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C/03/316

Brussels, 10 November 2003

14132/03 (Presse 316)

2539th Council meeting - Competitiveness - - Internal market, Industry and Research - Brussels, 10 November 2003

President :

Mr Antonio MARZANO

Minister for Production Activities

Mrs Letizia MORATTI

Minister for Education, the Universities and Research of the Italian Republic

CONTENTS (1)

PARTICIPANTS 3

ITEMS DEBATED

community patent 6

electromagnetic compatibility 6

chemicals draft legislation Public debate 7

NEW APPROACH DIRECTIVES Council Resolution 8

ENHANCING COMPETITIVENESS AND GROWTH 11

PROFESSION OF RESEARCHERS IN THE EUROPEAN RESEARCH AREA (ERA) council Resolution 12

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

TRADE POLICY

  • Safeguard mechanism for imports from China I

ECOFIN

  • Mutual assistance in the field of direct and indirect taxation I

PARTICIPANTS

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

Belgium :

Ms Fientje MOERMANMinister for Economic Affairs, Energy, Foreign Trade and Scientific Policy
Mr Serge KUBLAVice-Minister-President and Minister for Economic Affairs, SMEs, Research and New Technologies (Walloon Region)
Denmark :
Mr Bendt BENDTSEN

Mr Helge SANDER

Minister for Economic Affairs, Trade and Industry

Minister for Science, Technology and Development

Germany :
Mr Georg Wilhelm ADAMOWITSCH State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Labour
Greece :
Mr Apostolos TSOCHATZOPOULOSMinister for Development
Spain :
Mr Juan José COSTA CLIMENTMinister for Science and Technology
Mr Ramón DE MIGUELState Secretary for European Affairs
Mr. Pedro MORENES EULATEState Secretary for Science and Technology Policy
France :
Ms Claudie-HAIGNERÉMinister attached to the Minister for Youth, Education and Research, with responsibility for Research and New Technology
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 Antonio MARZANOMinister for Production Activities
Mrs Letizia MORATTIMinister for Education, the Universities and Research
Mr Mario VALDUCCIState Secretary for Production Activities
Mr Guido POSSADeputy Minister for Education, the Universities and Research
Luxembourg
Mr Christian BRAUNDeputy Permanent Representative
Netherlands :
Mr Laurens Jan BRINKHORSTMinister for Economic Affairs
Austria :
Mr Martin BARTENSTEINFederal Minister for Economic Affairs and Labour
Portugal :
Ms Maria da Graça CARVALHOMinister for Science and Higher Education
Mr Carlos COSTA NEVESState Secretary for European Affairs
Ms Rosário VENTURAState Secretary for Industry, Trade and Services
Finland :
Mr Mauri PEKKARINENMinister for Trade and Industry
Sweden :
Ms Ann-Christin NYKVISTMinister for Agriculture
Mr Sven-Eric SÖDERState Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Employment and Communications

United Kingdom :

Ms Jacqui SMITHMinister of State for Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister of Women and Equality
* * *
Commission :
Mr David BYRNEMember
Mr Erkki LIIKANENMember
Mr Philippe BUSQUINMember

The Governments of the Acceding States were represented as follows:

Czech Republic :

Mr Miroslav SOMOLDeputy Minister, Ministry of Industry and Trade
Mr Petr KOLÁRDeputy Minister, Ministry of Education , Youth and Sports
Estonia :
Mr Meelis ATONENMinister for Economic Affairs and Communications
Mr Toivo MAIMETSMinister for Education and Research
Cyprus :
Mr Yiorgos LILLIKASMinister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism
Latvia :
Mr Kaspars GERARDSState Secretary, Ministry of Economics
Lithuania :
Mr Nerijus EIDUKEVICIUSDeputy Minister for Economy
Hungary :
Mr Péter GOTTFRIEDHead of the State Secretariat for Integration and External Economic Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr Imre RÉTHYState Secretary, Ministry of Economy and Transport
Malta:
Mr Edwin VASSALLOParliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs
Poland :
Ms Danuta HÜBNERMinister for European Affairs
Mr Michael KLEIBERMinister for Science
Slovakia :
Mr Laszlo POMOTHYState Secretary, Ministry of the Economy
Slovenia :
Mr Matjaz LOGARState Secretary, Ministry of the Economy
Mr Zoran STANCICState Secretary, Ministry of Education, Science and Sport

ITEMS DEBATED

UNFAIR COMMERCIAL PRACTICES

The Council held a policy debate on a proposal for a Directive concerning unfair commercial practices in the Internal Market. On the basis of the indications given in the debate, work will continue on this proposal, pending the European Parliament first reading which is expected by April 2004.

This proposal aims at harmonising unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices with a view to contributing to the proper functioning of the internal market whilst ensuring a high level of consumer protection.

The following main key issues emerged from the Council's debate which was held on the basis of a questionnaire presented by the Presidency:

  • Delegations welcomed the principle of the Commission's proposal, provided that a higher level of consumer protection is ensured;

  • A number of delegations stressed the need to ensure consistency of the proposed Directive with existing parallel Community legislation, in particular with the Directive on misleading and comparative advertising;

  • Some delegations were in favour of extending the scope of this proposal to business-to-business practices while others considered that, at this stage, an extension to these practices which do not harm directly consumers would not be appropriate;

  • While some delegations considered the level of harmonisation was adequate, others expressed doubts about whether the provisions of the proposal are sufficient to protect the consumer. Several delegations also raised doubts about the wording of a number of definitions which, in their view, might create legal uncertainty and undermine the objective of full harmonisation that the Commission wants to achieve;

  • A majority of delegations recognised the interrelationship between this proposal and the proposed Regulation on sales promotions. However, several expressed a preference for continuing the work in parallel on both proposals, while stressing the importance of safeguarding the coherence of the two legislative proposals.

The Commission stood by its proposal as presently formulated.

It is recalled that this proposal followed the Green Paper on EU Consumer Protection of October 2001which first outlined the case for reform of EU consumer protection legislation to tackle barriers to cross-border provision of goods and services to consumers.

It also identified a framework directive containing a general duty in relation to unfair commercial practices as a possible basis for reform. A majority of respondents to the consultation launched by the Green Paper accepted the case for reform, and a majority of those who expressed a preference, including a majority of Member States, supported reform on the basis of a framework directive.

The Council, notably in its resolution of 2 December 2002 on the Commission's consumer policy strategy 2002-2006, confirmed the necessity for the Commission to take further steps in this field. The European Parliament also adopted three resolutions in March 2003, expressing support for reform based on a framework directive governing unfair commercial practices and including calls for the Commission to make a proposal as soon as possible.

community patent

The Council took note of an oral report by the Presidency on the state of play concerning the proposed Regulation on the Community patent and agreed to revert to this file at its next meeting on 26/27 November. In the meantime, it called upon the Permanent Representatives Committee to pursue work actively with a view to paving the way for a political agreement on the proposed Regulation at the next meeting.

The aim of the proposal for a Council Regulation on the Community patent is to provide for the creation of a single industrial property right for the whole Community, to be granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich. It aims at eliminating the distortions of competition created by the territorial nature of national protection rights and ensuring the free movement of goods protected by patents.

Alongside this draft Regulation, amendments will have to be made to the European Patent Convention to enable the European Patent Office to handle applications for and the granting Community patents. There is also a need to introduce jurisdictional arrangements in the draft Regulation and to create, on the basis of a forthcoming Commission proposal, a judicial panel, "Community Patent Court", to decide on legal disputes in respect of Community patents.

electromagnetic compatibility

The Council agreed unanimously on a general approach, pending the European Parliament's opinion at first reading, on the proposal for a Directive on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to electromagnetic compatibility. The aim is to reach an agreement with the European Parliament at first reading, if possible.

This draft Directive aims to ensure the functioning of the internal market by requiring equipment to comply with an adequate level of electromagnetic compatibility. At the same time, it provides protection against electromagnetic disturbance thus guaranteeing the free movement of electrical and electronic apparatus without lowering justified levels of protection in the Member States.

chemicals draft legislation Public debate

The Council took note of Commissioner Liikanen's presentation of the legislative proposal for a Regulation on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH) and instructed the Permanent Representatives Committee to examine the proposal as a matter of priority as soon as it has been transmitted.

The objective of the REACH proposal is to improve the protection of human health and the environment against chemical hazards while ensuring the proper functioning of the internal market and maintaining the competitiveness of the chemicals industry.

The following main issues emerged from the Council's debate which followed the presentation of this legislative proposal:

  • a large majority of delegations welcomed the amendments introduced by the Commission in its final proposal which takes into account some of the concerns expressed by different sectors consulted, primarily as regards the scope of the REACH system and the associated costs for industry;

  • sharing the need for a balanced approach taking into account competitiveness, environmental and health aspects as equally important, delegations welcomed the decision taken by the Permanent Representatives Committee to set up an ad hoc Working Party on Chemicals with a broad mandate to examine the proposal in all its aspects;

  • during the debate, the Commission underlined that it had presented an impact assessment of costs for industry. Many delegations stressed the importance of such comprehensive impact assessment, in particular as regards SME's and other users of chemicals;

  • some delegations were of the opinion that indirect costs resulting from the application of the REACH system would still be considerable and had to be examined carefully; and

  • several delegations underlined the role to be played by the proposed Chemicals Agency in coordinating the evaluation procedure and thus ensuring that there are no distortions in the application of the rules.

It is recalled that the last European Council (16/17 October) indicated in its conclusions that

"European Union legislation should not be a handicap to EU competitiveness compared to that of other major economic areas. To this end the Commission is invited to take into account the consequences of proposed EU legislation on enterprises through providing a comprehensive impact assessment. The forthcoming proposal on chemicals, which will be examined by the Competitiveness Council in coordination with other Council configurations, will be the first case for implementing this approach, taking in particular into account its effects on SMEs."

NEW APPROACH DIRECTIVES Council Resolution

“Resolution on the Communication of the European Commission

Enhancing the Implementation of the New Approach Directives” :

    The Council of the European Union

RECALLING its objectives laid down in its Decision of 22 July 1993 (93/465/EEC)(2) and its Resolutions of 7 May 1985 on a New Approach to technical harmonisation and standards(3), of 21 December 1989 on a Global Approach to conformity assessment(4) and of 28 October 1999 on the role of standardisation in Europe(5) and its Conclusion of 1 March 2002 on standardisation(6);

ACKNOWLEDGING the importance of the New and Global Approach as an appropriate and efficient regulatory model, allowing technological innovation and enhancing competitiveness of European industry, as well as supporting the principles of confidence, transparency and competence;

UNDERLINING its continued support of the efforts undertaken by the Commission, both on international and regional/bilateral platforms, to harness and develop the potential of the New Approach principles for the effective protection of e.g. health and safety and removal of technical barriers to trade, and to encourage trading partners to adopt standards and regulatory approaches compatible with the European Union's regulatory framework;

CONFIRMING its commitment to further improving the operational efficiency of the internal market and reinforcing the competitiveness of European industry, and taking note of the extensive consultations and discussions involving all stakeholders as well as national authorities of Member States;

RECOGNISING the need for a clearer framework for conformity assessment, accreditation and market surveillance in the European Union;

RECOGNISING the value of a shared understanding of Member States' responsibilities for the operation of the New and Global Approaches, and the need for the accountability of Member States in fulfilling their responsibilities together with their rights to devise the means of doing so;

CONFIRMING the necessity for the Commission and the Member States to take all appropriate steps to further strengthen and enhance the implementation of Directives based on the principles of the New and Global Approaches in all Member States and to extend the application of those principles to new areas;

WELCOMES the Commission's Communication on “Enhancing the Implementation of the New Approach Directives” and the objectives contained therein;

Invites the Commission:

To propose appropriate initiatives in the fields of conformity assessment and of market surveillance, and in particular:

    With respect to bodies performing conformity assessment tasks under the New Approach Directives and to bodies and authorities involved in the assessment, designation and surveillance of conformity assessment bodies:

      To take steps towards ensuring that all notified bodies perform their functions to the same level and under conditions of fair competition, including measures:

      • to consolidate the requirements with which the notified bodies must comply such as exchange of experience, exchange of information related to withdrawal or refusal of certificates and requirements for the cross-border activities of notified bodies;

      • to establish and support appropriate procedures for the exchange of information between notified bodies which shall respect the principle of business confidentiality and shall not restrict competition between notified bodies;

      • to consolidate the requirements that bodies involved in the designation, assessment and monitoring of notified bodies have to fulfil.

      To support the establishment of a forum of Member States' authorities responsible for policy on designation, in order to facilitate the exchange of best practices for the assessment, designation and surveillance of notified bodies.

      3. To establish an efficient information exchange procedure between designating authorities and accreditation bodies that have assessed conformity assessment bodies in all Member States, EEA and other countries to allow a reinforced administrative cooperation.

      4. To increase the efficiency and transparency of the notification procedure, considering notably the development of an on-line notification system, made available by the Commission, with the aim replacing the existing paper-based system, including the availability of an updated list of notified bodies and of conformity assessment bodies.

      To develop more comprehensive policy and guidance for the definition (including its role in the designation procedure) and use of accreditation with the aim of increasing coherence, transparency and co-operation of accreditation services within the European Union, in both the regulatory and voluntary areas, taking into account the freedom of operators in the non-regulated area to use them, as well as the relevant international aspects. The development of such a policy should include, in particular, the independence of accreditation bodies from commercial conformity assessment activities and, as a service of general economic interest, the avoidance of competition between different bodies. Consideration should be given to including such provisions in the general legislative framework for the New Approach.

b) With respect to market surveillance and CE-marking:

    1. To consider with Member States essential requirements defining the objectives to be achieved by the Member States with regard to market surveillance and to introduce in New Approach legislation a framework for the relevant administrative co-operation, including the exchange of information among Member States.

    2. To improve the safeguard clause procedure foreseen in the New Approach legislation in order to increase transparency and to reduce processing time, with the aim to make it more efficient and uniformly applied and to draw on expertise available in Member States.

    3. To start, in co-operation with Member States, EEA States and other countries having concluded agreements with the European Union on the use of the CE marking in their territories, as well as European stakeholders, a campaign to better promote and clarify the meaning of the CE marking and its relation to voluntary marks.

To introduce measures on the protection of the CE marking.

c) On general measures:

    To propose measures to clarify and to harmonise the definitions of a horizontal nature with a view to their coherent application, through the inclusion of aspects applicable to all sectors in a single legislative text.

    To consider, in view of the enlarged Union and of a strengthened application of the Directives, the means that would allow scarce technical expertise to be pooled and ensure efficiency of the decision making process.

    To ensure, in co-operation with Member States, consistent application of conformity assessment procedures to products covered by more than one Directive, by considering whether a more consistent range of modules can be made available in the individual Directives and ensuring that only then standard modules are used. The suppliers' declaration of conformity should be used whenever feasible.”

ENHANCING COMPETITIVENESS AND GROWTH

In response to the conclusions of the October European Council, the Council held an exchange of views on enhancing competitiveness and growth based on two questions put by the Presidency concerning impact assessment and priority areas in relation to R&D projects in the context of the "growth initiative" and the "quick-start programme".

In relation to impact assessment, discussions revealed the important horizontal role which the Competitiveness Council should play in relation to many areas of Community legislation affecting competitiveness. Furthermore, it was suggested that the Commission's 2004 legislative and work programme could be the starting point for analysing the priority areas for impact assessment. Ministers also emphasised the clear need to establish practical modalities for the Council to undertake this work in an effective manner.

In relation to research, Ministers gave their initial views on the priority areas for R&D projects which could figure in the "quick-start programme" and stressed the important role which the EIB could play in this respect.

It was noted that both matters would be taken up again in the context of the discussions to be held at the Competitiveness Council scheduled for 26/27 November on European Competitiveness, and in the light of the Commission's communication on the "growth initiative" and "quick-start projects" which will be adopted shortly. The views of the Competitiveness Council would subsequently be transmitted to the European Council to be held in December.

PROFESSION OF RESEARCHERS IN THE EUROPEAN RESEARCH AREA (ERA) council Resolution

“COUNCIL RESOLUTION ON THE PROFESSION AND THE CAREER OF RESEARCHERS WITHIN THE EUROPEAN RESEARCH AREA (ERA)

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

RECALLING:

    The Council Resolutions of 15 June 2000 and 16 November 2000(7) on the European Research Area (ERA) which, inter alia, stressed the importance of developing human resources as the key to research excellence in Europe, as well as the need to introduce a European dimension into researchers' careers;

    The Commission Communication on: “A mobility strategy for ERA",(8) and the subsequent Council Resolution(9) concerning the "Reinforcement of the mobility strategy within the European research area (ERA)" which endorsed efforts to create a more favourable environment for researchers in Europe; as well as the Commission Communication on “The role of the universities in the Europe of knowledge”(10);

    The Commission's Communications on “More Research for Europe towards 3% of GDP”(11), and “Investing in research: an action plan for Europe”(12) which stressed that more researchers are needed by 2010 as well as the subsequent Council Resolution of 22 September 2003 on “Investing in research for European growth and competitiveness”(13) which underlined the fact that enhanced investment in human resources in particular through the development of the training of researchers and the promotion of career opportunities would be key factors in achieving the 3% objective for investment in research;

    4. The Sixth Framework Programme (2002-2006)(14) which, in particular under its “Human resources and mobility” chapter, supports the development of abundant and dynamic world-class human resources in the European research system, taking into account the inherent international dimension of research;

    5. The Council Resolution on "Science and society and on women and science"(15) and the importance of the science/society dialogue and the gender dimension in achieving the full potential of R&D efforts in ERA;

    6. The discussions in the context of the Bologna Process and the development of the European Higher Education Area, and in particular the conclusions of the Berlin Conference on the Bologna Process in September 2003, which referred to the importance of research as an integral part of higher education across Europe;

    7. The conclusions of recent European Councils, which have endorsed the creation and development of the ERA, highlighted the importance of investment in R&D to achieve a higher degree of competitiveness and economic growth and, in this context, have emphasised the importance of developing human resources in R&D;

    8. REAFFIRMS that research and researchers play a key role in stimulating European growth and competitiveness;

    9. WELCOMES the Commission's Communication “Researchers in ERA: one profession, multiple careers”(16) which analyses the different factors which condition and shape careers in R&D and which refers to researchers as “professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems, and in the management of the projects concerned”;

    10. RECOGNISES that a variety of factors affect the careers of researchers in Europe, bearing in mind the diversity of approach within Member States. These relate to, inter alia, training, mobility, recruitment methods, the development and evaluation of careers, as well as the contractual and salary situation according to the sectors in which researchers operate or the legal, administrative, infrastructural and cultural environment in which they work, as well as the level of R&D funding. RECOGNISES that improvements in these areas are needed to contribute to the development of a true European employment market for researchers, paying specific attention to an enlarged European Union;

    THE COUNCIL THEREFORE WELCOMES the Commission's approach to overcome the difficulties inherent in research training and mobility and career development, in cooperation, on a voluntary basis, with Member States and other stakeholders, including both public and private sectors. The Commission's actions would complement other initiatives in this area being undertaken also in the international context, taking into account the experience of relevant third countries. It welcomes in particular the Commission's intention to:

    • work towards the development of a “European Researcher's Charter” in order to further improve the framework for the career management of human resources in R&D, and a code of conduct for the recruitment of researchers, taking into account the specificities of different sectors and based on best practice;

    • launch a European Year of Researchers to strengthen the public recognition of the profession of researchers and careers in R&D;

    • further analyse different career development issues and research training including data collection and analysis of needs, which could also feed into actions implementing the open method of coordination;

    • intensify efforts to improve the operation of the Researchers' Mobility Portal and the European network of mobility centres.

    12. INVITES Member States, Acceding States and the Commission, in cooperation with the stakeholders including both public and private sectors, to undertake, on a voluntary basis, actions, in particular through the implementation of the open method of co-ordination (omc), as agreed by the Scientific and Technical Research Committee (CREST), in relation to:

    • developing criteria for recording different professional achievements throughout the career of researchers taking into account developments in the “Bologna Process";

    • exchanging good practice, where appropriate at international level, as regards the evaluation and appraisal systems for careers in R&D;

    • encouraging the social dialogue, as well as dialogue among researchers, stakeholders and society at large, including improving public awareness of science and promoting the interest of young people in research and in a career in science;

    • overall working conditions for doctoral candidates, including aspects such as parental leave, and taking necessary steps, bearing in mind reciprocity at European level, regarding the portability of national loans and grants in the context of enhanced mobility for researchers;

    • promoting equal opportunities for men and women researchers when developing these initiatives;

    • continuing efforts to remove other obstacles to a career in research or to mobility including those related to intersectoral mobility and mobility between and within public and private sectors as well as mobility between different functions, taking into account an enlarged European Union.

    13. INVITES the Commission to report regularly on the progress achieved in improving the employment and career prospects for researchers in Europe.”

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

TRADE POLICY

Safeguard mechanism for imports from China

The Council adopted a Regulation introducing increased quotas, under the transitional safeguard mechanism provided for under Regulation No 427/2003, for imports of footwear, tableware and ceramic products originating in the People's Republic of China (doc. 13604/03).

ECOFIN

Mutual assistance in the field of direct and indirect taxation

The Council reached political agreement on the proposal for a Directive concerning mutual assistance between Member States in the field of direct taxation, certain excise duties and taxation of insurance premiums.

This proposal is aimed at improving, expanding and modernising existing rules setting the ground rules for administrative co-operation and the exchange of information between Member States in order to detect and prevent tax fraud.

________________________

(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.

(2) Council Decision of 22 July 1993 concerning the modules for the various phases of the conformity assessment procedures and the rules for affixing and use of the CE conformity marking, which are intended to be used in the technical harmonization Directives (93/465/EEC) OJ L 220/23 of 30.08.93

(3) OJ C136 of 4.6.1985

(4) OJ L380 of 31.12.1990

(5) OJ C 141 of 19.5.2000

(6) OJ C 66 of 15.3 2002

(7) OJ C 205 of 19.7.2000, p.1OJ 374 of 28.12.2000, p. 1.

(8) COM (2001) 331 of 20 June 2001.

(9) OJ C 367/1 of 21 December 2001.

(10) COM(2003) 58 final of 5.2.2003.

(11)COM(2002) 499 final of 11.09.2002.

(12) COM(2003) 226 final of 30.04.2003.

(13)Doc. 12885/03.

(14) OJ L 232 of 29.8.2002 and L 294 of 29.10.2002.

(15)OJ C 199 of 14.7.2001.

(16)COM (2003) 436 of 18 July 2003.


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