Brussels, 11 March 2004
6648/04 (Presse 62)
2570th Council meeting - Competitiveness - (Internal market, Industry and Research) Brussels, 11 March 2004
Contribution to the Spring European Council meeting 7
Stimulating entrepreneurship Council Conclusions 7
Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restricting of Chemicals (REACH) 8
TDM for Shipbuilding 9
Regulation on consumer protection cooperation 9
Framework conditions for competitive services industries - Council Conclusions - Public Debate 10
Community patent 11
Enforcement of intellectual property rights 11
Europe and basic research Council Conclusions 12
Space policy 13
ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE
The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
The Governments of the Acceding States were represented as follows:
Contribution to the Spring European Council meeting
The Council had an in-depth policy debate based on a wide range of issues affecting competitiveness at European level. Following the discussions, the Council approved the "Key Issues and Priorities Paper" as its contribution to the Spring European Council and requested the General Affairs Council to forward it to the Spring European Council.
In this Paper, the Council committed itself to undertaking a series of clearly defined actions aimed at enhancing competitiveness, developing the integrated approach, moving forward on regulatory reform and ensuring that the right framework conditions exist for enterprise, entrepreneurship and industry. The key issues paper underlines the vital importance of investment in research and development and of innovation and stresses as well the full integration of the acceding Member States in all these efforts.
Stimulating entrepreneurship Council Conclusions
The Council adopted Conclusions on "Stimulating Entrepreneurship" as set out below:
"THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,
RECALLING the conclusions of various European Councils(1) 1 calling for action to improve entrepreneurship and framework conditions for small businesses;
RECOGNISING that entrepreneurship is a major driver of innovation, competitiveness, employment and growth and that encouraging and training more people to become entrepreneurs are key requirements for the achievement of the Lisbon objectives;
WELCOMES the fact that the Commission's communication "Action Plan: The European agenda for Entrepreneurship" identifies principal areas where the environment for entrepreneurship needs to be improved, as well as a range of actions to create a more favourable environment for and to give a strong impetus to entrepreneurship by raising its general profile and welcomes the progress achieved in implementing the European Charter for small enterprises;
STRESSES that within the context of the integrated approach to competitiveness, there are policy priorities including access to finance, training/education, and better regulation, which are crucial to the success of the relevant Community Action Plans and measures;
Considering the urgent need for concrete results to deliver these policy priorities, CALLS ON the Commission to set out a more ambitious timetable for undertaking these actions and ENCOURAGES Member States to exploit best practices, in particular those identified through the open method of coordination;
INVITES Member States and the Commission, within their respective competencies, to intensify efforts and take early action in:
Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restricting of Chemicals (REACH)
The Council took note of a Presidency progress report (6200/04) and of remarks by Commissioner Liikanen on the state of play of the on-going examination of the REACH proposal in the ad-hoc Working Party, and in particular, on further work being undertaken by the Commission with regard to impact assessment.
Both the Competitiveness and the Environment Council will hold policy debates on REACH at their sessions in May and June, respectively.
It is recalled that the main goals of the Community's chemicals policy are to avoid chemical contamination of air, water, soil and buildings to prevent damage to biodiversity and to improve the health and safety of workers and the general public. It is aimed at preserving a sensitive balance between the environmental benefits of REACH and its effects on the competitiveness of European industry.
TDM for Shipbuilding
The Council approved, by qualified majority, with the Danish, Netherlands, Finnish and Swedish delegations voting against, a Council Regulation concerning a temporary defensive mechanism (TDM) for shipbuilding.
Amending Regulation (EC) No 1177/2002, the new Regulation (6532/04) aims at prolonging, by a maximum of one year, until 31 March 2005, the use of limited contract-related operating aid to certain segments of the shipbuilding industry which is subject to allegedly unfair competition from the Republic of Korea.
The existing TDM Regulation was adopted on 27 June 2002 after it had been shown that Community shipyards had suffered adverse effects from unfair Korean competition. It allows for a 6 % state aid for the construction of container ships, chemical and product tankers and Liquefied Natural Gas carriers. It was originally launched as a measure for the period specified to resolve the dispute under WTO rules between the Community and Korea. However, settlement of the dispute has taken longer than expected, although it is hoped that it will be concluded by the beginning of 2005. The Commission has therefore proposed a prolongation of TDM, which will terminate either when the WTO dispute is settled or on 31 March 2005, whichever is the earlier.
Regulation on consumer protection cooperation
The Council took note of a progress report as well as of interventions made by some delegations and Commissioner Byrne on the state of play on the draft Regulation on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws. The Council invited the Permanent Representatives Committee to continue examining this file with a view to reaching a first-reading agreement with the European Parliament.
The proposal aims at providing for cooperation between the enforcement authorities in dealing with intra-Community infringements that disrupt the internal market, and at contributing to improved enforcement of consumer protection laws as well as to the monitoring of the protection of consumers' economic interests. The main issues dealt with in the progress report concern the designation and powers of the competent authorities responsible for the enforcement and the question of the overlap between the administrative and the judicial measures adopted in compliance with the Regulation.
It is recalled that a policy debate held by the EPSCO Council of 1 December revealed the worries of a number of delegations regarding, on the one hand, the creation of a bureaucratically and financially cumbersome structure and, on the other hand, the risk of interference with existing national systems. Taking into account these concerns, the Irish Presidency decided to draw up a compromise proposal and, in parallel, held informal contacts with the European Parliament.
Framework conditions for competitive services industries - Council Conclusions - Public Debate
The Council had an exchange of views on the draft framework Directive on Services in the Internal Market, adopted by the Commission on 13 January 2004. Presenting the new proposal, Commissioner Bolkestein pointed out that it aims at establishing a legal framework to facilitate the exercise of establishment for economic service providers and the free movement of services in the internal market. By eliminating certain obstacles, its main objective is to ensure legal certainty for service providers and recipients.
Having taken note of the presentation, the Council stressed the importance of the proposed Directive to which it will give high priority with a view to making speedy progress.
Preceding the debate, the Council drew Conclusions with regard to the Commission Communication on the competitiveness of business-related services, as set out below:
The Council held extensive discussions on a limited number of questions still outstanding with regard to the proposal for a Council Regulation on the Community patent. In the absence of agreement on these issues, the Presidency concluded that it would reflect on how to proceed further.
Enforcement of intellectual property rights
The Council took note of information from the Presidency that the European Parliament voted on 9 March 2004 amendments to the proposal for a Directive on measures and procedures to ensure the enforcement of intellectual property rights. The Council will adopt the Directive as amended by Parliament in the next few weeks.
The Council welcomed the step forward which this first-reading agreement represents in the fight against piracy and counterfeiting and underlined that the new Directive will constitute a key element of the EU legal framework in the area of intellectual property rights and in the internal market at large.
Europe and basic research Council Conclusions
Following an exchange of views on Europe and basic research during which it was agreed to return to this issue following further input from the Commission, the Council adopted the Conclusions set out below:
"The Council of the European Union,
3. ACKNOWLEDGES that the main objective of high quality basic research is the development and enhancement of knowledge, thereby contributing to the advancement of science and to promoting sustainable economic development, competitiveness and employment in the knowledge-based economy; ACKNOWLEDGES also the positive impact that high quality basic research will have on society as a whole; REAFFIRMS therefore the importance of reinforcing support, also with the involvement of the private sector, for basic research in the context of the European Research and Innovation Area;
4. WELCOMES the fact that the Commission, in its Communication "Europe and Basic research", examines the impact of basic research on the competitiveness, growth and quality of life in Europe and puts forward suggestions for exploring the means of strengthening Europe's performance in basic research;
5. RECOGNISES the need to:
6. ACKNOWLEDGES therefore the need, in the context of the preparation of the next research framework programme and taking into account an analysis of the respective merits of existing national approaches and a possible European initiative, to examine the case for specific funding within that Programme to support basic research of the highest quality. At the same time, an appropriate balance should be maintained with other priorities, approaches and activities in research, technological development and innovation;
7. NOTES the intention of the Commission to bring forward, by May 2004, an initiative on operational mechanisms which should add value to existing national approaches and provide a European dimension, with the objective of reinforcing the creativity and excellence of basic research in Europe, through encouraging more competition at the highest European level amongst individual research teams while enhancing cooperation between national programmes."
The Council had an exchange of views on European space policy on the basis of the Commission White Paper of November 2003, which outlines a detailed set of space policy actions and also suggests a road map for a "European Space Programme", as well as on the Commission's Communication on GMES (Global monitoring for environment and security).
Bearing in mind the need to have a coordinated approach by the Community, European Space Agency (ESA) and Member States in 2004, as outlined in the Commission' s White Paper, Ministers examined the following questions:
1. the general approach and priorities of the White Paper and the respective roles and responsibilities of different actors, in particular the Community and ESA in the context of the EC/ESA Framework Agreement;
2. the time-scale of and approach to further development of space policies in the short term which could be discussed and undertaken jointly with the ESA, possibly via an informal "Space Council";
3. the aspects or lines of action of the White Paper on which the Commission could begin work during 2004;
4. the approach the Commission should have to ongoing and future space projects included under the Quick Start initiative, such as GMES (Global monitoring for environment and security).
Ministers agreed to continue considering the issues raised in the Commission's Communications, with the assistance of the High Level Group set up under the EC/ESA Framework Agreement, with a view to holding an informal joint meeting of the EU/ESA Council before the end of 2004.
ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE
Detergents Public Deliberation
The Council approved the second-reading amendments of the European Parliament on the compromise package concerning the proposal for a Regulation on Detergents, with a view to the adoption of this act in the form of an amended common position (10595/03 + 16147/03).
The Regulation aims at modernising existing EU legislation on detergents to further protect the environment, more particularly as it improves requirements for the biodegradability of surfactants.
West Bank and Gaza Strip Financial and technical cooperation Public Deliberation
The Council adopted a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council amending Regulation No 1734/94 on financial and technical cooperation with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as amended by the Parliament at first reading (PE-CONS 3619/04).
Modifications to Regulation No 1734/94 take account of developments, in particular with regard to implementation of the "roadmap" for peace in the Middle East, with the aim of preventing any further deterioration of the Palestinian economy.
Textile quotas EU enlargement
The Council adopted a Regulation adjusting quantitative limits set under Regulation No 3030/93 for imports of textile and clothing products in order to take account of the EU's enlargement to include ten new Member States as from 1 May (6046/1/04).
Adjustment of the quotas takes account of average imports into the new Member States over the last three years.
Accession of the Community to a Convention - request for assent.
The Council decided to request the assent of the European Parliament concerning the accession of the Community to the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (6132/1/04). The assent of the European Parliament, on the basis of Article 300(2) and (3) of the Treaty, is needed to enable the Council Decision on the accession of the Community to the Convention to be adopted at a later stage.
Aviation - Passenger Name Record (PNR)
The Council approved the submission to the ICAO Facilitation Division of a Working Paper (7236/04) on behalf of the European Community and its Member States. As one element in the wider context of the issue of government access to Passenger Name Record data, the working paper addresses the following aspects:
Pharmaceuticals Review of Community legislation* - Public deliberation
The Council adopted a package of Community legislation on pharmaceuticals updating existing rules with the aim of responding to technical and scientific innovations whilst maintaining a high level of health protection and continuing to ensure the proper functioning of the EU's internal market in the pharmaceuticals sector (16151/03 + 16157/03).
The Council adopted the following texts, as amended by the European Parliament at second reading:
The new legislation is particularly aimed at:
responding to innovations, such as the development of new substances and therapies;
enhancing the competitiveness of Europe's pharmaceutical industry, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises in the context of globalisation;
ensuring the proper operation of the internal market, in particular in view of the EU's enlargement on 1 May;
simplifying authorisation procedures and improving transparency;
while ensuring a high level of health protection through the quality, safety and efficacy of medicinal products;
European Commission Nomination of Stavros Dimas to succeed Anna Diamantopoulou
The Council adopted a Decision nominating Mr Stavros Dimas as Commissioner until 31 October, to succeed Anna Diamantopoulou who resigned on 10 March (7235/04).
Mr Dimas was designated Commissioner by the Greek government following Ms Diamantopoulou's election to the Greek Parliament.
Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market
In the light of the Administrative Board's proposal and the comments of the President of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Mark and Designs), the Council adopted the Decision renewing the term of office of Mr von Mühlendahl as Vice-President of the Office (6807/1/04).
(1)1Including Cardiff 1998, Lisbon and Feira 2000, and Brussels 2003.
(2)1 As defined in the Commission's communication, business-related services consist of four major groups of activities, namely business services, distributive trades, network services and financial services, performing in different market conditions.
(3)215933/03 COMPET 82 MI 316 IND 182 ECO 270.
(4)OJ L 214, 24.8.1993.
(5)Adopted by qualified majority, with the Belgian delegation voting against.
(6)OJ L 311, 28.11.2001, p. 67.
(7)OJ L 311, 28.11.2001, p. 1.