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THE EUROPEAN UNION
Brussels, 17 and 18 May 2004
9081/1/04 REV 1 (Presse 140)
2583rd Council Meeting
Competitiveness (Internal Market, Industry and Research)
Brussels, 17 and 18 May 2004
President Ms Mary HARNEY
An Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment of Ireland
Main results of the Council
Competitiveness and innovation / Better regulation - Council conclusions.
REACH - Policy debate on Registration, "Duty of Care" and the European Chemicals Agency in order to provide political guidance for work ahead.
Community patent - no agreement, file to be referred to the President of the European Council.
Software patentability - political agreement on a common position.
Consumer protection cooperation - confirmation of first reading agreement.
Unfair Commercial Practices Directive- political agreement on a common position.
Recognition of professional qualifications - political agreement on a common position.
Sales promotions - further examination of the proposal by the Council.
Community Customs Code - political agreement on a common position.
COMPETITIVENESS AND INNOVATION / BETTER REGULATION - Council conclusions 6
THIRD-COUNTRY RESEARCHERS IN THE EUROPEAN UNION 10
REGULATION ON CONSUMER PROTECTION COOPERATION 10
UNFAIR COMMERCIAL PRACTICES DIRECTIVE 11
SALES PROMOTIONS IN THE INTERNAL MARKET 11
RECOGNITION OF PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS 11
PATENTABILITY OF COMPUTER-IMPLEMENTED INVENTIONS 12
COMMUNITY PATENT 12
COMMUNITY CUSTOMS CODE 12
ANY OTHER BUSINESS 13
– Services in the internal market 13
– European Consumer Day 13
– Conference on Competitiveness and Sustainability of European Tourism 13
– Consumer problems caused by modem hijackers 13
– The future of European RTD policy 13
OTHER ITEMS APPROVED
The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
Ms Patricia CEYSENS Flemish Minister for Economic Affairs, Foreign Policy and E-government
Ms Fientje MOERMAN Minister for Economic Affairs, Energy, Trade and Scientific Policy
Mr Bernd GENTGES Minister for Education and Training, Culture and Tourism (German-speaking Community)
Mr Miroslav SOMOL Deputy Minister for Industry and Trade
Mr Petr KOLAR Deputy Minister for Education, Youth and Sport
Mr Jeppe TRANHOLM MIKKELSEN Deputy Permanent Representative
Mr Michael DITHMER State Secretary
Mr Jürgen TRITTIN Minister for the Environment
Mr Georg Wilhelm ADAMOWITSCH State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Labour
Mr Hansjörg GEIGER State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice
Mr Wolf-Dieter DUDENHAUSEN State Secretary
Mr Meelis ATONEN Minister for Economic Affairs and Communications
Mr Toivo MAIMETS Minister for Education and Science
Mr Dimitrios SIOUFAS Minister for Development
Mr Christos FOLIAS State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Finance
Mr Alberto NAVARRO State Secretary
Mr Patrick DEVEDJIAN Minister with responsibility for Industry, attached to the Ministre d'Etat, Minister for Economic Affairs, Finance and Industry
Mr François d'AUBERT Minister with responsibility for Research, attached to the Minister for National Education, Higher Education and Research
Ms Claudie HAIGNERE Minster with responsibility for European Affairs, attached to the Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Michael AHERN Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (with special responsibility for Trade and Commerce)
Mr Antonio MARZANO Minister for Production Activities
Mr Rocco BUTTIGLIONE Minister without portfolio, Minister for Community policies
Ms Letizia MORATTI Minister for Education, the Universities and Research
Mr Yiorgos LILLIKAS Minister for Commerce, Industry and Tourism
Mr Juris LUJANS Minister for Economic Affairs
Mr Rimantas VAITKUS Deputy Minister for Education and Science
Mr Nerijus EIDUKEVIČIUS Deputy Minister for the Economy
Mr Henri GRETHEN Minister for Economic Affairs, Minister for Transport
Mr Péter GOTTFRIED Head of State Secretariat for Integration and External Economic Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr Censu GALEA Minister for Competitiveness and Communications
Mr Laurens Jan BRINKHORST Minister for Economic Affairs
Mr Martin BARTENSTEIN Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Labour
Mr Krzysztof KRYSTOWSKI Under-Secretary of State
Mr Jarosław PIETRAS State Secretary, Office of the Committee for European Integration
Ms Rosário VENTURA State Secretary for Industry, Trade and Services
Ms Maria da Graça CARVALHO Minister for Science and Higher Education
Mr Carlos COSTAS NEVES State Secretary for European Affairs
Ms Renata VITEZ State Secretary for Foreign Economic Relations
Mr Zoran STANČIČ State Secretary for Science
Mr Matjaž LOGAR State Secretary for the Domestic Market
Mr László POMOTHY State Secretary at the Ministry of the Economy
Mr Martin FRONC Minister for Education
Mr Mauri PEKKARINEN Minister for Trade and Industry
Ms Lena SOMMESTAD Minister for the Environment
Ms Ann-Christin NYKVIST Minister for Agriculture
Mr Leif PAGROTSKY Minister for Industry, Employment and Communications
Ms Jacqui SMITH Minister of State for Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women and Equality
Mr Philippe BUSQUIN Member
Mr Mario MONTI Member
Mr Erkki LIIKANEN Member
Mr Ján FIGEĽ Member
Mr Pavel TELIČKA Member
Mr Frederik BOLKESTEIN Member
Mr David BYRNE Member
Ms Margot WALLSTRÖM Member
The Council held a public debate on issues summarised by Commissioners LIIKANEN , MONTI and BUSQUIN on the basis of the recent Commission communications covering aspects of competitiveness and innovation and on approaches to better regulation, including impact assessment of new Community legislation. Pursuant to the debate, the Council adopted the conclusions set out below.
COMPETITIVENESS AND INNOVATION:
"THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,
CALLS ON THE COMMISSION AND MEMBER STATES WITHIN THEIR RESPECTIVE COMPETENCIES TO
COMMITS ITSELF TO
17. Promoting appropriate regulation which stimulates economic activity and
does not hamper it; examining existing regulation in the light of the principles
of better lawmaking, within a clear timetable; and considering, where
appropriate, alternatives to regulation;
"The Council of the European Union
- recalling the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Lawmaking;
- strongly endorses the work of the Commission in implementing its Better Regulation Action Plan, and in particular, welcomes the commitments made by the Commission to further develop this programme;
- acknowledges that better regulation is a joint responsibility of the European Institutions and the Member States; concerns all policy areas; must take account of the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development; and requires sustained effort over the long-term;
COMMITS itself to
- consider priority areas for simplification in September, with a view to agreement before end 2004, drawing on all policy areas and building on work already under way in Member States and at EU level, in particular the Commission’s rolling programme for up-date and simplification; and to examine options for future priorities;
- consider in September how to further improve the use of the impact assessments provided by the Commission across all policy areas as an aid in its decision making process;
- consider in September how the Council, in line with the Conclusions of the Spring European Council, will contribute to enhancing the competitiveness dimension of the integrated impact assessment process, on the basis of inputs from Member States;
- develop, in the context of the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Lawmaking, a proposed approach in relation to impact assessments which may be carried out on substantive Council amendments to be piloted during 2004; and to suggest an informal exchange of experience in this area between the Institutions with a view to the possible development at a later stage of a common methodology on impact assessment;
INVITES THE COMMISSION to
- take account of the Council's views in relation to priority areas and time scales for simplification;
- continue its efforts to further refine its integrated impact assessment procedure, including quantification, alternative policy options, and where possible considering indirect effects, and with a particular emphasis on enhancing the competitiveness dimension;
- make information relevant to impact assessments available to the public in the context of consultation in order to maximise the benefits of the consultation procedure;
- develop a method to assess administrative burdens on business in cooperation with the Council, taking into account experience at Member State level, and to report progress to the Council before the European Council in November;
- examine possible use of the results of the research project on ex-post evaluation of Community legislation and its burdens on business, and the results of the current study involving Member States and the Commission, on the cumulative burden of legislation in the automotive sector for the process of identifying areas of legislation for simplification;
- continue its work in consultation with Member States on developing indicators of regulatory quality and to report on progress to the Council in September;
INVITES MEMBER STATES AND COMMISSION to
- continue to exchange best practices on better regulation between national authorities, in particular on impact assessments, inter alia within the Directors of Better Regulation Network;
- take the necessary action to ensure that the European Business Test Panel is effective as one of the means of consulting business on EU policy and legislation."
The Council took note of the Presidency's report on work in progress on the REACH proposal in its Ad hoc Working Party on Chemicals, as well as introductory remarks from Commissioners LIIKANEN and WALLSTRÖM on the Commission proposal for a future EU regulatory framework for chemicals. A number of key issues were discussed during the ensuing policy debate, the purpose of which was to give political guidance for work under the subsequent Presidencies.
On the basis of the main items identified during the Working Party's first reading of the proposal, Ministers intervened on issues such as:
- the balance between competitiveness and protection of the environment and
- the REACH-Registration mechanism for substances,
- the introduction of an explicit "Duty of Care" requirement,
- the role of the European Chemicals Agency.
As regards Registration, the Council invited the UK to bring forward for debate, as soon as possible, its alternative proposal "One substance - One registration". The Council instructed its preparatory bodies to continue work on prioritisation and data requirements in relation to the registration of substances.
Concerning the "Duty of Care", which would mean that the basic responsibility for safe handling of substances lay with industry, the Council stressed the importance of this principle and discussed how it should best be reflected in the Regulation.
The Council asked the Ad hoc Working Party to examine in greater detail the impact of REACH on the competitiveness of SMEs, as well as the role of the Agency, with a view to ensuring optimum harmonisation, simplification of the administrative process and efficient use of scarce resources.
The Competitiveness Council will return to the REACH proposal following consideration by the Environment Council of this dossier at its meeting in June 2004.
The Council took note of information provided by Commissioner BUSQUIN on the state of play of the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) project and asked the Commission to keep the Council informed on the ongoing international negotiations.
The Council held an exchange of views on the Commission proposals on the admission of third country nationals to carry out scientific research in the EU. Delegations intervened on the proposed Directive and two Recommendations in order to provide key messages from the competitiveness point of view, to be taken into account in the detailed examination of the proposals by the Justice and Home Affairs Council.
The Council warmly welcomed the objectives of the proposals, which will contribute significantly to the creation of the European Research Area and to European competitiveness in general.
It noted their relevance for Europe's performance within the Lisbon process, in which context the Commission maintains that 700 000 additional researchers are needed in Europe by 2010, and achieving the Barcelona target for investment in research of 3 % GDP.
In this context, further work on the proposals is required, in particular in relation to the role and responsibilities of the host organisation and the need for a fast procedure for entry of third-country researchers and their immediate families into the Union.
The Council took note of information from the Presidency on the agreement at first reading on the Regulation on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws ("Regulation on consumer protection cooperation").
Stressing the importance of the Regulation for internal market and consumer protection reasons, the Council confirmed the agreement by a qualified majority reached with the European Parliament at the end of April and noted that the necessary procedures are in course to allow both Institutions to adopt the text as soon as possible.
The Council reached political agreement by a qualified majority on its common position on the draft Directive concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market. Once this "Unfair Commercial Practices Directive", which was agreed, on the basis of an amended Presidency compromise package, has been formally adopted, it will be submitted to the European Parliament for second reading.
The key features of the agreed text were:
In the light of today's interventions, the Council decided to instruct its preparatory bodies to further examine the proposal for a Regulation concerning sales promotions in the internal market in order to agree on a common position at one of its future meetings.
The Council reached political agreement by a qualified majority, with the German and Greek delegations voting against, on the proposal for a Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications. Once the text has been formally adopted it will be submitted to the European Parliament for second reading.
Discussions focused on the issue of cross-border provision of services on a temporary and occasional basis, and in particular on the requirements for the declaration to be made in advance by a service provider who moves from one Member State to another.
In this context Member States may require that the first time a service provider moves between Member States in order to provide services, he shall inform the competent authorities in the host Member State in a written declaration, which must include details of insurance cover or other means of personal or collective protection with regard to professional liability. That declaration must be renewed once a year if the service provider intends to provide temporary or occasional services in that Member State during that year.
Moreover, for the first provision of services, Member States may require that the declaration is also accompanied by the following documents:
The proposed Directive also consolidates and simplifies existing legislation concerning the recognition of professional qualifications, as well as simplifying the structures for managing the system set up under earlier Directives.
The Council reached political agreement by a qualified majority with the Austrian, Italian and Belgian delegations abstaining and Spain voting against, on a common position concerning the proposal for a Directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions. Once the text has been formally adopted by the Council, it will be submitted to the European Parliament for second reading.
The agreed text contains provisions, in accordance with the practice developed within the European Patent Organisation, for patentability of computer-implemented inventions stipulating, inter alia, that a computer program as such cannot constitute a patentable invention. For a computer-implemented invention to be patentable it must be susceptible of industrial application and involve an inventive step.
The Council did not reach agreement by unanimity, as required, on the Presidency's compromise proposal for a Council Regulation on the Community patent. Germany, France, Spain and Portugal voted against and Italy abstained. Noting that all conceivable compromise solutions for the only outstanding issue, which concerns the translation of patent claims, had been tried, the Presidency stated its intention to refer this matter to the President of the European Council.
The Council reached political agreement by a qualified majority, with the Greek, Italian, Maltese, Portuguese and Swedish delegations voting against, on the draft common position on the proposal for a Regulation amending the Council Regulation establishing the Community Customs Code. Once formally adopted, the text will be submitted to the European Parliament for second reading.
The proposal forwarded by the Commission aims to improve security at the external borders, while facilitating trade through simplified procedures and the use of information technology. The main feature of the agreement regards the concept of an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO), the status of which confers benefits in the form of facilitated customs controls relating to safety and security and/or simplifications provided for under customs rules. The status of AEO will be recognised throughout the Community, while the granting of customs simplifications will be left to each Member State to decide on the basis of precise criteria.
The Presidency submitted a note on the state of play regarding the ongoing examination of the proposed framework Directive on Services in the internal market, highlighting the complexity and sensitivity of some of the issues involved. The examination of this file in the competent Working Party is still at an early stage and therefore no debate was foreseen in Council at this time.
The Council took note of a report from a Conference which was held in Dublin on 15 March 2004 in the context of European Consumer Day 2004.
The Council took note of written information from the Presidency in respect of the conference held in Ireland on 5 April 2004, which brought together Directors-General from Member States and accession countries and representatives of the tourism industry. The key issue debated by the conference and the conclusions reached are set out in the Presidency note.
The conference made a further contribution on the ongoing work by the Commission and Member States in response to the Council Resolution of 21 May 2002 on the Future of European Tourism, followed up in November 2003 by a Commission Communication and staff working paper on "Basic Orientations for the Sustainability of European Tourism". These papers have not yet been examined by the Council.
The Council took note of information from the Swedish delegation concerning problems related to dial-up modems for Internet connections which can be hijacked by someone who disconnects the computer from the regular line and reconnects it to another line. The Swedish delegation wishes the Commission to look into this issue which might be a problem in other Member States also.
The Council took note of information from the Commission concerning its preliminary views on future developments in RTD policy, in particular in relation to the next framework programme. It noted the Commission's intention to submit a communication to the Council on the subject in the near future.
Communication on Fostering structural change : "An industrial policy for an
enlarged Europe", 8875/04 COMPET 57 IND 53 MNI 136 ECO 92 - COM(2004) 274
- Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee : "Life sciences and biotechnology - a strategy for Europe - second progress report and future orientations", 8440/04 RECH 70 ENV 230 CONSOM 33 SAN 63 DEVGEN 87 MI 123 IND 47 AGRI 97 SOC 187 RELEX 140 EDUC 88 - COM(2004) 250 final.
- Commission Communication on "A Pro-active Competition Policy for a competitive Europe", 8923/04 RC 11 COMPET 58 - COM(2004) 293 final.
- State Aid Scoreboard : spring 2004 update, 8922/04 RC 10 COMPET 59 ECO 96 - COM(2004) 256 final.
 Presidency summary of proceedings from the informal ministerial meeting in Ireland, 25-27 April 2004.