has increased steadily since the initiative was taken to develop these instruments. As part of a continuous assessment process, the tools have been revised and significantly improved. However, no general review on its important horizontal aspects has been made yet. The communication is a part of that process, designed to further strengthen the approach.

  • b) European Contract Law

The Council will took note of written information from the Commission concerning its recent communication "A more coherent European contract law - An Action Plan".

The Commission Communication on European contract law of July 2001 launched a process of consultation and discussion about the way in which problems resulting from divergences between national contract laws in the EU should be dealt with at the European level. The present Action Plan maintains the consultative character of this process and presents the Commission's conclusions. It confirms the outcome of that process, i.e. that there is no need to abandon the current sector-specific approach. It also summarises the problems identified during the consultation process, which concern the need for uniform application of EC contract law as well as the smooth functioning of the internal market.

This Action Plan suggests a mix of non-regulatory and regulatory measures in order to solve those problems. In addition to appropriate sector-specific interventions, this includes measures to increase the coherence of the EC acquis in the area of contract law, to promote the elaboration of EU-wide general contract terms, and to examine further whether problems in the European contract law area may require non-sector-specific solutions such as an optional instrument.

  • c) Right of EU citizens and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States

The Council took note of written information by the Presidency on the state of play concerning the draft 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 proposal submitted by the Commission on 2 July 2001, has to be seen in the context of the new legal and political environment established by citizenship of the Union : Union citizens should be able to move between Member States on similar terms as nationals of a Member State moving around or changing their place of residence in their country.

  • d) Environmental liability

In accordance with the conclusions of the Brussels European Council, the United Kingdom and French delegations asked the Council to examine developments in the negotiation of the proposal for a Directive on environmental liability, and in particular those aspects which have an impact on European competitiveness from the point of view of the internal market and trade with third countries.

  • e) Community Patent

The Council will took note of written information by the Presidency concerning the state of play on the revised proposal for a Regulation on a Community Patent and the Presidency's intention to pursue actively work on the file, with a view to concluding discussions on the draft as soon as possible.

Following the adoption by the Council of its common political approach on a Community Patent on 3 March, the Presidency has submitted a revised text of the proposal which is currently under active consideration within the Council.

In addition, the Presidency intends to submit a revised draft of proposals for amending the European Patent Convention to take account of the Community patent, on which discussions may begin in June and should be completed under Italian Presidency. Furthermore, the Commission is expected to submit proposals in the coming months for the legal instruments necessary to put in place the jurisdictional arrangements for the Community Patent.

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

ENVIRONMENT

Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment

(Doc. 8962/1/03)

The Council adopted a Decision on the signature, on behalf of the European Community, of the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment to the United Nations/Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context.

The Protocol will be open for signature on the occasion of the fifth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe”, which is expected to take place on 21-23 May 2003 in Kiev, the Ukraine. It will help to protect the environment by providing for the assessment of potentially significant environmental and health effects of plans and programmes and by contributing to the consideration of those effects in the preparation of policies and legislation. Furthermore, it is also intended at furthering sustainable development.

The Convention, also known as the Espoo Convention, was adopted in 1991 and entered into force on 10 September 1997. It stipulates the obligations of Parties to assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of planning. It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across national borders.

For further information on the “Environment for Europe” fifth conference please refer to the Council Conclusions adopted on 4 March 2003 (press release 6677/03).

Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers

(Doc. 8961/1/03)

The Council adopted a Decision on the signature, on behalf of the European Community, of the United Nations/Economic Committee for Europe Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTRs) to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental matters.)

The Protocol will be open for signature on the occasion of the fifth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe”, which is expected to take place on 21-23 May 2003 in Kiev, the Ukraine. It is aimed at enhancing public access to information through the establishment of coherent, integrated, nationwide PRTRs systems, with a view to facilitating public participation in environmental decision-making as well as to contributing to the prevention and reduction of pollution of the environment.

The Convention, also known as the Aarhus Convention, was adopted in June 1998 and entered into force on 30 October 2001. It addresses issues such as, government accountability, transparency and responsiveness. It grants the public rights and imposes on Parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation, as well as access to justice in the environmental field.

For further information on the “Environment for Europe” fifth conference please refer to the Council Conclusions adopted on 4 March 2003 (press release 6677/03).

Recreational craft - public deliberation

(Doc. 3615/03)

The Council adopted a Directive on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to recreational craft.

The Directive includes essential design and construction requirements for personal watercraft and regulates noise and exhaust emissions produced by propulsion engines for recreational craft and personal watercraft which were not covered by a previous Directive (94/25/EC). Moreover, it fixes limit values for exhaust emissions of carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate pollutants. As far as noise emissions are concerned, the limit values are broken down according to engine power.

In view of the growth of the motorised watersport sector, noise and exhaust emission nuisances caused by these types of craft have increased. Measures were therefore required for the protection of health and the environment, especially since these activities are generally undertaken in recreational areas or in a sensitive natural environment.

Furthermore, the Directive aims at modifying Directive 94/25/EC on recreational craft. It is also aimed at preventing distortions of competition among Member States in line with the objectives of the Internal Market.

It is recalled that the Council and the Parliament reached agreement in conciliation on a joint text concerning this Directive on 12 March 2003 (see press release 7426/03 for further details on the agreement).

FISHERIES

EC/Republic of Guinea Fishing Agreement

(Docs 8214/03 - 8215/03)

The Council adopted a Decision concerning the extension of the Protocol setting out the fishing opportunities and financial contribution provided for in the Agreement between the European Economic Community and the Government of the Republic of Guinea on fishing off the Guinean coast for the period 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2003. Fishing opportunities are allocated among Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and France for the following vessels: fin-fish/cephalopods, shrimps, tuna seiner, pole and line tuna vessels, surface longliners.

Tuna tracking

(Docs 11231/13 - 8403/03 - 8402/03)

The Council adopted a Regulation establishing a tuna tracking and verification system, following the signature by the Community of the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Programme (AIDCP). The purpose of this system is to enable dolphin-safe tuna to be distinguished from non-dolphin-safe tuna from the time it is caught to the time it is ready for retail sale. The system is based on the premise that dolphin-safe tuna shall, from the time of capture, during unloading, storage, transfer, and processing, be identified as dolphin-safe tuna. During the discussions at technical level and with regard to an amendment submitted by the European Parliament, the definition of " non-dolphin-safe tuna" was amended so that any tuna caught in sets in which dolphins were intentionally encircled by vessels without a Dolphin Mortality Limit (DML) or whose captain is not on the List of Qualified Captains maintained by the AIDCP Secretariat, shall not be considered dolphin-safe. The definition of the agreement area (waters of Eastern Pacific) has also been introduced in the text.

Food additive - E425 Konjac - public deliberation

(Doc 8449/03 - 3613/03)

The Council adopted a Directive, amending Directive 95/2/EC as regards the conditions of use for a food additive E 425 konjac. Food additive E 425 Konjac was authorised in foodstuffs under certain conditions. Jelly mini-cups containing E 425 Konjac have been proved to be a life-threatening risk, since they caused the death of several children and elderly persons through choking. This Directive includes jelly confectionery including jelly-mini-cups to the foodstuffs for which maximum quantities of use are indicated.

Sweeteners for use in foodstuffs - public deliberation

(Doc. 9236/03, 9237/03)

The Council reached political agreement on a proposal for a Directive, amending Directive 94/35/EC on sweeteners for use in foodstuffs. This agreement shall be confirmed with a view to the adoption of a common position by the Council at a later stage. The Danish and United Kingdom delegations maintained a scrutiny reservation on the text. The agreement, based on the proposal of the Commission, includes the authorisation of two new sweeteners (sucralose and the salt of aspartame and acesulfame), the reduction of the intake of cyclamates and the reduction of the maximum usable doses of cyclamic acid and its sodium and calcium salts.

________________________

(1) ?Where declarations, conclusions or resolutions have been formally adopted by the Council, this is indicated in the heading for the item concerned and the text is placed between quotation marks.?The documents whose references are given in the text are available on the Council's Internet site HYPERLINK "http://register.consilium.europa.eu/scripts/utfregisterDir/WebDriver.exe?MIval=advanced&MIlang=EN&fc=REGAISEN&srm=5&ssf=&mt=128&md=100"http://consilium.europa.eu.?Acts adopted with statements for the Council minutes which may be released to the public are indicated by an asterisk; these statements are available on the above mentioned Council Internet site or may be obtained from the Press Office.


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