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2128th Council meeting CONSUMER AFFAIRS

European Council - PRES/98/359   05/11/1998

Other available languages: FR DE DA ES NL IT SV PT FI EL

  • C/98/359
  • 12282/98 (Presse 359)

     

    2128th Council meeting

      CONSUMER AFFAIRS

     Brussels, 3 November 1998

  •           President:   Ms Barbara PRAMMER
    •                  Federal Minister for Women's Affairs and Consumer Protection of the Republic of Austria

    S U M M A R Y

    PARTICIPANTS  

    3

    POINTS DISCUSSED

    FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME FOR CONSUMERS  4
    THE CONSUMER DIMENSION OF THE INFORMATION SOCIETY :

    Council Resolution  

    5

    OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS FOR TECHNICAL CONSUMER GOODS :

    Council Resolution  

    10

    STATE OF PREPARATIONS IN THE MEMBER STATES FOR THE INTRODUCTION

    OF THE EURO - open debate  

    16

    ACTION PLAN 1999-2001 CONCERNING CONSUMER POLICY PRIORITIES  17
    DISTANCE SELLING OF FINANCIAL SERVICES  17
    CAMPAIGN ON FOOD SAFETY AND CONSUMER HEALTH  17
    ANY OTHER BUSINESS  18

    POINTS ADOPTED WITHOUT DISCUSSION

    EXTERNAL RELATIONS
    - EEA - rules of origine I
    - CEECs and Cyprus - participation in EC programmes  I
    - Promotion of transparency in nuclear-related export controls  I
    - Ukraine - Cooperation Committee  II
    TRADE QUESTIONS 
    - Anti-dumping - imports of leather handbags from China  II
    - Anti-dumping - imports of unwrought unalloyed magnesium from China  II
    CUSTOMS UNION
    - Agreement with Chile on the control of drugs precursors and chemical substances  III
    ENVIRONMENT
    - Quality of water for human consumption  III
    FISHERIES
    - TACs and quotas for North Sea cod  IV
    TRANSPORT
    - Registration documents for motor vehicles  V
    - Motor vehicle registration plates - Mutual recognition of the symbol of Member States  V
    CODIFICATION OF LEGISLATION
    - Fisheries - EC structural assistance  VI
    - CMO in sheepmeat and goatmeat  VI
    TRANSPARENCY
    - Public access to Council documents  VI

    For further information call 285.60.83 or 285.68.08

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

    Belgium:

    Mr Jean-Louis SIX Deputy Permanent Representative
    Denmark:
    Ms Pia GJELLERUPMinister for Trade and Industry
    Germany:
    Mr Lorenz SCHOMERUS State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs
    Greece:
    Ms Kristina PAPANIKOLAU Secretary General, Ministry of Economic Affairs
    Spain:
    Mr Enrique CASTELLÓN LEAL Under-Secretary for Health and Consumer Affairs
    France:
    Ms Marilyse LEBRANCHU State Secretary to the Minister for Economic Affairs, Finance and Industry
    Ireland:
    Mr Tom KITT Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
    Italy:
    Mr Roberto ROSSI Deputy Permanent Representative
    Luxembourg:
    Ms Marie-Josée JACOBS Minister for the Family
    Netherlands:
    Mr Gerrit YBEMA State Secretary for Economic Affairs
    Austria:
    Ms Barbara PRAMMER Federal Minister for Women's Affairs and Consumer Protection
    Portugal:
    Mr José SÓCRATES Minister attached to the Prime Minister
    Finland:
    Mr Antti KALLIOMÄKI Minister for Trade and Industry
    Sweden:
    Mr Lars ENGQVIST Minister at the Ministry of the Interior, with responsibility for Integration, Consumers, Youth and Sport
    United Kingdom:
    Mr Kim HOWELLSParliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Competition and Consumer Affairs

     * * *

    Commission:

    Mrs Emma BONINO

    Member

  • FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME FOR CONSUMERS
  • In spite of in depth discussions on a proposal for a decision aiming at establishing a general framework for Community activities in favour of consumers (1999-2003), the Council did not reach agreement on the last outstanding issue, i.e. the financial amount, and was therefore unable to adopt its common position to be transmitted to the European Parliament.
  • The objective of this text is to create the basic act necessary to allow financial support of the EU budget in the field of Consumer Policy and Consumer Health Protection.
  • The Presidency indicated that it will strive to find a compromise solution as soon as possible so as to enable the Council and the European Parliament to adopt the Decision still before the end of this year so that the 1999 budget appropriations in this area can be spent from January 1999.
  • THE CONSUMER DIMENSION OF THE INFORMATION SOCIETY
  • - Council Resolution
  • "THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,
  • Having regard to the Council conclusions of 19 May 1998 ((1))
  • Having regard to the Communication from the Commission concerning priorities for consumer policy 1996-1998;
  • Having regard to the OECD Ministerial Declaration on Consumer Protection in the context of Electronic Commerce;((2))
    • (1) Whereas the continuing development of new technologies for the transmission and storage of information is leading to organisational, commercial, technical and legal innovations that are having a profound impact on society in general;
    • (2) Whereas the new communications technologies will have a substantial impact on the daily lives of all citizens whether they take an active, or a passive, approach to these developments;
    • (3) Whereas the new information and communications technologies, and the associated development of the Information Society, offer many potential advantages to consumers but also create new commercial situations which are unfamiliar to them and where their interests may be put at risk;
    • (4) Whereas consumers are particularly concerned by the issues related to:
      •  (a) accessibility and affordability;
      •  (b) consumer friendliness of equipment and applications and the skills necessary to use them;
      •  (c) transparency including the quantity and quality of information;
      •  (d) fair marketing practices, offers and contract terms;
      •  (e) protection of children against unsuitable contents;
      •  (f) security of payment systems, including electronic signature;
      •  (g) which legal regime is applicable to consumer transactions in the new environment as regards both the choice of law and practicability of existing provisions;
      •  (h) the apportionment of responsibility and liability;
      •  (i) privacy and the protection of personal data; and
      •  (j) access to efficient systems of redress and dispute resolution;
      •  (k) information technology as a tool for information and education;
    • (5) Whereas the establishment of consumer confidence and trust are a pre-requisite for consumer acceptance of, and participation in the Information Society;
    • (6) Whereas a necessary condition for establishing such confidence and trust is the provision of an equivalent level of protection regarding the new technologies as is available in traditional consumer transactions by the application of existing principles of consumer policy to the new products and services available in the Information Society, especially:
      •  (a) transparency and the right to receive sufficient and reliable information before and, where appropriate, after the transaction including, in particular, the authenticated identity of the supplier and the provision of information necessary to prove the authenticity of each element of a transaction;
      •  (b) non-discrimination in the access to products and services and consideration of the needs of vulnerable consumers;
      •  (c) the protection of consumers from unsolicited, misleading and unfair marketing practices, including advertising, and the support for the provision of reliable means to enable the consumer to filter the content in communication systems;
      •  (d) the protection of a consumer's economic interests taking account of a fair distribution of risk and liability that reflects in particular the responsibility of the supplier in choosing electronic means of trading and including, in particular, the conditions necessary for the consumer to take well-considered decisions;
      •  (e) the protection of a consumer's health, safety and privacy, including protection against the misuse of personal information;
      •  (f) information and education of consumers to enable them to develop the appropriate skills;
      •  (g) consultation of consumers when developing new policies or regulatory mechanisms;
      •  (h) representation of consumers interests in relevant monitoring and supervisory bodies;
    • (7) Whereas the Council is of the opinion that, at the level of the European Community, the principal means of ensuring that the interests of consumers are fully taken into account in the Information Society must be to integrate the consumer dimension and, in particular, the above-mentioned principles of consumer policy, into all relevant European Community policy initiatives;
    • (8) Whereas existing relevant Community legislation and national implementing law are applicable to consumer transactions in the new environment of the Information Society;
    • (9) Whereas in particular Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts already provides, inter alia, for protection in the area of electronic commerce;
    • (10) Whereas, in the case of transborder transactions effected by means of information technologies, consumers should, within the framework of Community law and of the Brussels and Rome Conventions, be able to benefit from the protection afforded by the legislation of their country of habitual residence and to have easy access to redress procedures, notably within their country of habitual residence; noting that the Commission has proposed a directive concerning the distance marketing of consumer financial services, and has indicated that it is giving consideration to other possible initiatives for harmonising legislation in this area;
    • (11) Whereas European Community policy in this domain should take due account of the multi-lingual and multicultural nature of the European Community;
    • (12) Whereas there is an important role for consumer organisations and appropriate public bodies to play in the protection of consumer interests in the new environment as well as in the provision of information services and content, in particular through coordinated actions; whereas companies can also play an important role through, in particular, codes of conduct;
    • (13) Whereas the European Community should play an active role at international level to ensure that its accepted standards of consumer protection are secured when developing the global Information Society;
    • I. INVITES THE COMMISSION TO
      •  1. Examine existing European Community consumer-related legislation in the new circumstances arising from the Information Society, to identify possible loopholes in this legislation concerning specific problems in the context of the Information Society and to identify possible areas where additional regulatory action may be necessary;
      •  2. Take all necessary steps to ensure that consumer interests are given full consideration in any current and future policy proposals concerning the Information Society presented by the Commission;
      •  3. Take all possible steps in conformity with Community law and with the Community's international obligations to ensure that consumers can rely on the relevant rights already provided by the Brussels and Rome Conventions, inter alia those concerning the applicability of the legislation of the country of residence and concerning easy access to national jurisdiction, and, where appropriate, to strengthen those rights;
      •  4. Encourage consumer organisations to develop the use of the new technologies as a means of extending their services to consumers, and to examine the possibilities of developing common action in this domain;
      •  5. Submit a report to the Council and the European Parliament on the actions taken to meet the above objectives, accompanied, if necessary, by proposals for relevant action.
    • II. AGREES TO
      •  1. Prepare common or coordinated positions of Member States with regard to discussions and negotiations on information-society issues taking place within international fora, and in particular the development of OECD guidelines on consumer protection in the context of electronic commerce, drawing on the orientations set out in this Resolution.
      •  2. Re-examine on a regular basis the development of the role of the consumers and of the risks and opportunities facing them in the Information Society."
    • OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS FOR TECHNICAL CONSUMER GOODS
  • - Council Resolution
  • "The Council of the European Union,
  • Having regard to the Council Resolution of 5 April 1993 on the labelling of products in the interest of the consumer ((3)),
    • 1. Whereas promoting the interests of consumers and ensuring a high level of consumer protection involves, inter alia, protecting their health and safety;
    • 2. Whereas consumers are entitled to be provided with the information on safety issues which will enable them to assess the risks inherent in a product and to take precautions against those risks;
    • 3. Whereas the protection of economic interests requires that consumers of technical goods have access to adequate user information to ensure proper and complete use of the product;
    • 4. Whereas inadequate operating instructions may affect the presentation of products and may be a factor to be taken into account together with all other pertinent circumstances in considering whether goods are defective; whereas in this context experience gained from the Council Directive on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning liability for defective products should be taken into account ((4));
    • 5. Whereas, in the light of the growing variety of items available on the market and the frequent innovations triggered by technical progress, operating instructions for technical consumer goods are often perceived by consumers as inadequate, both because they are unclear and present language difficulties, owing to faulty translations or to the use of terms which are too complex, and because they lack structure and have inadequate content; whereas the use of the appropriate language is crucial for clear, user-friendly operating instructions;
    • 6. Whereas binding provisions of Community law address the problem of operating instructions in areas in which the protection of human health and safety appears particularly relevant (notably medicines, machinery, toys, low voltage equipment, gas appliances, and protective equipment), in order to ensure compliance with the relevant essential requirements;
    • 7. Whereas no Community legislation addresses the specific aspects of operating instructions for technical consumer goods in general;
    • 8. Whereas in a market economy the general need for appropriate operating instructions is in principle to be met by producers and distributors, taking account of the demand side requirements and promoting implementation of best practice through dialogue and cooperation with consumer organisations; whereas consumers may benefit from the development of suitable methods of determining the quality of operating instructions before purchase;
    • 9. Whereas the provision of accessible operating instructions is closely associated with the "Design for All" approach, which aims at having mainstream products and services designed to be usable by everyone, including the elderly and the disabled, and is at the core of the current terms of reference of the European Information and Communication Technologies Standards Bodies on "Standards for disabled and elderly people" ((5)); whereas it is also one of the activities being undertaken by the standardisation bodies CEN, CENELEC and ETSI on behalf of the Commission departments responsible for studies and programmes relating to consumer requirements in the field of telecommunications technologies; whereas user-friendly aspects and the total life-span of a product, from production to recycling, should also be taken into account;
    • 10. Whereas general ((6)) and specific ((7)) standards for operating instructions are available at international level and, in some instances, at national level;
    • 11. Whereas a number of mandates relating to particular consumer concerns which need to be addressed through standardisation have been completed or are in progress, especially in the area of injury prevention, on the basis of framework terms of reference agreed by the Commission in 1995;
    • 12. Whereas there is scope for improving the structure, content and usability of operating instructions for technical consumer goods in order to facilitate optimum use by the consumer while guaranteeing a high level of safety;
  • NOTES - that, with a view to helping identify the best possible methods and practices, the Commission intends to circulate to the Member States the findings of a survey conducted among national administrations in the European Union and the EFTA countries and the final report of a specialised study on operating instructions carried out by the Austrian authorities;
  • INVITES the Commission to address the issue of operating instructions for technical consumer goods within the scope of standardisation activities after due consideration of the cost-effectiveness of such activities and to give due attention to this issue in all relevant areas, particularly as regards incorporating consumer needs and furthering consumer representation within the standardisation process;
  • INVITES the Member States and economic operators:
    • - to pursue the objective of making information available to consumers, enabling them to make safe, easy, proper and complete use of technical goods, and to take the fullest possible account, where appropriate and in compliance with the Treaty, of the indications contained in the Annex to this Resolution for activities in this field;
    • - to consider, for example, the possibility of voluntary agreements between manufacturers and consumer associations on the design and content of operating instructions and product labelling and award schemes designed to foster the introduction of state-of-the-art, consumer-friendly operating instructions.
  •  ANNEX
  • INDICATIONS FOR GOOD OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS FOR
  • TECHNICAL CONSUMER GOODS ((8))
  • Indications as enumerated under the different chapters below are to be considered as non-exhaustive and of an advisory nature:
  • 1. Development of instructions for use
    •  a. Guidelines, standards, laws etc. concerning operating instructions are taken into account;
    •  b. In order to ensure that information supplied with products is of practical use, usability tests are carried out: in a usability test, the appliance, a list of the tasks to be performed with it and the draft operating instructions are given to a suitable group of consumers who are then observed performing the tasks; observations are reported on standardised record sheets;
    •  c. The content is structured on the basis of typical everyday user actions: the content structure of a manual is based on the tasks which will have to be performed by product users (principle of task orientation);
    •   A user manual provides only information which is not self-evident from the product itself (self-explanatory capacity) or from the user's knowledge and experience or from the characteristics of the task to be performed (principle of supplying the necessary missing information).
  • 2. Content
    •  Operating instructions are set out in a logical sequence reflecting safe and practical use.
    •  Instructions on safety, cautions and warnings, instructions on installation and, finally, instructions on use are clearly separated from each other.
    •  Typical components of such operating instructions are:
      •  - List of product versions covered by the manual, including their distinguishing features;
      •  - Table of contents (for lengthy instructions);
      •  - Short description of the tasks that the product can perform;
      •  - Activity-oriented information for each task, including safety instructions and cautions, such as installation and start-up tips (task 1, task 2 ...), any general information on safe handling not already included in the tasks, maintenance and care, and troubleshooting sections;
      •  - Technical data;
      •  - Customer service addresses and hotlines;
      •  - Index (for products that perform several tasks or for lengthy instructions);
      •  - Detachable quick reference instructions (for products that perform several tasks or tasks consisting of several separate steps);
      •  - List of typical operating errors, their causes and possible solutions;
      •  - Information concerning the user-friendliness of the product and how it may be recycled;
      •  - Information on the availability of the instructions on media other than printed paper, such as videotape, CD-ROM, world-wide web site etc.
    • 3. Separate operating instructions for different models of the same product
    •  Operating instructions sometimes include information about different models or versions of the same product. It is advisable to have separate instructions for each individual model, particularly when confusion could constitute a safety hazard.
    •  However, covering several products in a single manual may be acceptable when differences between product versions do not result in differences between activity steps (for example, when a fax machine has additional features on some models but the basic operations for sending a fax remain the same).
    • 4. Safety instructions and cautions
    •  Instructions, cautions and warnings in matters of safety are prominently displayed at the beginning of the operating instructions and use the pictograms which appear on the product itself. These instructions, cautions and warnings are repeated, if necessary, at the relevant points.
    •  Besides, instructing users in the safe handling of the product is best achieved by linking clearly marked safety instructions and cautions to the sequence of steps in normal use.
    •  Typical operating errors are set out in the sequence in which they may occur.
    • 5. Language of manuals
  •  
    •  Consumers have easy access to operating instructions at least in their own official Community language, in such a way that they are legible and easy for the consumer to understand.
    •  For the sake of clarity and user-friendliness, language versions are set out separately from one another.
    •  Translations are based on the original language only and take into account the distinctive cultural characteristics of the area where the relevant language is used; this requires that translations are done by suitably trained experts who share the language of the consumers that the product is aimed at, and that, ideally, they are tested on consumers for comprehension.
  • 6. Communication of information
    •  The communication of information ideally meets the following requirements:
  •  - be sufficiently clear and precise;
  •  - be correct in spelling and grammar;
  •  - use comprehensible words;
  •  - use active verb forms instead of passive forms wherever possible;
  •  - avoid unnecessary specialist terms;
  •  - use everyday expressions;
    •  - be consistent in the use of words (i.e. the same term should be used throughout to refer to the same object or action);
    •  - use typefaces which avoid any confusion between lower case, upper case and figures;
    •  - explain abbreviations and accompany them with clear text;
    •  - ensure that any illustrations used correspond exactly to what the consumer sees, depict only the necessary information and represent only one new item of information per illustration;
    •  - ensure that any symbols used correspond to commonly used pictograms, are easily recognisable and always have the same meaning;
    •  - when using a combination of text and illustrations, choose one of the two as the main medium throughout;
    •  - not confine itself to pictures with no text since that does not ensure clarity as pictures alone may not always be sufficiently self-explanatory.
  • 7. Storage of operating instructions for future reference
    •  In order to facilitate home filing and future use, appropriate formats are recommended. Loose leaves are avoided and the layout reflects the order of the information. Fonts are legible for consumers, particularly the elderly.
    •  Highlighting important information, such as safety advice, is useful.
  •  __________________ "
  • STATE OF PREPARATIONS IN THE MEMBER STATES FOR THE INTRODUCTION OF THE EURO - OPEN DEBATE
  • The Council had, at an open session broadcast to the public, an exchange of experience on the preparations in the Member States for the introduction of the euro.
  • In order to structure the debate the Presidency had put forward two themes: the state of play concerning dual display of prices, and banking fees for the conversion from national currencies into the euro.
  • It is recalled that on 30 June 1998, an agreement was signed at European level between representatives of consumers and of the retail, tourism and petrol sectors and SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises), according to which shops will practise dual display and accept payment in euro. According to the agreement, public authorities should also participate by, i.a., promoting compliance with this agreement by the parties concerned.
  • As to the banking fees, it is recalled that the Commission adopted last April a Recommendation concerning banking charges for the conversion of the euro which contains standards of good practice and provisions for transparency and implementation. The Commission recommends conversion without charge.
  • It emerged from the discussion that all the Member States joining the euro-zone have taken steps to have the dual display of prices established, and that these steps have met with a very positive response from the representatives of commerce. It was also noted with satisfaction that the European banking sector generally has had a favourable attitude towards not charging banking fees on the conversion of the euro, during the transitional period 1 January 1999 - 1 July 2002.
  • These measures will facilitate consumers' perception of the euro and reinforce their confidence in the new currency.
  • At the end of the discussion, the President concluded that, if needed, the Council could revert to this theme from the consumers' point of view at a forthcoming Council session.
  • ACTION PLAN 1999-2001 CONCERNING CONSUMER POLICY PRIORITIES
  • The Council took note of the Commission's intention to present an Action Plan 1999-2001 on consumer policy priorities in November 1998. Several delegations indicated elements, which they considered important, to be taken up by the Commission in its Action Plan.
  • DISTANCE SELLING OF FINANCIAL SERVICES
  • The Council took note of an oral presentation by Commissioner BONINO of a proposal on distance selling of financial services.
  • This proposal, adopted by the Commission on 13 October 1998, covers an area which had been left out of the distance contract Directive adopted in 1997; the discussion at Council bodies is due to start next month.
  • CAMPAIGN ON FOOD SAFETY AND CONSUMER HEALTH
  • The Commission informed the Council about an information campaign on food safety and consumer health, which was launched on 15 October 1998. This campaign , the purpose of which is to allay consumers' fears triggered by the BSE cases, focuses i.a. on instructions concerning the cold chain of meat products.
  • ANY OTHER BUSINESS
    • - Outcome of the Euro-Mediterranean forum on consumer policy
  •  The Council took note of an oral report by the Commission.
    • - Impact of the Amsterdam Treaty on consumer policy
    •  The Council heard a briefing by the Irish delegation on the outcome of the Dublin Forum (2 and 3 October 1998).
    •  The purpose of the Forum was to initiate a debate on the development of consumer policy following the enhanced powers in this area which have been inserted by the Treaty of Amsterdam.
    • - Settlement of consumer disputes in the internal market
    •  The Council took note of a communication from the Portuguese delegation on the intention of their government to adopt extended legislation on out-of-court settlement of consumer disputes.
    • - Information for consumers in the field of air travel (code-sharing)
    •  The Portuguese delegation presented to the Council its concern on the need to look into the adoption of mechanisms ensuring that the consumer is given all necessary information when booking a flight with code-sharing. Code-sharing is a practive whereby different airlines jointly supply a given route with the same flight, identified by the same code.
    • - Labelling of novel foods and novel food ingredients
    •  The Council took note of a statement by the Austrian delegation on problems arising from the lack of the implementation of the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 258/97.
    •  This delegation requested the Commission to proceed with proposals concerning the implementation of the provisions on the labelling of foodstuffs produced by means of genetic engineering.

    OTHER DECISIONS

    Adopted without discussion. In the case of legislative acts, votes against or abstentions are indicated. Decisions involving statements which the Council has decided to release to the public are asterisked; the statements in question may be obtained from the Press Office.

    EXTERNAL RELATIONS

    EEA - rules of origin

    The Council approved on behalf of the Community the draft Decision of EEA Joint Committee amending Protocol 4 to the EEA Agreement on rules of origin, in order to avoid that products originating in a country eligible for pan-European cumulation could legally escape the payment of customs duties on the basic products.

    CEECs and Cyprus - participation in EC programmes

    The Council approved, on behalf of the Community, the draft decisions of the EU-Bulgaria, EU-Czech Republic, EU-Estonia, EU-Poland and EU-Romania Association Councils concerning the terms of the participation of these countries in EC programmes in the field of culture.

    It also approved the draft decisions of the Association Councils with Estonia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia concerning these countries' participation in EC programmes in the field of small and medium-sized enterprises.

    Furthermore, the Council approved the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Cyprus establishing cooperation in the audiovisual field including the participation of Cyprus in the MEDIA II Programme.

    Promotion of transparency in nuclear-related export controls

    The EU adopted a Decision concerning a further contribution by the EU of up to 75.000 ECU to finance the second seminar of the Nuclear Supplier Group on nuclear-related export controls, scheduled to take place in New York on 8-9 April 1998.

    On 29 April 1997 the Council adopted a Joint Action aimed at contributing to the strengthening of the international nuclear non-proliferation system, including the promotion of transparency in nuclear-related export controls within the framework of dialogue and cooperation among all interested States party to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation; in support of this objective, the Joint Action had established a first contribution of up to 75.000 ECU to finance the first NSG seminar in October 1997.

    Ukraine - Cooperation Committee

    The Council endorsed the position to be taken by the European Union at the Cooperation Committee with Ukraine to be held on 5 November 1998.

    The Cooperation Committee will discuss outstanding issues regarding EU-Ukraine trade and cooperation. As this will be its first meeting, its agenda is also devoted in part to organisational matters, such as the adoption of a structure of sub-committees, the agreement of precise steps to be taken in 1998-1999 with regard to the implementation of the Partnership and Cooperation Committee, and charging the sub-committees of specific implementation tasks.

    TRADE QUESTIONS

    Anti-dumping - imports of leather handbags from China

    The Council adopted a Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 1567/97 imposing a definitive anti-dumping duty on imports of leather handbags from China, by adding 14 companies to those qualifying for individual treatment in respect of their export price. For those companies a rate different from the general anti-dumping duty of 38% will be applied, ranging from 0 to 58,3%.

    Anti-dumping - imports of unwrought unalloyed magnesium from China

    The Council adopted a Regulation imposing a definitive anti-dumping duty on imports of unwrought unalloyed magnesium from China.

    The duty is set at the level of the difference between the minimum import price of 2,622 ECU/tonne and the CIF Community frontier price in all cases where the latter is less than the minimum import price and established on the basis of an invoice issued by an exporter located in China to a party unrelated to it. No duty will be collected where the CIF Community frontier price per tonne is equal or higher than the minimum price.

    In all other cases the duty will be set at 31.7%.

    The amounts secured by way of the provisional anti-dumping duty imposed pursuant to the provisional Regulation (Reg. (EC) No 1002/98) shall be definitively collected at the level defined above.

    CUSTOMS UNION

    Agreement with Chile on the control of drugs precursors and chemical substances

    The Council decided to conclude the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Chile on precursors and chemical substances frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances.

    Like similar agreements with other countries, this one sets out measures to strengthen administrative cooperation between the Parties to prevent the diversion of chemical substances frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, without prejudice to the due recognition of the legitimate interests of trade and industry.

    Chile and the EC will assist each other by monitoring the trade between them in controlled substances and by providing mutual administrative assistance to ensure that the relevant legislation on the control of trade in such substances is correctly applied.

    The Agreement also contains provisions on information exchange and confidentiality, technical and scientific cooperation, the possibility of suspending shipments and for certain exceptions to the obligation to provide assistance.

    A Joint Follow-up Group will be set up to administer the Agreement and ensure its proper application.

    The Agreement will be concluded for a period of five years and, unless otherwise stated, will be automatically renewed for successive periods of the same duration.

    ENVIRONMENT

    Quality of water for human consumption *

    The Council adopted by a qualified majority with the Italian delegation voting against an amendment to Directive 80/778/EEC on the quality of water for human consumption. The Opinion of the European Parliament (second reading) has been given on 13 May 1998 and the Commission has presented a re-examined proposal on 8 July 1998.

    The amendment, which is based on Article 130s(1) of the Treaty (cooperation with the European Parliament), is intended to simplify, consolidate and update Directive 80/778/EEC in the light of scientific and technical progress and with account being taken of the subsidiarity principle.

    The general objective (see Press Release 11332/97 Presse 296) is to guarantee that water intended for human consumption is wholesome. That means that its quality must satisfy the minimum requirements laid down in Annex I to the Directive with which Member States must in principle comply within five years of the Directive's adoption.

    FISHERIES

    TACs and quotas for North Sea cod

    The Council adopted a regulation, amending for the third time, Regulation (EC) No 45/98 fixing for certain fish stocks and groups of fish stocks, the total allowable catches for 1998 and certain conditions under which they may be fished.

    This regulation amends TACs and quotas for Cod in the North Sea, zone IIa, as follows:

    Species:

    Cod

    Gadus morhua

    Zone : IIa(1), North Sea
    België/Belgique4 460 (3)(1)

    (2)

    (3)

    (4)

    (5)

    (6)

    Community waters

    Of which no more than 60 000 tonnes may be fished in waters under the sovereignty or jurisdiction of Norway

    Of which no more than 17 tonnes may be fished in ICES Division VIId

    Of which no more than 21 tonnes may be fished in ICES Division VIId

    Of which no more than 54 tonnes may be fished in ICES Division VIId

    Of which no more than 220 tonnes may be fished in ICES Division VIId

    Danmark25 610
    Deutschland16 240
    Ellada
    España
    France5 510 (4)
    Ireland
    Italie
    Luxembourg
    Nederland14 470(5)
    Österreich
    Portugal
    Suomi/Finland
    Sverige170
    United Kingdom58 740(6)
    EC125 200(2)
    TAC140 000

    TRANSPORT

    Registration documents for motor vehicles

    The Council adopted its common position on a directive concerning registration documents for motor vehicles.

    The aim of this directive is to harmonize, at Community level, the form and content of registration certificates for motor vehicles in order to facilitate road traffic within the Community, simplify procedures for the re-registration of vehicles in another Member State, promote exchanges of information on the transfer of ownership of vehicles so as to step up the fight against illegal vehicle trafficking, and improve the functioning of the internal market.

    Motor vehicle registation plates - Mutual recognition of the symbol of Member States *

    The Council adopted a Regulation on the recognition in intra-Community traffic of the distinguishing sign of the Member State in which motor vehicles and their trailers are registered.

    At the end of the 1980s, Commission departments and government experts drew up a Community model registration plate. This has on the extreme left a vertical blue zone with at the top a circle of twelve yellow stars representing the Community flag and underneath the abbreviation for the Member State of registration (D/P/IRL, etc.).

    Since then, some Member States have incorporated the model in their national rules, making it either compulsory or optional. Other provisions, coming under the Vienna Convention on road traffic of 1968, apply in other Member States and in Member States which have introduced the sign on an optional basis. The Convention stipulates that the letters of the distinguishing sign of the Member State of registration should be in black within a white ellipse and should not be incorporated in the registration number.

    Some Member States require vehicles registered in another Member State to display a distinguishing registration sign when they are being driven in their territory. The Regulation obliges such Member States to recognize the distinguishing sign of the Member State of registration displayed on the extreme left of the registration plate in accordance with the requirements of the Annex to the Regulation as being equivalent to any other distinguishing sign that they recognize for the purpose of identifying the State in which the vehicle is registered.

    CODIFICATION OF LEGISLATION

    Fisheries - EC structural assistance

    The Council adopted the Regulation consolidating Regulation (EC) No 3699/93 of 21 December 1993 laying down the criteria and arrangements regarding Community structural assistance in the fisheries and aquaculture sector and the processing and marketing of its products.

    CMO in sheepmeat and goatmeat

    The Council adopted the Regulation consolidating Regulation (EEC) No 3013/89 of 25 September 1989 on the common organisation of the market in sheepmeat and goatmeat.

    TRANSPARENCY

    Public access to Council documents

    The Council agreed on the replies to the twelfth confirmatory application for access to Council documents from Mr. Steve PEERS and the eighth confirmatory application for access to Council documents from Mr. Tony BUNYAN in 1998. The Danish delegation voted against both replies.

     

    (1)()Conclusions adopted by the Telecommunications Council on 19 May 1998 and endorsed by the Ecofin Council on 5 June 1998.

    (2)()Made by OECD Ministers on 8 October 1998 at the Ottawa Ministerial Conference on a "borderless world: realising the potential of global electronic commerce".

    (3)()OJ No C 110, 20.4.1993, p.1.

    (4)()Directive 85/374/EEC - OJ No L 210, 7.8.1985, p. 29.

    (5)()SOGITS-Senior Officials Group on Information Technology No 1032

    (6)()At international level, see ISO/IEC Guide No 37, 1995;At national level, see, for example, DIN V 8418.

    (7)()Child safety and standards - general guidelines; ref. no ISO - IEC guide 50, 1987, 1st edition April 15.

    (8)()Such as "white" goods (i.e. kitchen and other household appliances usually covered with white enamel), do-it-yourself appliances, electric and electronic goods for home and portable entertainment, and telecommunication terminal equipment.


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