Brussels, 20-21 December 1998
14134/98 (Presse 453)
2153rd Council meeting
Brussels, 20-21 December 1998
President: Mr Martin BARTENSTEIN
Federal Minister for the Environment of the Republic of Austria
S U M M A R Y
For further information call 285.78.33, 285.62.19 or 285.68.08
The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
COMMUNITY STRATEGY TO REDUCE CO2 EMISSIONS FROM PASSENGER CARS
Under this heading, the Council addressed three specific issues:
- the proposal for a Decision establishing a scheme to monitor the average specific emissions of carbon dioxide from new passenger cars;
- the proposal for a Directive relating to the availability of consumer information on fuel economy in respect of the marketing of new passenger cars;
- the voluntary agreements envisaged between the European Commission and the Japanese and Korean Automobile Manufacturers Associations (which should produce the same results as those expected from the agreement reached with the European Manufacturers Association ACEA).
It is recalled that in its conclusions of 25 June 1996 on "A Community strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars and improve fuel economy" the Council had stressed the need for a comprehensive strategy comprising as a priority an agreement with industry, in combination with market incentives and consumer information, in order to reduce the average CO2 emissions of newly registered passenger cars to 120 g of CO2 per kilometre by 2005 or 2010 at the latest.
Monitoring of CO2 emissions from passenger cars
The Council agreed on the draft of its common position regarding a monitoring scheme for carbon dioxide emissions from new passenger cars in the Community. Once definitively adopted, the common position will be transmitted to the European Parliament for second reading.
The objectives of the proposed Council Decision are to assess the effectiveness of the Community's strategy to limit CO2 emissions from motor cars and improve fuel economy, to provide information on market changes affecting other Community policy objectives, as well as to monitor the impact of the CO2/cars strategy on the new car market. This will be done by collecting data on the specific CO2 emissions from new passenger cars registered in a given calendar year, as well as information on the manufacturer, fuel type, mass, engine power and engine capacity. Use will be made of already existing sources of information in Member States, such as the Certificate of Conformity or the type-approval documentation.
The decision will entrust the competent authorities in the Member States with the task of gathering the data. The data will be transmitted to the Commission which will aggregate it further on a EU scale before publishing an annual report.
Consumer information on fuel economy
The Council also reached political agreement on its common position concerning the Directive on information to be given to the consumer on the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of new cars. Again, the formal adoption of this common position will take place at another Council meeting, followed by its transmission to the European Parliament.
The Directive aims at influencing consumer choice in favour of more fuel efficient cars. This would be achieved by providing potential buyers with accurate and comparable information on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of new cars.
Four sources of information would be made available to customers:
- Points of sale would have to display information on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions on or near each new passenger car model (fuel economy label);
- a poster would provide this same information for all cars on sale at the garage or showroom;
- all promotional literature (advertising) referring to a particular model would have to include information on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions ;
- Member States would have to ensure that a fuel economy guide is produced, in consultation with manufacturers, at least on an annual basis and that it is available to consumers free of charge, including from the dealers. It would provide information on the fuel consumption of all new passenger car models on sale in that Member State, grouped by makes in alphabetical order. The guide would have to include a prominent listing of the 10 most fuel-efficient new car models ranked in order of increasing specific CO2 emissions for each fuel type. It would also include an explanation of the effects of carbon dioxide on the climate. Furthermore, it would offer motorists advice on how to economize on fuel when driving. Dealers would be under an obligation to make consumers aware of the guide's existence. The Commission will produce a guide at Community level, available on the Internet.
For each of these information sources, an annex to the Directive lays down the requirements both on form and substance. The draft recognizes the specificity of the car market in the different Member States by setting only minimum requirements which Member States may supplement with further elements they consider useful, within the limits of the EC Treaty. On the other hand, the draft Directive ensures a sufficient level of harmonization throughout the Community, and provides for a further possible strengthening of such harmonization on the basis of experience. Amendments to the annexes could be adopted by the Commission, in accordance with a committee procedure and following consultation with consumer organisations and other interested parties.
The draft does not include a requirement to indicate fuel costs. Indeed, many delegations considered that the determination of running costs depends on too many variables to be trustworthy, would be difficult to implement and could be confusing for the consumer.
Member States may further promote the rational use of fuels of passenger cars by enlarging the scope of the Directive to vehicles such as rental cars or cars having been previously registered for not more than one year.
Agreements with non-European car manufacturers
Commissioner BJERREGAARD informed the Council on the state of discussions which have recently started with the Japanese and Korean associations of automotive manufacturers (JAMA and KAMA) with a view to concluding environmental agreements equivalent to the agreement reached between the Commission and the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). It is recalled that in its conclusions of 6 October 1998, the Council had stressed the importance of concluding such agreements as soon as possible.
The main commitment of ACEA is to achieve an emission target of 140g of CO2 per kilometre for the average of the new car sales by ACEA members in the EU by 2008.
The Council today adopted the following conclusions on this subject:
1. takes note of the information provided by the Commission on its negotiations with the Japanese and the Korean automotive manufacturers on CO2 emissions from passenger cars;
2. is concerned about the lack of progress in these negotiations;
3. confirms the importance which it attaches to the conclusion of equivalent agreements to the one concluded with ACEA with the main car producers which are not members of ACEA as soon as possible;
4. invites the Commission to present to Council for its March 1999 meeting a substantive report on the result of its negotiations with the Japanese and Korean automotive manufacturers;
5. reiterates its invitation to the Commission to elaborate appropriate measures should an agreement not be reached with the main car manufacturers which are not members of ACEA, in order to ensure that an equivalent effort is required from these manufacturers."
EMISSIONS FROM ENGINES USED IN HEAVY-DUTY VEHICLES
The Council reached political agreement on the proposal for a Directive relating to the measures to be taken against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from diesel engines for use in new heavy-duty vehicles (amendment of Directive 88/77/EEC). The common position will be adopted, without further debate, at a forthcoming Council meeting; it will then be forwarded to the European Parliament for second reading according to the co-decision procedure.
The proposed Directive aims at tightening, from the year 2000, the maximum emission levels in the Community from diesel-powered lorries, but also includes in its scope limit values for heavy-duty engines fuelled by natural gas (NG) and liquified petroleum gas (LPG). Diesel engines are one of the most significant sources of particulates and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions. These are of particular concern for air pollution in urban centres in view of their impact on people's health.
The proposal forms part of a global Community strategy - the Auto-Oil Programme - which also includes strengthened requirements for air pollution from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles (a Directive was adopted earlier this year), common standards for cleaner motor fuels (idem) and enhanced roadworthiness testing requirements (still to be decided).
The agreement reached, on the basis of a global compromise text, goes further than the Commission's proposal. In particular, it includes not only one stage of binding emission limit values, to come into force in 2000, but two further stages, which will apply as from 2005 and 2008 respectively (the latter for NOx only). This reflects the view in the Council that it is essential for the industry to know the values which will become applicable in the years ahead; it also takes into account the European Parliament's requests for binding targets beyond those proposed by the Commission.
The emission limits agreed for 2000 would amount to a reduction of 30% of pollutants (carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates; hydrocarbon emissions would even be cut by 34%) compared to the current level; they would apply to newly approved engine types for heavy duty vehicles from 1 October 2000 and to all such vehicles newly registered from 1 October 2001. The limits set for 2005 would result in an overall reduction of pollutants by about half (and in the case of particulates even more), compared to today.
The text agreed by the Council also sets specific (and obviously stricter) values for extra low emission vehicles (also known as "enhanced environmentally friendly vehicles" - EEVs) in view of their contribution to reducing atmospheric pollution in cities.
It is to be noted that the emission limit values set for 2005 and 2008 will require all new diesel-powered heavy duty vehicles to be fitted with so-called exhaust after-treatment technology (e.g. special filters called "particulate traps" and deNOx catalysts).
Limit values for diesel fuelled engines - ESC and ELR tests
(a) From 1 October 2008 the limit value for NOx will be 2.0
(b) For engines having a swept volume of less than 0.75 dm3 per cylinder and a rated power speed of more than 3000 min-1.
For diesel engines that are additionally tested on the ETC test, and specifically for gas engines, the limit values (where applicable) shall not exceed the amounts shown in the second table.
Limit values for diesel and gas engines - ETC tests
(a) From 1 October 2008 the limit value for NOx will be 2.0
(b) For natural gas engines only.
(c) Not applicable for gas fuelled engines at stage A (2000) and stage B (2005).
(d) For engines having a swept volume of less than 0.75 dm3 per cylinder and a rated power speed of more than 3000 min-1.
For the type approval of new vehicles with diesel engines according to the year 2000 limit values, manufacturers have the choice between either of these tests. For type approval according to the 2005 limit values and for EEVs, the emissions shall be determined on both the ETC and the ESC/ELR tests.
The Council text also calls for a new proposal, to be submitted by the Commission no later than 31 December 2000. That proposal should include:
- rules laying down the introduction of an on-board diagnostic system (OBD) for heavy-duty vehicles from 1 October 2005 (similarly as provided for in Directive 98/69/EC on the reduction of exhaust emissions from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles);
- provisions on the durability of emission control devices with effect from 1 October 2005 (to ensure that they operate correctly during the normal life of a vehicle);
- provisions to ensure the conformity of in-service vehicles which are properly maintained and used;
- appropriate limits for pollutants currently non-regulated as a consequence of the widespread introduction of new alternative fuels.
Furthermore, the Commission shall, no later than 31 December 2002, consider the available technology with a view to confirming the mandatory NOx standard for 2008 in a report to the Parliament and the Council, accompanied, if necessary, by appropriate proposals.
The draft also allows Member States to use tax incentives in order to speed up the marketing of vehicles meeting the new standards. As was already laid down in previous emission directives, such incentives would be allowed provided they comply with the provisions of the Treaty and satisfy the following conditions:
- they apply to all new vehicles offered for sale on the market of a Member State which comply in advance with the mandatory limit values set out by the Directive;
- they cease when the above-mentioned limit values come into effect (i.e. in 2000, 2005 or 2008);
- for each type of vehicle they do not exceed the additional cost of the technical solutions introduced to ensure compliance with the limit values.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS
Pending the Opinion of the European Parliament, the Council held an orientation debate on proposed amendment to Directive 90/220/EEC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The main issues debated included ethics, labelling of products, the time limitation for the validity of consents for the placing on the market of products, and consultation of the public prior to GMO releases. Several delegations reported on the actions undertaken at national level to restrict the use and placing on the market of GMOs.
The President recalled that is was urgent to revise this Directive in order to solve the present questions regarding implementation, which is far from satisfactory. He noted that, pending the Opinion of the European Parliament, the approach proposed by the Presidency as regards the environmental risk assessment based on common principles, clear and unambiguous labelling, monitoring, comitology procedure giving more say to Council, time limitation of consent and consultation of scientific committees, was broadly endorsed by delegations. He concluded that today's debate will contribute to facilitate progress on this dossier under future Presidencies.
In light of the above, the following declaration was agreed at the end of the debate :
"Without prejudice to the expeditious revision of Directive 90/220, noting especially the need to further strengthen risk assessment, as also pointed out by the European Parliament, and monitoring procedures, the Member States intend already now when applying the existing Directive to take into account the underlying principles for risk assessment and monitoring resulting from the work done in preparation of the Council."
Pending the first reading of the European Parliament and on the basis of a Presidency compromise, the Council held a debate on the proposed Directive on end of life vehicles presented by the Commission in September 1997. The President noted that all Member States could subscribe to essential elements contained in the Presidency compromise text. Once the Opinion of the European Parliament will become available, the Council will examine it together with the Commission's amended proposal and take a definitive stand.
The proposal aims at :
- establishing measures which minimise waste from end of life vehicles and maximise re-use and recycling of their components;
- improving the efficiency and effectiveness of treatment operators;
- operating on the principles of producer responsibility and acting on the following levels: prevention, collection, treatment, re-use and recycling.
The proposal foresees that Member States will introduce a certificate of destruction which can only be handed over to the last holder and/or owner by an authorized treatment operator as a condition for de-registration of the vehicle and relief from corresponding obligations (e.g. taxes). This should allow authorities to control the destiny of end of life vehicles. This certificate and the establishment of take back schemes should encourage the last owner/holder to hand over the end of life vehicle to an authorized facility. The text foresees authorization schemes and requirements for both treatment facilities and treatment operations and sets out requirements to ensure that these operations occur in an environmentally sound way. Finally, it establishes targets for re-use (use for the same purpose for which the component was conceived), recovery (including energy generation) and recycling (reprocessing in a production process excluding energy recovery) to be attained by economic operators.
On the basis of a Presidency compromise, the Council reached a political agreement on a Regulation on substances that deplete the ozone layer intended to replace the current EU instrument for implementing the Montreal Protocol, Council Regulation 3093/94. The formal adoption of the common position will take place at a forthcoming Council meeting.
Besides implementing in the Community the commitments agreed by the Parties to the Montreal Protocol at the meetings in Vienna in 1995 and in Montreal in 1997, the Regulation provides for measures which go further than the Protocol, on the basis of experience with the existing Regulation and of progress in the availability of alternative substances.
The main elements of the proposal as agreed by the Council are:
- a phase-out of the production and consumption of methyl bromide (a broad-spectrum pesticide gas used in agriculture to control soil born pests) by 2005 with a 60% cut in 2001 and a 75% cut in 2003 in relation to the levels of 1991 ; the use of methyl bromide for quarantine and pre-shipment will continue to be exempted. However, the quantities authorised under this exemption are limited to the average of the last three years, with a possibility for the Commission to reduce the amounts in light of the development of alternatives.
- the introduction of controls on the production of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), including a freeze at current levels (from 2000 to 2008) followed by a phase-out schedule culminating in 2025, with a review in 2002 as regards the dates and levels of these reductions. Furthermore, the amount of HCFC which can be placed on the market or used will be further reduced, in accordance with the EU's negotiating position at the last meetings of the Montreal Protocol. This will be followed by a staged reduction and a complete phase-out of marketing and use of HCFCs in the Community by 2009.
- further controls, including tighter deadlines, for all uses of HCFC as solvents, refrigerants and foams. The possibility for HCFC to replace halons in a limited range (critical uses) of fire-protection systems is foreseen.
- a new ban on the sale and use of CFCs, halons, carbontetrachloride and 1,1,1-trichloroethane and further controls on trade in ozone depleting substances, including a new export authorization complementing the EU's existing import licensing system, which will facilitate the fight against illegal trade ;
- action against new ozone depleting substances ; banning production, sales and use of bromochloromethane immediately and a provision for including other new ozone-depleting substances which are not yet included into the Montreal Protocol.
LABELLING OF CERTAIN DANGEROUS SUBSTANCES
The Council reached political agreement on the basis of a Presidency compromise on a proposed amendment to Directive 67/548/EEC as regards the labelling of certain dangerous substances in Austria and Sweden. The amendment mainly aims at providing for a two year supplementary period for the completion of the review of Community legislation with regard to the Austrian and Swedish Accession Treaty provisions on dangerous substances.
It is recalled that the Accession Treaty admits temporary exemptions from the labelling provisions stated in Council Directive 67/548/EEC eliminating barriers to the trade with dangerous substances. The agreement reached with the new Member States called for a Review period of four years so that harmonisation of labelling standards could be obtained by 31 December 1998. However, it has not yet been possible to complete the Review on four remaining labelling issues, hitherto allowing Austria and Sweden to use labels with additional symbols or safety phrases not foreseen by Directive 67/548/EEC.
REVIEW CLAUSE : APPLICATION OF SECONDARY LEGISLATION IN AUSTRIA, FINLAND AND SWEDEN - Council conclusions
Having regard to the Accession Act between the Community and Austria, Finland and Sweden, which entered into force on 1 January 1995; and in particular to the Articles 69, 84 and 112 of the Accession Act, in which the three new Member States are allowed to keep certain different national health and environmental standards for a transitional period of four years, from 1 January 1995 to 31 December 1998,
1. WELCOMES the Commission's adoption of its communication on "The Review Clause - environmental and health standards four years after the accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden to the European Union";
2. RECOGNISES the various efforts undertaken by the Commission when carrying out the review process and NOTES the active role of the European Parliament in this process. WELCOMES the strengthened environmental and health standards which have now been set down in EC legislation in areas covered by the review process;
3. SHARES the conclusion of the Commission that, so far, this Review Process is a success in the protection of environment and human health, and furthermore an important step in EC Environmental policy;
4. NOTES that, in specific cases, the Commission proposes to prolong certain derogations for the new Member States waiting for a permanent solution and AGREES to decide on these on a case-by-case basis.
5. CALLS on the Commission to rapidly conclude, at the latest by 31.12.2002, the outstanding review work, thereby striving for a high level of environment, health and consumer protection."
CHEMICALS POLICY - Council Conclusions
WELCOMES the adoption by the Commission of the reports on the four instruments concerning the Community's policy on chemicals which constitute a basis for a further evaluation of the Community policy in this field;
NOTES that the Commission report confirm that the existing instruments in particular dealing with risk assessment and risk management are not always operating at the required level of efficiency and effectiveness;
UNDERLINES the necessity to work on the development of an integrated and coherent approach to the future chemical policy of the Community - adequately reflecting the precautionary principle and the principle of sustainability and specify the responsibility incumbent on parties involved - in order to ensure a high level of protection for human health and environment in a rapidly developing market for chemicals and the efficient functioning of the internal market;
NOTES that significant improvements in the operation of the Community's chemicals policy will require strengthened interlinkages between the current procedures and instruments;
WELCOMES the intention of the Commission to develop in consultation with Member States and other stakeholders a strategy for an integrated and coherent approach in the chemicals policy of the Community and to report on the progress made to the Council, especially in its framework of Environment Ministers, in forthcoming meetings."
COMMUNITY STRATEGY ON CLIMATE CHANGE - Presidency Conclusions on the outcome of the 4th Conference of the Parties in Buenos Aires and further action
The Environment Ministers of the European Union and the Commissioner for the Environment, Ms Ritt Bjerregaard, held an extensive discussion during dinner on the outcome of the Fourth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Buenos Aires and the future work and prospects.
The President of the Environment Council drew up the following conclusions arising from the discussion among the Member States and the Commission :
"The Fourth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) which took place from 2 to 13 November 1998 in Buenos Aires was aimed at making progress in the further implementation of the Convention and the elaboration of the Kyoto Protocol.
The aim of the European Community and its Member States, as set out in the Council Conclusions of 6 October 1998, was to achieve a work programme for the further development of matters under the Protocol, such as the Kyoto mechanisms and the preparation for the first meeting of the Parties to the Protocol, but also for issues under the Convention, such as the second review of the adequacy of commitments or development and transfer of technology.
The negotiations were characterized by the divergence of views between the different groups. Nevertheless, a satisfactory result - the Buenos Aires Plan for Action - has been achieved : a programme for the further work on most of the key issues of the Kyoto Protocol, especially the Kyoto mechanisms and the preparatory work for the first meeting of the Parties to the Protocol, including policies and measures and a compliance system, as well as on the further implementation of the Convention, such as an agreement to provide further assistance to developing countries through the Financial Mechanism and the development and transfer of technology.
It can be seen as a significant success of the European Community and its Member States that the elaboration of a compliance system within the same time frame as for the development of the Kyoto mechanisms and further work on policies and measures were included in the work-plan. Regrettably, no decision could be reached concerning the second review of the adequacy of commitments.
The time horizon for most of the further work is the Sixth Conference of the Parties in 2000, which should ensure quick and efficient progress, but also that all Parties have to provide substantial input into the process in order to keep this ambitious aim.
The European Community and its Member States attached great importance to contacts with other Parties, which proved very successful and were of great benefit for the outcome of the negotiations. Ministers and the Commissioner encouraged further deepening of these contacts, especially with the developing countries. The Conference in Buenos Aires once again reaffirmed the leading role of the European Community and its Member States in global climate protection.
In the light of the Buenos Aires Plan for Action, the Environment Ministers and the Commissioner for the Environment discussed prospects for future work within the Community, reflecting also the outcome of the Vienna European Council. From this discussion, it emerged that such work would need to focus on :
- the preparation of the relevant submissions to the Secretariat of the UN-FCCC in accordance with the work programme decided on in Buenos Aires;
- the further elaboration of EU positions on all elements of the Buenos Aires Plan for Action;
- the importance of implementing the Buenos Aires Plan for Action for an early ratification of the Kyoto Protocol;
- a common strategy for the ratification procedure of the Kyoto Protocol by the Member States and the European Community, as far as possible;
- the finalization of work on the definition of a concrete ceiling in quantitative and qualitative terms, based on equitable criteria, on the use of the Kyoto mechanisms and the consideration of measures to address "hot air" by the Council at its next session;
- the further development of a comprehensive strategy on common and coordinated policies and measures including inter alia to pursue the work of the Council on a framework for energy taxation on the basis of the ECOFIN Council report, also taking into account its implications for the environment.
The Ministers and the Commissioner welcomed the offer made jointly by Denmark, Sweden and France, in co-operation with others, to host the workshop on the assessment of "Best Practices" in policies and measures in early 2000, as foreseen in the Buenos Aires Plan for Action."
Adopted without discussion. Where these are legislative acts, votes against or abstentions are indicated. Decisions including statements to which the Council has decided to grant the public access are indicated by asterisks; the statements in question may be obtained from the Press Office.
Berne Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats
The Council approved, on behalf of the Community, the amendments to the Berne Convention adopted at the 17th meeting of the Convention's Standing Committee. The Committee had decided to add four aquatic species to the list in appendice II to the Convention (strictly protected species of fauna) and 22 aquatic species to the list in appendice III (protected species of fauna).
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
The Council adopted a Recommendation on the Community participation to the negotiation of a global legally binding instrument on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Tariff quotas and duties *
The Council adopted by qualified majority, the Belgian, French and Spanish delegations voting against,
- the Regulation modifying Regulation (EC) N 730/98 opening and providing for the administration of autonomous tariff quotas for certain fishery products, and
- the Regulation temporarily suspending all or some of the autonomous Common Customs Tariff duties on certain fishery products.
For the details, see Press Release of 17-18 December 1998 (No 14130/98 (Presse 449)).
Operation of regular ro-ro ferry and high-speed passenger craft services
The Council unanimously adopted its common position on a Directive on a system of mandatory surveys for the safe operation of ro-ro ferry and high speed passenger craft on regular services within, to or from the Community (see Press Release of 17-18 June 1998 No 9551/98 (Presse 207)).
Community fleet capacity in inland waterway transport
The Council unanimously adopted its common position on a Regulation on a Community fleet capacity policy to promote inland waterway transport (see Press Release of 30 November -1st December 1998 No 13460/98 (Presse 420)).
Framework programme in favour of consumers
The Council adopted by a qualified majority, with the Netherlands delegation voting against, a Decision establishing a general framework of Community activities in favour of consumers.
The Decision establishes, at Community level, a general framework for 1999 to 2003 for activities for promoting the interests of consumers and providing them with a high level of protection. This general framework consists of actions designed to help protect the health, safety and economic interests of consumers and to promote their right to information and education and their right to join forces in order to protect their interests.
Activities under this general framework will consist of:
- actions taken by the Commission;
- actions providing financial support for the activities of European consumer organisations which are non-governmental, non-profit-making organisations whose main objectives are to promote and protect the interests and health of consumers and have been mandated to represent the interests of consumers at European level, and
- actions providing financial support for specific projects to promote the interests of consumers in the Member States presented under the conditions set out in the text, in particular by consumer organisations and appropriate independent public bodies.
The financial framework for the implementation of these activities is set at ECU 112,5 million.
Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs)
The Council decided to renew the terms of office of the current Vice-Presidents of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs), Messrs. Alberto J. CASADO CERVIÑO and Mr Alexander VON MÜHLENDAHL, for the period from 1 September 1999 to 31 August 2004.
Community Action Plan on promoting safer use of the Internet
The Council has adopted a Multiannual Community Action Plan on promoting safer use of the Internet by combatting illegal and harmful content on global networks. The four amendments adopted by the European Parliament in its second reading (17 November 1998) were accepted by the Council which modified its common position of 24 September 1998 accordingly, as provided for by the rules governing the co-decision procedure.
The Plan is specifically aimed at actions where financial support from the Community is necessary and comprises four action lines: namely creating a safe environment, developing of filtering and rating systems, encouraging awareness actions and taking support measures. The financial reference amount for the implementation of the Plan for the period from 1 January 1999 to 31 December 2002 is ECU 25 million.
The following actions supporting and promoting measures to be taken in the Member States shall be undertaken under the guidance of the Commission:
- promotion of industry self-regulation and content-monitoring schemes (for example dealing with content such as child pornography or that which incites hatred on grounds of race, sex, religion, nationality or ethnic origin) ;
- encouraging industry to provide filtering tools and rating mechanisms, which allow parents or teachers to select content appropriate for children in their care while allowing adults to decide what legal content they wish to access, and take account of linguistic and cultural diversity;
- increasing awareness of services provided by industry among users, in particular of parents, teachers and children, so that they can better understand and take advantage of the opportunities of the Internet;
- support actions such as assessment of legal implications;
- activities fostering international co-operation in the areas enumerated above;
- other actions furthering the objective of the Plan.
Annex 1 to the Decision adopting the Action Plan comprises four categories of action lines which include the following in particular:
- creating a European network of "hot lines". These lines shall allow Internet users to report content which they consider to be illegal;
- encouraging of self-regulation and codes of conduct;
- developing filtering and rating systems to make content easier to identify. For that purpose, a rating system will be set up which will describe the content in accordance with a generally recognised scheme (for instance where items such as "sex" or "violence" will be rated on a scale). The purpose is be to enable the user to select the content he/she wishes to receive;
- the action plan will also initiate awareness actions that will build on the dissemination of information from access providers to customers and develop material for use in the education sector;
- the last line of action involves assessing the legal implications; a call for tenders could be organized for an assessment of legal questions raised by the content or the use of Internet; an international conference could also be organized to allow the experience gained through the Action Lines to be shared with actors concerned both in Europe and more widely.
Electronic Interchange of Data between Administrations (IDA) - Second Phase
- Proposal for a Decision on a series of guidelines
- Proposal for a Decision adopting a series of actions and measures in order to ensure interoperability of and access to the Trans-European Networks
Further to the political agreement reached at the "Telecommunications" Council of 27 November 1998 (see press release No 13456/98), the Council formally adopted its common position on each of the two above-mentioned proposals which provide for a second phase of the IDA programme. Both texts will now be transmitted to the European Parliament for a second reading, under the co-decision procedure for the Guidelines and following the co-operation procedure for the Decision on specific actions and measures.
LABOUR AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS / EDUCATION
Promotion of European Pathways in Work-linked Training, including Apprenticeship
As a follow-up to the political agreement reached at its session of 2 December 1998 (Labour and Social Affairs), the Council formally adopted the Decision concerning the above subject which establishes the "EUROPASS" document. See press release No 13463/98 for further explanations.
Programmes "Leonardo da Vinci" and "Socrates" *
The Council adopted by a qualified majority, the Dutch delegation voting against, its common position on a Decision establishing the second phase of the Community vocational training action programme "Leonardo da Vinci". This common position will be communicated to the European Parliament in accordance with the co-operation procedure of the Treaty (Article 189c).
The Council also adopted by a qualified majority, the Dutch delegation voting against, its common position on a Decision establishing the second phase of the Community action programme in the field of education "Socrates". This common position will be forwarded to the European Parliament for a second reading pursuant to the co-decision procedure of the Treaty (Article 189b).
Both programmes are presented in the Press Release of 4th December 1998 No 13676/98 (Presse 430).
FIGHT AGAINST RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA
European Monitoring Centre - Cooperation with the Council of Europe
The Council approved the agreement between the European Community and the Council of Europe establishing close cooperation between the latter and the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.
It is recalled that the Council Regulation establishing the European Monitoring Centre which was adopted on 2 June 1997 provides that the Centre shall coordinate its activities with those of the Council of Europe and that, to this end, the Community shall enter into an agreement, on behalf of the Centre, with the Council of Europe.
Ukraine : dispute concerning the automobile sector
The Council adopted a Decision to refer the dispute regarding the law of Ukraine on the stimulation of the automobile production and related regulations regarding the second-hand car market to the EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council. It also determined the position to be adopted by the Community in the Cooperation Council to settle this dispute.
Relations with Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania
The Council adopted the Directives for the Commission for the negotiations in the sector of wines and spirit with the abovementioned countries.
Association with the Slovak Republic
The Council noted that there was agreement on the position to be taken by the Community within the EU-Slovak Association Council with regard to the adoption of the necessary rules for the implementation of the provisions on state aid in the Europe Agreement with the Slovak Republic. The Council agreed to initiate consultations with the European Parliament on this common position.
Relations with the associated CCEE
- Autonomous measures concerning processed agriculture products
The Council adopted two Regulations concerning processed agriculture products, extending until the end of 1999 the autonomous measures applied by the EU to import of processed agriculture products from nine countries of Central and Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic). These Regulations shall cover the period until the adoption procedures for the Protocols amending the Europe Agreements initialled with these countries are completed and in order to avoid any distortion of trade in the meanwhile.
- Czech Republic - Rules of origin
With a view to approval by the EU-Czech Association Council, the Council adopted the Community position on an amendment to Protocol 4 on the definition of the concept of "originating products" and methods of administrative cooperation to the Europe Agreement with the Czech Republic.
Europe Association Agreement with Slovenia
As all Member States have now completed their procedures for ratifying the Europe Agreement with Slovenia which was signed on 10 June 1996, the Council decided to adopt the Decision on the conclusion of this Agreement.
The Agreement largely mirrors the other Europe Association Agreements. It contains provisions regarding political dialogue, free movement of goods, movement of workers, right of establishment and supply of services, payments, capital, competition, approximation of laws, economic cooperation, prevention of illegal activities, cultural cooperation, financial cooperation and the usual institutional provisions (also see press release No 8075/96).
The Council also decided to conclude the Protocol signed on 11 November 1996, taking note of the fact that the original protocol on rules of origin which was annexed to the Europe Agreement has become obsolete following the introduction of a pan-European cumulation of such rules.
The Council approved, on behalf of the Community, five common positions on draft decisions of the EEA Joint Committee amending
- Annex XI (Telecommunication Services)
- Annex XXI (Statistics)
- Annex XIII (Transports - summertime arrangements)
- Annex XIII (Transports - accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden to the EU, system of rights of transit and of ecopoints for heavy goods vehicles transiting Austria)
- Protocol 37 and Annex X (Audiovisual Services)
to the EEA Agreement.
West Bank and Gaza Strip - EC financial and economic cooperation
The Council adopted two Regulations amending Regulation (EC) No 1734/94 on financial and technical cooperation with the Occupied Territories, further to the opinion submitted by the European Parliament under the cooperation procedure.
In the light of the persistent deadlock in the peace process and the part played by international economic assistance in preventing the deterioration of the Palestinian economy, the Council adopted on 23 February 1998 conclusions approving the principle of a renewal of financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority after the expiry of the 1994-1998 programme. The first of these two Regulations therefore is aimed at providing the legal framework for continued assistance over the period 1999-2003. In particular, it provides for a review to be carried out no later than 31 December 2000 in order to take account of recent developments in the region, assess the implementation of cooperation and complete bringing this Regulation into line with the MEDA Regulation.
The objective of the second Regulation is to extend the scope of EC aid to include the recurrent costs of the Palestinian public administration in order to help set up and improve the institutions crucial to the development process in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It allows the EIB to grant interest rate-subsidies of 3% from EC budget resources on all public sector loans in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Textiles - China
The Council adopted a Decision on the provisional application of the Agreement in the form of an exchange of letters amending the Agreement between the EC and China on trade in textile and clothing products.
This Agreement, as last amended on 13 December 1995, shall be applied on a provisional basis from 1 January 1999 pending its formal conclusion and subject to reciprocal provisional application by the People's Republic of China.
Textiles - Turkey
The Council adopted, on behalf of the Community, the draft Decision of the EC-Turkey Association Council on the introduction of common outward processing arrangements for textiles and clothing.
GSP for 1999-2001
Further to the political agreement reached on 7 December 1998 the Council formally approved the regulation on the renewal of the Community scheme of generalized tariff preferences (GSP) for developing countries for the years 1999 to 2001. .
It is recalled that the Community opened in 1971 generalised tariff preferences for developing countries in order to sustain economic and social development of the developing countries and their smooth and gradual integration into the world economy. To make it easier for beneficiaries to use these preferences, all GSP legislation in force has been brought together in this regulation. It will cover both industrial and agricultural products and will include general, social and environmental incentives, as well as drugs and arrangements for Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
In parallel to the provisions of the Lomé Convention and subject to the expiry of appropriate amendment of the non-discrimination clause, it has been agreed that the Commission will present to the Council appropriate proposals by which the LDCs, by the year 2005, will benefit from duty-free access to the Community market for essentially all products from all LDCs, to be obtained progressively, starting in the year 2000, and from simplified and reviewed rules of origin including cumulation provisions that apply to the LDC's exports.
In this context the Council and the Commission also reiterated the importance of compliance with international labour law and environmental protection standards, which make a full contribution to sustainable development. They reaffirmed their intention to take account of progress made in this matter in their cooperation with the countries concerned.
The Council, following its political agreement reached on 1 December 1998, adopted its common position with a view to amending the Regulation of 1995 laying down general rules for the granting of Community financial aid in the field of trans-European networks.
While adopting its common position, the Council stated that the final figure for the TEN's financial reference amount for the 2000-2006 period shall be inserted in this common position, and agreed therefore that the Regulation shall not be adopted before a final agreement is reached on the new Financial Perspectives in the framework of the Agenda 2000.
Composition of the Economic and Financial Committee
The Council, following its political approval given during its meeting on 1 December 1998, adopted its Decision on the composition of the Economic and Financial Committee.
It is recalled that under this decision the Member States, the Commission and the European Central Bank will each appoint two members and may also appoint two alternate members. These members will be selected from among experts possessing outstanding competence in the economic and financial field. With regard to the members appointed by the Member States, one member and one alternate will be selected from among senior officials from the administration and one member and one alternate from the national Central Bank.
Denominations and technical specifications of euro coins
The Council adopted its common position concerning the amendment of Regulation 975/98 on denomination and technical specifications of euro coins intended for circulation.
The modifications, proposed by the Commission and adopted by the Council, concern certain technical characteristics of the 50 and 10 cent euro coins, following specific concerns expressed by the European Blind Union and the vending machine industry.
The Council, following the position of the Commission and the ECB, has not accepted to include an amendment presented by the European Parliament aiming at introducing a 100 euro gold coin intended for circulation.
Cape Verde escudo
The Council adopted a Decision concerning exchange rate matters relating to the Cape Verde escudo.
Upon the substitution of the euro for the Portuguese escudo, the Portuguese Republic may continue its present agreement concerning exchange rate matters with the Republic of Cape Verde. The competent Portuguese authorities shall keep the Commission, the European Central Bank and the Economic and Financial Committee informed on a regular basis about the implementation of the agreement.
JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS
Prevention of organised crime - Resolution
The Council adopted the following Resolution on the prevention of organised crime with reference to the establishment of a comprehensive strategy for combating it :
"THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,
Having regard to the Action Plan to combat organised crime of 28 April 1997 ("the Action Plan") ((1)),
Conscious of the advances made in implementing the Action Plan, in particular Recommendations 6 to 12 thereof,
Having regard to the European Parliament's Resolution of 20 November 1997 on the Action Plan ((2)), which calls for closer consideration of the prevention aspect,
Considering the importance of a greater awareness of the dangers of organised crime to democracy and the rule of law, for freedom, human rights and self-determination - values which are the raison d'être of any fight against organised crime,
Conscious of the fact that this Resolution is not intended to replace the specific prevention measures provided for in the Action Plan but to supplement and back up those efforts,
Having regard to the results of the seminar on police and urban criminality (Zaragoza, February 1996), the European Union Conference on Crime Prevention (Stockholm, May 1996), the seminar on European Union measures to combat the drug problem (Dublin, November 1996), the conclusions of the European Union Conference on Crime Prevention (Noordwijk, May 1997) and the seminar "Partnerships in Reducing Crime" (London, June 1998),
Having regard to the conclusions of the Conference on achieving a corruption free commercial environment - the EU's contribution (Brussels, April 1998),
Having regard to the work of other international organisations and fora, in particular the Council of Europe Recommendations R (81) 12 on economic crime and R (87) 19 on the organisation of crime prevention, Resolution R (97) 24 on 20 guiding principles for the fight against corruption, the work under the United Nations programme on crime prevention and criminal justice, as well as the results of the United Nations General Assembly on Drugs (New York, June 1998), and in particular the Declaration on demand reduction guidelines,
Having due regard for, and emphasising, the Commission's responsibilities for enabling the promotion of important aspects of prevention,
(1) CONSIDERS that the combating of international organised crime backed up by effective, sustainable law enforcement also requires a wide range of preventive measures, developed with due regard to fundamental human rights;
(2) EMPHASISES the important role that effective and coordinated national criminal intelligence units, and Europol, as laid down especially in Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention on the establishment of a European Police Office ("Europol Convention") ((3)) play also in preventing organised crime;
(3) CONFIRMS that in preventing and combating organised crime individual States and the international community play a key role; nonetheless, the prevention of organised crime is not the task of law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities alone but requires an effort on the part of civil society as a whole, taking joint responsibility for community life;
(4) UNDERLINES in this context the important role played by institutions and groups of persons that contribute to shaping the cultural environment and individual responsibility in a community at national, regional and local level (e.g. schools and NGOs), by carrying out substantial preventive work, both in devising policy and implementing concrete measures;
(5) RECOGNISES that an effective policy in the field of prevention of organised crime will also benefit from efficient social security, education and training systems which are as comprehensive as possible, coupled with measures to combat unemployment and poverty as well as creative and humane urban planning and urban design geared to prevention;
(6) ENDORSES efforts to assist the social integration of marginalised groups in order to reduce possible dangers that vulnerable members of those groups may devote themselves to crime;
(7) STRESSES the particular importance of measures to assist the social reintegration of offenders, diversion measures and enforcement of sentences for purposes of preventing repetition of offences;
(8) ENCOURAGES Member States, while stressing the importance of action by public authorities, to examine whether any tasks relating to the prevention of organised crime could not, in conformity with the basic principles of their legal system and internal policies, be carried out by non-public bodies at national, regional and local level which could assist in compiling information, defining programmes, implementing measures and in educational work in the field of prevention;
(9) CONSIDERS that every possibility must be investigated, and all the necessary steps taken, to counteract the development and spread of illegal markets which provide room for manoeuvre and operational scope for organised crime;
(10) ENCOURAGES Member States to continue and step up their endeavours and coordination efforts regarding all aspects of drug prevention in line with international drug control instruments, in order to reduce demand for illegal drugs, which account for a significant part of the operations of organised crime;
(11) ENCOURAGES Member States to look into the development and spreading of technical equipment, such as special safety devices, to prevent crimes which tend to be committed by criminal organisations, and also to consider the possible implications, as for instance a switch to other forms of crime;
(12) EMPHASISES also that professions which might be confronted with organised crime (especially those mentioned in Recommendation No. 12 of the Action Plan), and their interest groupings, have responsibilities in the area of prevention of organised crime, with particular reference to the drafting of codes of conduct and other measures to counteract corruption and infiltration by organised crime;
(13) EMPHASISES that transparency and controls in connection with the award of public contracts make a significant contribution to the prevention of corruption and organised crime and, therefore, calls upon Member States to implement the relevant Directives and support their objectives with appropriate and concrete measures relating to law enforcement and judicial aspects;
(14) EMPHASISES that, in particular in the context of fighting corruption and its links with organised crime, openness and transparency in public affairs, including lawful and transparent funding of political parties and organisations, play an important preventative role;
(15) RECALLS the importance in the drafting of legal instruments, and in reviewing existing laws, to take into account crime prevention aspects, in order to ensure that the rules do not invite or facilitate fraud or other abuse, and to consult in the legislative process, where appropriate, with authorities having experience in the field of prevention of organised crime;
(16) IS CONVINCED that adequate information and education about the causes, nature, dangers and consequences of the advance of organised crime is particularly relevant to prevention and that the mass media play an important role in the process of information;
(17) RECOGNISES that several Member States, basing themselves on comprehensive multidisciplinary analyses of a specific situation, have developed national programmes to combat organised crime as it has manifested itself in their territory and have also adapted those programmes to changing circumstances; therefore, Member States are encouraged to keep each other fully informed of those programmes, to draw on these examples and experiences, and to develop, where appropriate and in accordance with their legal systems and traditions, such national programmes to combat organised crime;
(18) RECOGNISES that, when analysing problems and defining programmes as well as implementing prevention measures, several Member States, in accordance with their national law, provide for the possibility that law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities, the social groups concerned, tradesmen and civil administration bodies (at both local and regional level) confer on a regular basis (examples of this are the "crime prevention boards" which exist in a number of Member States, and the Netherlands "trilateral commissions"); therefore, Member States are encouraged to set up comparable structures at national, regional and local level, where appropriate and in accordance with their legal systems and traditions, to discuss and study questions of prevention, in particular the prevention of organised crime, and to draw up proposals to promote prevention;
(19) ENCOURAGES Member States furthermore to coordinate prevention between local, regional and national levels as well as between various authorities and departments having a specific role in preventing organised crime;
(20) NOTES in this context, the intention of the Commission to build upon work already undertaken on an interface inventory of Community instruments which contribute to the prevention of crime and to enhance internal coordination and exchange of information in this respect;
(21) CALLS UPON Member States to increase their knowledge of how to prevent organised crime, for example through adequately funded multidisciplinary research programmes which are as comprehensive as possible and which should include research on the evaluation of specific preventive measures;
(22) ENCOURAGES Member States and relevant institutions to use appropriate Community programmes, particularly the Joint Action of 19 March 1998 establishing a programme of exchanges, training and cooperation for persons responsible for action to combat organised crime (Falcone programme) ((4)), also for activities relating to the prevention of organised crime;
(23) CONSIDERS it necessary to evaluate ongoing prevention activities, examining in particular to what extent the experience gained can be applied generally;
(24) INVITES Member States to draw up, at the request of the Presidency of the Council, a summary of their experiences, at local, regional and national level, with measures which have helped to prevent organised crime, and to make it available to the other Member States;
(25) INVITES Member States therefore to inform one another about any findings on the prevention of organised crime, whether obtained through new scientific work or practical experience and evaluation, and to consider ways of facilitating, and, if appropriate, institutionalising such an exchange of information - possibly also bilaterally or between regions and municipalities;
(26) CALLS ON Member States to designate, where they have not already done so, national contact and focal points for the exchange of information, relating to all aspects of prevention of organised crime, between States and to notify those points to the General Secretariat of the Council taking into account the agreement of the Council on 28 May 1998 relating to arrangements providing for an improved exchange of information and best practice in the field of crime prevention;
(27) CONSIDERS it desirable to include also third countries, particularly applicant countries and neighbouring countries, in such an exchange of information and that a strategy for the prevention of organised crime could also be envisaged in the context of aid for, and cooperation with, third countries;
(28) CONSIDERS it desirable that the Member States and the Community exchange information on issues related to the prevention of organised crime with other international organisations;
(29) CONSIDERS it necessary that future prevention activities should include concrete projects which provide practical know-how to the bodies concerned in each case (local authorities, regions, Member States, Council, Commission) in order to create a basis for drawing up codes of good practice for preventing organised crime in specific areas, that should be constantly updated and submitted to the other Member States for checking against their own initiatives;
(30) CONSIDERS it desirable that Member States and the Commission agree as far as possible on common definitions, standards and methods of prevention in order to enable any findings to be exchanged and used;
(31) INVITES the Commission to examine how it can help, in the context of and within the scope of its responsibilities, to increase knowledge on how to prevent organised crime;
(32) REQUESTS the Commission to keep fully up-to-date its interface inventory of Community instruments which contribute to the prevention of organised crime and to continue analysing and evaluating other existing Community instruments to consider to what extent they help to prevent organised crime;
(33) INVITES the Member States, Europol and the Commission, each within their respective competencies, to study the matter and related questions. Thereafter, the Commission and Europol are invited to cooperate in the preparation of a comprehensive report by the end of 2000, which in particular:
makes proposals on how prevention measures could be promoted in future work at European level, and in particular on how they could be reflected in the legislative process;
analyses what measures for the prevention of organised crime, by which bodies and at what level, seem appropriate with a view to optimum effectiveness;
analyses proposals for the encouragement of the evaluation of measures for the prevention of organised crime;
analyses to what extent prevention measures can be taken at European level (particularly in the light of the Treaty of Amsterdam);
makes proposals for drawing up and keeping up to date a repertory of good practice in the area of organised crime prevention;
analyses to what extent ideas and measures for the prevention of organised crime could be taken into account in the process of enlargement and relations with third States;
(34) CALLS ON both the Member States and the Commission to report to the Council before the end of 2000 also on other measures taken to prevent organised crime;
(35) RESOLVES then to review and evaluate the implementation of this Resolution in the light of these reports and to decide on further measures on the prevention of organised crime."
Participation in criminal organization - Joint Action
Further to the political agreement reached on 19 March 1998, and the remaining scrutiny reservation having been lifted, the Council formally adopted the Joint Action on making it a criminal offence to participate in a criminal organization in a Member State of the EU.
It is recalled that the adoption of this joint action would provide for the first internationally agreed definition of what constitutes a criminal organization and participation in it. A common definition would facilitate police cooperation and mutual legal assistance in the field of fight against organized crime. Adaptation of national legislation to this definition would make the sheer fact of having intentionally participated in the activities of a criminal organization punishable, even without the participation in the commission of specific offences, such as providing financial or legal advice to a criminal organization.
(1)()OJ C 251, 15.8.1997, p. 1.
(2)()OJ C 371, 8.12.1997, p. 183.
(3)() OJ C 316, 27.11.1995, p. 2.
(4)()OJ L 99, 31.3.1998, p. 8.