Brussels, 26-27 November 2003
15141/03 (Presse 337)
2547th Council meeting - Competitiveness - Internal Market, Industry and Research Brussels, 26-27 November 2003
ENHANCING competitiveness and growth - Council conclusions 6
European Space Policy 7
STEM CELL RESEARCH 7
ITER construction and operation 8
Takeover bids 8
Community Patent 9
The EC Merger Regulation 10
CONTRIBUTION OF INDUSTRIAL POLICY TO EUROPEAN COMPETITIVENESS - Council conclusions 11
Community trade mark 17
Insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles - public deliberation 18
Equal acess to and participation of women and men in the knowledge society for growth and innovation - Council Resolution 19
Recognition of professional qualifications 22
OTHER BUSINESS 22
REGISTRATION, EVALUATION, AUTHORISATION AND RESTRICTION OF CHEMICALS (REACH) 22
BIOTECHNOLOGY AND LIFE SCIENCES 23
BETTER LAWMAKING 23
MACHINERY AND AMENDING DIRECTIVE 95/16/EC 23
SUSTAINABLE TOURISM IN EUROPE 23
The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
The Governments of the Acceding States were represented as follows:
ENHANCING competitiveness and growth - Council conclusions
The Council adopted the following conclusions:
RECALLING the conclusions of the European Council meeting held on 16 and 17 October 2003 which highlighted, within the Growth Initiative, the fundamental role of innovation and research and development for the purposes of Europe's economic and social growth in pursuit of the Lisbon objectives;
NOTING that the European Council meeting on 16 and 17 October 2003 invited the relevant formations of the Council, with a view to the European Council meeting on 12 and 13 December 2003, to make their own contribution to the establishment of the Quick-Start Programme identifying a list of projects in an enlarged Union based on transparent criteria, along with assessments of their significance for the integration of the internal market in the enlarged Europe, their economic and financial viability, their impact on growth and the leveraging effect on private capital;
EMPHASISING that it considers projects in the sector of innovation and research to be identified for the Quick-Start Programme should:
RECALLING the preliminary exchange of views which took place at the Competitiveness Council held on 10 November 2003, on the basis of a number of considerations tabled by the Presidency regarding possible priority areas and quick-start projects for research and development;
WELCOMES the communication from the Commission on a European Initiative for Growth - Investing in Networks and Knowledge for Growth and Jobs(2), and in particular, the criteria to be used in identifying projects for the quick-start programme, namely the maturity of the project, its transfrontier dimension, its impact on growth and innovation in an enlarged European Union and its benefits for the environment;
CONSIDERS that the areas proposed in the Commission's communication constitute a first list of R&D priorities; NOTES that the list of priorities is non-exhaustive and may be supplemented as and when necessary."
European Space Policy
The Council took note of the presentation by Commissioner Philippe Busquin on the Commission's White Paper on implementing the European Space Policy. It instructed the competent preparatory bodies of the Council to proceed with a detailed examination of the Paper with a view to enabling the Competitiveness Council to bring the work forward rapidly.
In this White Paper, the Commission proposes the implementation of an extended European Space Policy to support the achievement of the European Union's policy goals. In particular, it is proposed to exploit the special benefits space technologies can deliver in support of the Union's policies and objectives: faster economic growth, job creation and industrial competitiveness, enlargement and cohesion, sustainable development and security and defence.
It is recalled that a number of Council resolutions and conclusions between 1998 and 2001 all pointed in the direction of developing a European space strategy. This culminated in the adoption by the Council in December 2001 of a Resolution entitled "Towards a European Space Strategy", inter alia inviting the Commission to present a proposal for a negotiating mandate for a framework agreement between the European Community and the European Space Agency (ESA). Following negotiations conducted by the Commission on behalf of the Community with the ESA, a framework Agreement was signed on 25 November 2003 between the two Parties. This Agreement will have an initial duration of four years and will form an important basis for initially implementing the European space policy.
STEM CELL RESEARCH
The Council heard the presentation by Commissioner Philippe Busquin of the Commission's revised proposal in the light of the opinion of the European Parliament, regarding the main conditions for the use of stem cells procured from human embryos for research activities funded under the Sixth Framework Programme specific programme "Integrating and strengthening the European Research Area".
After discussing this issue informally over lunch, the Council decided to meet again on 3 December with a view to taking a decision.
The Commission's proposal aims at establishing implementing provisions concerning research activities involving human embryos and human embryonic stem cells eligible for Community funding as envisaged by the Council/Commission statement at the time of the adoption of the specific programme "Integrating and strengthening the European research area" adopted on 30 September 2002.
ITER construction and operation
The Council decided unanimously to amend the Commission's negotiating directives on the establishment of an international framework concerning the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) authorising the Commission to put forward Cadarache (France) as the European candidate site. The Council also decided unanimously that the ITER European legal entity will be located in Spain and that one of the European Directors of the project will be Spanish.
The negotiations on ITER are currently being undertaken by Canada, China, the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States.
The next meeting of the Parties to the envisaged ITER agreement will be held on 4 December. Three candidates for hosting this site: Cadarache (France), Clarington (Canada) and Rokkasho (Japan) have been put forward.
The Council reached unanimous agreement, with the abstention of the Spanish delegation, on a general approach, pending the European Parliament's first reading opinion, on a draft Directive on takeover bids, based on a compromise text presented by the Italian Presidency. The Commission stated that it was not in a position to support the text. The proposal, as modified by the Council, will form the basis of a possible agreement with the European Parliament at first reading.
Given the existing differences between legal systems in the Member States, the Council decided to limit this Directive to a framework of certain common principles and a number of general requirements which Member States will have to respect through detailed implementing rules.
The main changes in relation to the Commission's proposal concern the introduction of optional arrangements for the application of provisions concerning defensive measures by the "offeree" company and obligations of its board as well as the so-called breakthrough provisions (Articles 9 and 11).
It is recalled that in 1989 the Commission presented a first proposal concerning takeovers and other general bids, but decided to revise its proposal on the basis of consultations with the Member States as of June 1993.
Then, in 1996 the Commission presented to the Council and to the European Parliament a new proposal. This proposal for a "framework" directive was drawn up in the light of consultations with the Member States, setting out general principles but not aiming at a full harmonisation.
After agreement between the European Parliament and the Council within the Conciliation Committee in June 2001 on this proposal, the European Parliament rejected the compromise text.
Following this failure to adopt the proposed Directive, the Commission appointed a group of experts (the Winter Group) for the purpose of providing a basis for a new proposal.
The Commission adopted a new proposal on October 2002 that met the concerns of the European Parliament without compromising the basic principles approved unanimously in the Council's common position of 19 June 2000.
It will be recalled that the Lisbon European Council placed the takeover Directive, which forms part of the Financial Services Action Plan, among the priorities for the integration of European financial markets by 2005.
The Council examined outstanding questions on the draft Regulation on the Community Patent. Broad agreement was reached on a compromise text presented by the Presidency. However, complete agreement could not be reached at this Council meeting since the question of the period for the filing of translations of the patent claims could not be solved, as one delegation was unable to agree to the compromise proposed by the Presidency.
Renewed efforts will be made, still under the Italian Presidency, to reach an agreement on the draft Regulation as well as on proposals for amendments to the European Patent Convention.
The aim of the draft 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 aimed 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 play its part in the Community patent system. There is also a need to introduce jurisdictional arrangements in the draft Regulation and to create, through the future Commission proposals, a judicial panel, "the Community Patent Court", to decide on legal disputes in respect of Community patents.
Objectives of the Community patent system
The European Council has emphasised on several occasions that the Community patent must be an efficient and flexible instrument obtainable by businesses at an affordable cost which complies with the principles of legal certainty and non-discrimination between the Member States.
Agreement on a common political approach was reached on the proposal in the Council in March 2003. On the basis of this agreement, the Council was called upon to address a certain number of issues relating to the specific provisions in the draft Regulation.
In the EU, patent protection for innovation is currently provided by two systems national patent systems and the European patent system neither of which is based on a Community legal instrument. The 1973 Munich Convention established a European Patent Organisation, laying down a single procedure for the granting of patents, which, once granted, become national patents subject to the national rules of the Contracting States. All of the EU's Member States are members of the Convention, which is governed by international law.
The proposal to create a Community patent system stems from the Commission's 1996 action plan for innovation and subsequent Green Paper on patents. The objective is to enable companies to transform their technological and scientific knowhow into industrial and commercial success, thus stimulating private sector investment in research and development. Such investment is currently at a very low level as compared with the United States and Japan.
Companies would remain free to choose the type of protection best suited to their needs. Given that the EPO would be responsible for examining patent applications and granting Community patents, the new system would require the Community's accession to the Munich Convention as well as a revision of that Convention.
The EC Merger Regulation
The Council reached unanimous political agreement on the draft Regulation on the control of concentrations between undertakings (the so called "EC Merger Regulation"). After finalisation of the text, the Council will formally adopt this legislative proposal at one of its forthcoming meetings, thus fulfilling the request by the European Council of 20 and 21 March 2003 to take forward this reform of the merger regime before the 2004 Spring European Council.
The proposal aimed at recasting Council Regulation No 4064/89 into legislation designed to meet the challenges of a more integrated market and the future enlargement of the European Union. This draft Regulation confines itself to the minimum required in order to achieve the objective of ensuring that competition in the common market is not distorted, in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition.
The main change made to the Commission's proposal is the new test for the appraisal of concentrations which provides that a concentration will be declared incompatible with the common market if it would significantly impede effective competition, in the common market or in a substantial part of it, in particular as a result of the creation or strengthening of a dominant position.
The current Merger Regulation was adopted in December 1989 and came into force in September 1990, removing the need to seek clearance for mergers and acquisitions exceeding certain turnover thresholds in a myriad of national regulatory regimes.
The Merger Regulation was last amended in 1997, when a second set of lower turnover thresholds, designed to address the problem of "multiple filings" to national competition authorities was introduced.
CONTRIBUTION OF INDUSTRIAL POLICY TO EUROPEAN COMPETITIVENESS - Council conclusions
The Council adopted the following conclusions:
"THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
IN RELATION TO HORIZONTAL ISSUES
WELCOMES the report by the Commission services on competitiveness, as well as the enterprise, innovation and state aids scoreboards, which are important instruments for developing a systematic analysis of the state of competitiveness of the EU economy;
TAKES NOTE of the findings of these reports and, as a result, UNDERLINES in particular that:
In response to the foregoing considerations:
5. INVITES European industry to:
6. INVITES the Member States and the Commission, within their respective competences, to:
7. LOOKS FORWARD to receiving from the Commission:
UNDERTAKES , with a view to providing a structured contribution to the Spring European Council, indicating priority actions to examine in depth :
IN RELATION TO SECTORIAL ISSUES
1. RECALLING the Commission's communications on:
2. RECALLING the Commission's communication on "Industrial policy in an enlarged Europe"(12), as well as the Council conclusions of 13 May 2003 on "Industrial competitiveness in an enlarged Europe"(13), where, inter alia, the Commission was invited to establish concrete ways in which industrial policy can contribute to achieving the Lisbon objectives;
3. REITERATING the need to ensure that EU horizontal policies aiming at securing framework conditions favourable to industrial competitiveness take into account the specific needs and characteristics of individual sectors, as well as those of small and medium enterprises, in particular new innovative SMEs; ACKNOWLEDGING that the implementation of the European Charter for Small Enterprises plays a significant role in this respect;
4. WELCOMES the initiatives proposed so far by the Commission to improve European competitiveness, notably in the individual industrial sectors addressed below including interrelated areas and looks forward to receiving further Commission communications in relation to other important industrial sectors.
Regarding textiles and clothing:
8. STRESSES the importance of encouraging the efforts of stakeholders to reinforce corporate social responsibility, and, on a voluntary basis, to promote "ethical commerce" based for example on labelling;
9. WELCOMES the intention of the Commission to create a High-level Group with representatives of Member States and stakeholders in order to stimulate the debate on the situation and on the future of the textiles and clothing sector in the enlarged EU and on possible initiatives and recommendations aimed at facilitating the sector's adjustment to the challenges ahead.
In response to the foregoing considerations:
10. INVITES Member States, in line with overall Community policies, to take appropriate action so that the European textile and clothing sector can face its challenges, inter alia through research, education and training;
11. INVITES the Commission to regularly inform the Council on the results of the high-level group discussions on textiles and clothing and report back, for the first time before the end of July 2004, on initiatives deemed appropriate in this respect, which may take the form of an Action Plan.
13. STRESSES that the EU should maintain a policy approach aimed at enhancing the industrial competitiveness of this sector; particular efforts are needed regarding:
the development and harmonisation of rules and regulations affecting the European defence market;
EU state aid rules on investment in innovation, where the specific conditions of the shipbuilding industry should be taken into account, in order to allow the implementation of workable and effective programmes aiming at maintaining the technological leadership of the European industry;
full use of the possibilities of Member States to encourage research, development and innovation in an effective way;
protection of intellectual property rights by Member States and industry, by making full use of the existing instruments as well as by examining the possibility of strengthening the enforcement of international patent rules applicable to shipbuilding;
facilitating a consolidation process among European producers through the creation of adequate framework conditions by the Member States and by the Commission;
encouraging approaches designed to bring about greater co-operation between naval and civilian shipbuilding resources in Europe, based on market mechanisms involving companies in the areas of commercial and naval shipbuilding and marine equipment;
analysing and addressing new skill requirements, ideally in the context of the social dialogue within the sector.
In response to the foregoing considerations:
14. INVITES Member States, in line with overall Community policies, to take appropriate action so that the European shipbuilding sector can face its challenges;
15. INVITES the Commission to:
16. RECOGNISES that the aerospace industry:
17. STRESSES the need for:
18. ACKNOWLEDGES the Commission's proposed preparatory action on security research and TAKES NOTE of the on-going work leading to the planned creation of an intergovernmental agency in the field of defence capabilities, development, research, acquisition and armaments.
In response to the foregoing considerations:
19. INVITES the Member States and the Commission, within their respective competences, to:
Community trade mark
The Council unanimously reached political agreement on the draft Regulation modifying the Community trade mark Regulation No 40/94/EC. After finalisation of the text, the Council will adopt this Regulation at a forthcoming meeting.
This proposal aimed at completing the existing Regulation by clarifying and supplementing new aspects of the functioning of the Community trade mark thereby improving the efficiency of the system and increasing its added value.
One of the main elements of the Presidency compromise text concerns the current searching system. On that basis, the search as regards prior national trade marks carried out by national trade mark offices is rendered voluntary. If the applicant chooses to have a search done this will be done by all the national offices participating in the search system. The search as regards prior Community trade marks carried out by the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHMI) in Alicante remains compulsory. Moreover, the new Regulation will establish criteria in relation to the search reports aimed at improving the quality of searches. The implementation of the new system will take place after a transitional period of four years.
The Regulation on the Community Trade mark has been in force since 1994, allowing for registrations of trade marks covering all Member States of the European Union. According to the Commission, the Community Trade mark system has generally proved to function well, but in the light of the experience gained with its operation, the Commission considered that changes were called for.
Insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles - public deliberation
The Council reached a political agreement on a draft Directive amending existing rules on insurance against civil liability by users of motor vehicles. After finalisation of the text, the Council will formally adopt its common position and send it to the European Parliament in the framework of the co-decision procedure.
The proposal is aimed at modernising and improving the existing EU rules in this field. In general, the Directive will contribute to developing the internal market in insurance products, to clarifying the framework applicable to the protection of rights of victims of accidents and to improving protection of consumers. This also includes persons who travel across intra-Community borders.
Among the most important issues decided by the Council are:
The directives on insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles (Motor Vehicle Insurance Directives) date back to 1972. With the first three Directives, the Community took fundamental steps towards establishing a single market in the field of motor vehicle insurance. The first three directives built on the system of "green cards", which had been introduced to facilitate the settlement of claims in accidents caused by a motorist in a Member State other than the one in which the vehicle is normally based.
An important gap was filled by the Fourth Motor Vehicle Directive which provides for an efficient mechanism for settling claims in respect of accidents taking place outside the victim's Member State of residence.
Equal acess to and participation of women and men in the knowledge society for growth and innovation - Council Resolution
The Council adopted the following Resolution:
"THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
that one of the objectives of the European Union is to eliminate inequalities and to promote equality between men and women in all its activities;
the Lisbon Strategy, which drew attention to the importance of equipping all citizens with the skills needed to live and work in the knowledge-based society, and to the need to raise the present employment rate of women;
the European Councils in Brussels (March 2003), Seville, Barcelona and Nice, which in turn:
the Council Resolution of June 2001 on Science and Society and on Women in Science(15), which invited the Commission to continue and intensify its effort to promote the role of women in science and technology, and in particular within the sixth framework programme;
the Council conclusions of March 2003 on the Promotion of Entrepreneurship and small firms(16), which stressed the need to encourage women entrepreneurs in order to create more new innovative and competitive firms;
the Council conclusions of May 2003on Adapting e-Business Policies in a Changing Environment(17), which underlined the need to narrow and close e-skills gaps and the need for inclusiveness of the entire available potential labour pool addressing in particular the severe under-representation of women in the ICT workforce;
the Council Resolution of July 2003 on Social and Human Capital(18), which stressed the need to address the current gender gap in access to ICT-related education, jobs and the use of ICT, and to encourage more women to pursue higher-education studies in subjects related to the information society;
the conclusions of 14 March 2003 of the UN Commission on the Status of Women which noted that a focus on the gender dimensions of ICTs is essential for preventing an adverse impact of the digital revolution on gender equality.
the important role that gender equality can play in the context of the Lisbon strategy for contributing to the European Union becoming the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion and the key role that the social partners and NGOs can play in reducing gender inequalities and the digital divide.
the need to foster equal participation of men and women in the knowledge society paying particular attention to:
in general to:
6. INVITES the Commission to:
Recognition of professional qualifications
The Council took note of a progress report on the state of work concerning the draft Directive aimed at simplifying the rules relating to the recognition of professional qualifications. The Council welcomed progress made so far and encouraged experts to continue work, taking due account of the European Parliament's opinion when it is delivered and keeping in mind the relevance of this Directive to the Lisbon strategy.
This proposal would replace fifteen existing Directives in the field of the recognition of professional qualifications. It constitutes the first comprehensive modernisation of the Community system since it was conceived forty years ago.
It is recalled that following the Lisbon European Council on 23 and 24 March 2000, the Commission adopted a Communication on "An Internal Market Strategy for Services", aimed in particular at making the free provision of services within the Community as simple as within an individual Member State. Moreover, the Stockholm European Council on 23 and 24 March 2001 entrusted the Commission with presenting "for the 2002 Spring European Council [...] specific proposals for a more uniform, transparent and flexible regime of recognition of qualifications [...]".
The Council took note of a progress report on the state of work on the Commission's recently adopted proposal for a Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restrictions of Chemicals proposal (REACH).
The Council took note of the written information given by the Presidency on the outcome of the European Convention on Life Sciences and Biotechnology held in Rome on 21 November 2003.
The Council took note of the written information by the Commission on progress made under its June 2002 Action Plan on Better Lawmaking.
The Council took note of a progress report on the state of work concerning the proposal for a Directive recasting Directive 98/37/EC, aimed at simplifying approval and testing procedures and updating the technical requirements.
The Council heard the information given by Commissioner LIIKANEN on the Commission's Communication "Basic orientations for the sustainability of European Tourism".
(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 abovementioned Council Internet site or may be obtained from the Press Office.
(3) See 15287/03.
(4) See 15217/03.
(5) See 15036/03.
(6) See 14793/03.
(7) See 14584/03.
(8) OJ C 64/03.
(9) See 14314/03
(10) See 15288/03.
(11) See 13705/03.
(12) See 5078/03
(13) See OJ. C 149.
(14) See 14886/03
(15) OJ C 199, 14.7.2001, p. 1.
(16)OJ C 64, 18.3.2003, p. 6-8.
(17)OJ C 149, 26.6.2003, p. 7-9 and 8957/03.
(18)OJ C 175, 24.7.2003, p. 3.