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2195th Council meeting - CULTURE / AUDIOVISUAL - Luxembourg, 28 June 1999

European Council - PRES/99/206   13/07/1999

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

C/99/206

Luxembourg, 28 June 19999409/99 (Presse 206)

2195th Council meeting

- CULTURE / AUDIOVISUAL -

Luxembourg, 28 June 1999

President: Mr Michael NAUMANN

Minister of State, Federal Chancellery of Germany

CONTENTS

PARTICIPANTS

ITEMS DEBATED

For further information call 285.62.19 or 285.68.08

PARTICIPANTS

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

Belgium:

Mr Jean-Louis SIXDeputy Permanent Representative
Denmark:
Mr Erik JACOBSENState Secretary for Culture
Germany:
Mr Michael NAUMANN

Mr Hans ZEHETMAIR

Minister of State, Federal Chancellery

Minister of State for Education, Culture, Science and the Arts, Bavaria

Greece:
Mr Dimitrios RALLISDeputy Permanent Representative
Spain:
Mr Miguel Angel CORTESState Secretary for Culture
France:
Ms Catherine TRAUTMANNMinister for Culture and Communication
Ireland:
Mr James BRENNANDeputy Permanent Representative
Italy:
Ms Giovanna MELANDRI

Mr Vincenzo Maria VITA

Minister for Culture

State Secretary for Posts and Telecommunications

Luxembourg:
Mr Marc UNGEHEUERDeputy Permanent Representative
Netherlands:
Mr Frederick VAN DER PLOEGState Secretary for Education, Cultural Affairs and Science
Austria:
Mr Peter WITTMANNState Secretary, Federal Chancellery
Portugal:
Mr Manuel Maria CARRILHO

Mr Alberto ARONS de CARVALHO

Minister for Culture

State Secretary for the Media

Finland:
Ms Suvi LINDENMinister for Culture
Sweden:
Ms Marita ULVSKOGMinister for Culture
United-Kingdom:
Mr Alan HOWARTHParliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Minister for the Arts)

Commission:

Mr Marcelino OREJAMember

"CULTURE 2000" PROGRAMME

Following the political agreement reached at the last session of the "Culture/Audiovisual" Council on 17 November 1998 and the confirmation, in the meantime, of the programme budget by all delegations, the Council adopted its common position regarding the proposal for a single financing and programming instrument for cultural co-operation, the "Culture 2000 programme". The Commission indicated the arrangements for the implementation of the programme in a statement to the minutes. The common position will now be sent to the European Parliament for a second reading according to the co-decision procedure.

The decision aims at rationalising and strengthening the effectiveness of cultural co-operation actions, within a single programme intended to replace the three current cultural programmes KALEIDOSCOPE, ARIANE and RAPHAEL.

The total budget agreed by the Council for the 5-year period (1 January 2000 to 31 December 2004) is 167 MECU. The budget breakdown (in terms of "indicative guidelines") between the different types of actions to be supported is as follows: around 40% for specific innovative and/or experimental actions, around 40% for integrated actions, around 10% for special cultural events and around 10% for remaining expenditure.

The objectives of the "Culture 2000" programme are to contribute to the promotion of a cultural area common to the European people, supporting co-operation between creative artists, cultural operators, private and public promoters, the activities of the cultural networks and other partners as well as the cultural institutions of the Member States in order to attain :

    - promotion of cultural dialogue and of mutual knowledge of the culture and history of the European peoples ;

- promotion of creativity and the trans-national dissemination of culture and the movement of artists, creators and other cultural operators and professionals and their works, with a strong emphasis on young people and socially disadvantaged people and on cultural diversity;

    - the highlighting of cultural diversity and the development of new forms of cultural expression ;

      - sharing and highlighting, at the European level, the common cultural heritage of European significance; disseminating know-how and promoting good practices concerning its conservation and safeguarding ;

      - taking into account the role of culture in socio-economic development ;

      - the fostering of intercultural dialogue and mutual exchange between European and non-European cultures ;

      - explicit recognition of culture as an economic factor and as a factor in social integration and citizenship.

The types of cultural action to be supported are :

    specific innovative and/or experimental actions (such activities should aim for example at supporting the creation of multimedia products in the field of culture, promote the dissemination of live cultural events using the new technologies of the information society, support projects aimed at improving access to books and reading...). This support would take the form of grants, seminars and congresses, studies, measures to increase awareness, etc. ;

    integrated actions covered by structured, multiannual cultural co-operation agreements. The programme will contribute in particular to the emergence of broad and structured areas of cooperation through the participation of networks of cultural operators, as well as organisations and research institutes in the cultural field, in the various Member States and in the other participant States. The activities should for example aim at promoting the use of new technologies, making cultural works and creations accessible to the public, promoting the exchange of experience and mutual awareness of common cultural values of the European people.... The programme would contribute to the participation of organisations, research institutes, etc. ;

    special cultural events with a European and/or international dimension (in particular the European Capital of culture and the European Cultural Month). Those actions should help to increase the sense of the people of Europe of belonging to the same community as well as making them aware of the cultural diversity that exists in the European Union.

The actions will either be vertical (concerning one cultural field) or horizontal (associating several cultural fields).

The "Culture 2000 programme" shall be open to the participation by the countries of the European Economic Area and also to participation by Cyprus and the associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe. It shall also permit joint action with international organisations competent in the field of culture such as UNESCO or the Council of Europe.

INTEGRATING HISTORY INTO THE COMMUNITY'S CULTURAL ACTION - Resolution

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community,

    (1) Whereas European co-operation and integration should be based on awareness and protection of cultural diversity and mutual understanding between Europe's peoples; whereas this is especially relevant in view of the future enlargement of the European Union;

    (2) Whereas the everyday lives of the peoples of Europe have been shaped by diverse historical experiences; whereas knowledge of the shared experiences and memories strengthen the bonds between European citizens' and contribute to the development of a European awareness;

    (3) Whereas Europe is also a community of shared values; whereas European integration building on the fundamental principles of human rights, the rule of law and democracy is the consequence of historical experiences which constitute our common heritage today; whereas knowledge of the history of Europe's peoples helps ensure that those political principles and their attendant values are firmly anchored in the minds of its citizens;

    (4) Whereas, in addition to history and arts teaching in schools - which is of the responsibility of the Member States - , books, television, new media, museums libraries, archives and film museums play an increasingly important role in communicating historical knowledge;

    (5) Whereas the expert meeting on the culture of European history in the twenty-first century held in Bonn on 25 and 26 January 1999 considered a wide range of positive measures for fostering an awareness of the history of European peoples for instance by:

    - the promotion of the translation of historical works;

    - the encouragement of the exchange of historical documentaries between European radio and television providers;

    - the fostering of Europe-wide co-operation between history museums;

AGREES ON

    - the need to contribute to a better mutual understanding of the history and diverse historical experience of Europe's peoples through closer co-operation between Member States and other relevant bodies;

    - the need for history to be taken into account not only in measures that promote culture but also in other support programmes, for instance in the field of education and research, having regard to the need for consistency and complementarity between Community support measures;

INVITES THE COMMISSION

    - when implementing the single financing and programming instrument for cultural co-operation, once adopted, as well as other relevant instruments, to give appropriate consideration to projects in the historical field;

    - to ensure that such projects are as pan-European as possible in order to improve the knowledge and understanding of the history of the European peoples and thereby making a significant contribution to European co-operation and integration;

    - to strive for close collaboration with the Council of Europe and UNESCO on historical projects;

    - to ensure co-ordination between existing programmes and activities in relevant fields.

EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE - Implementation

The Council approved an implementing decision - to be formally adopted at a forthcoming session - deriving from the Decision establishing a Community action for the "European Capital of Culture" event for the years 2005 to 2019.

The Decision on the "European Capital of Culture" provides, inter-alia, that the Commission will form a selection panel each year which will issue a report on the city or cities nominated, judged against the objectives and characteristics of the action.

The same provision states that the selection panel is to be composed of seven leading independent figures who are experts on the cultural sector, of whom two are to be appointed by the Council (two more by the European Parliament, two by the Commission and one by the Committee of the Regions).

The Decision now approved sets out the procedure for the appointments to be made by the Council. As nominations for the cities shall be made no later than four years before the event, the Council will appoint "his" experts during the fifth year preceeding the event (e.g. in 2000 for the selection panel looking at the nomination for 2005). The two Member States holding the Council Presidency during the ongoing year shall each nominate a leading figure affording the guarantees of independence and expert knowledge required to form part of the selection panel; the Council shall appoint them by simple majority.

CULTURAL AID BY THE EU TO KOSOVO

Following an introductory statement by Commissioner Oreja, the Council had a discussion on possible measures of cultural aid to Kosovo. Mr Oreja stressed that activities related to culture and education should be included in the remit of the Kosovo Reconstruction Agency and that there was a strong need for co-ordination between all the potential contributors, in particular the European Union, the Council of Europe and UNESCO. He also saw an important role for non-governmental organisations. The Commissioner gave an outline of possible concrete actions by the Community: in the first place an inventory of the situation on the ground as well as of initiatives to date, followed by support actions which could be realised within the existing programmes and budgets such as town-twinning (with the emphasis on bringing together young people) or a focus on Kosovo in the course of the European Capital of Culture event 2000.

The Council agreed with Mr Oreja's analysis and asked the Commission to continue exploring ways of giving assistance in cultural matters to the region. While recognising the overall competence of the General Affairs Council as far as the EU's aid and reconstruction efforts for Kosovo are concerned, the Council supported the idea of entrusting the Reconstruction Agency with a mandate that also covers culture. Ministers agreed that once the essential needs of the Kosovar population have been met, the cultural dimension in a broad sense will be an important part of reconstruction.

RESULTS OF THE PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON THE CONVERGENCE GREEN PAPER - Conclusions

The Council had an exchange of views on the follow-up to the "Convergence Green Paper"; it also agreed to conclusions concerning in particular the aspects relating to the media and the audiovisual sector, which were drafted at the initiative of the Presidency and are published below.

The Council looks forward with great interest to the additional Communication which the Commission intends to present and which is expected to set out certain regulatory principles.

A number of delegations underlined the cultural dimension of the challenges and opportunities of the digital age. These must not be perceived in terms of their technological or economic aspects only.

Ministers also expressed their concern about a possible restructuring of responsibility for audiovisual matters in the next European Commission. They stressed that the current structure with one Directorate-General and one Commissioner having overall responsibility for this area should be maintained.

"THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

    1. Recalling the Council Conclusions of 24 September 1998 concerning the European Audiovisual Conference: "Challenges and Opportunities of the Digital Age"; ((1))

    2. Recalling the Resolution of the Council and of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council of 25 January 1999 concerning public service broadcasting ; ((2))

    3. Recalling the Council Conclusions of 22 April 1999 on the Results of the public consultation on the Convergence Green Paper;

    4. Aware of the discussion on the possible scope and of the merits and risks of self-regulation in the media that have been highlighted by the participants of the Saarbrücken Expert Seminar on self-regulation in the media;

    5. Takes note of the fact that the Commission, in its Communication on the results of the public consultation of the Convergence Green Paper of 9 March 1999, presents several key messages of particular relevance to the audiovisual sector and announces its intention to present a more detailed set of regulatory principles in an additional Communication;

    6. Takes note that a general message with regard to the role of regulation was the affirmation of the continuing need to meet a range of public interest objectives (such as the protection of minors and human dignity, cultural and linguistic diversity and pluralism) whilst recognising the need to promote investment, in particular in new audiovisual services;

    7. Takes note that a general message with regard to content was the recognition that actions aimed at promoting premium European content could play an important role;

    8. Stresses that, in addition to technical and economical aspects, social, cultural and democratic aspects are of great importance for the development of Information Society;

    9. Convinced of the need for continuous assessment and possible adaptation of the regulatory framework on national and european level taking into account the principle of subsidiarity;

    10. Takes note of the fact that separation of infrastructure and content regulation was recommended: this implies with regard to infrastructure regulation the need to safeguard the access of the public to a wide variety of media content;

11. Takes note that this implies with regard to content regulation:

     - taking full account of the specificity of the audiovisual sector, in particular through a vertical and sectoral approach where necessary, building on current regulatory structures as well as the public policy objectives;

     - application of an appropriate regulatory regime for new services, after due consultation and debate, recognising the unpredictability of the marketplace and the need for the large initial investments involved in their launch while at the same time maintaining adequate protection of minors, consumer safeguards and other important public interests;

     - self-regulation could usefully complement regulation and contribute to the achievement of the right balance between facilitating the development of open and competitive markets and securing public interest objectives;

12. Stresses that the consultation also produced, in response to the three options put forward by the Commission in the Green Paper ((3)) , a clear majority in favour of an evolutionary approach to content regulation, building on existing structures.

    13. Stresses, with a view to the development of new technologies, that a balanced and transparent solution as to how public service broadcasting can best continue to play its role in full in this new environment should in particular:

       - reaffirm Member State competence to confer, define and organize the public service remit in each Member State in accordance with the Protocol on public service broadcasting annexed to the Amsterdam Treaty (Protocol No.32);

       - encourage those organisations vested with a public service broadcasting remit to exploit new technologies and, by doing so, to find new ways of maintaining and expanding their audiences, in order to fullfil that remit.

    14. Invites the Commission, without prejudice to its Treaty prerogatives:

       - to take account of these Conclusions in drawing up the Communication mentioned in paragraph 5, recognizing and addressing the specificity of the Audiovisual sector and taking account of democratic, social and cultural needs;

       - to take account of the outcome of the consultation if and when drawing up proposals for measures for the strengthening of the European audiovisual industry, including the multimedia industry.

    15. Takes note that the Commission's immediate actions in relation to content will include verification of the implementation and application by the Member States of the amended "television without frontiers" Directive."

THE ROLE OF SELF-REGULATION IN THE LIGHT OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW MEDIA SERVICES - Conclusions

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

    1. Recalling the European Union's Recommendation on the development of the competitiveness of the European audiovisual and information services industry by promoting national frameworks aimed at achieving a comparable and effective level of protection of minors and human dignity (98/560/EC) and the action plan on promoting safer use of the Internet by combating illegal and harmful content on global networks (Decision No 276/1999/EC).

    2. Recalling the fact that the Commission, in its Communication of 9 March 1999 on the results of the public consultation on the Convergence Green Paper, has noticed the relevance that self-regulation could have.

    3. Recognizing that while self-regulation will continue to usefully complement regulation in all media forms in a number of Member States, it is appropriate here to consider the role of self-regulation in new media services.

    4. Takes note

       - that self-regulation systems have been developed for the media in most European countries of which some cover all media (press, broadcasting sound radio, tv and advertising in all media), while others are restricted to individual media or new information and communication services.

       - that there are significant differences between the ways in which different self-regulation systems are organised and complement or contribute to state regulation which reflect Europe's democratic, regional and cultural diversity.

       - that self-regulation could usefully complement regulation in the context of future development of new media services.

5. Recognises,

     - that the definition of the public interest objectives and the choice of the best way to reach these objectives in this field remains inherently the responsibility of Member States, without prejudice to Community law.

  

     - that media self-regulation systems however in accordance with national cultural and legal traditions and practices may make a contribution to safeguarding public interests.

 

6. Welcomes

 

     - that the Commission intends to present a more detailed set of regulatory principles in a Communication in addition to its Communication of 9 March 1999 on the results of the public consultation of the convergence green paper,

 

     - that the Saarbrücken expert seminar on self-regulation in the media organised by the German presidency has started the debate at European level on the possible contribution self-regulation systems may make to the achievement of public interest objectives, in particular in the light of the development of new media services.

 

    7. Taking into account the experience with existing self-regulation systems in media policy, stresses the need

 

     - to analyze possible contributions of self-regulatory systems to the new media services,

     - to balance the strength and weakness of self-regulation systems,

  

     - to deepen this analysing of possible contributions in particular by public consultations,

     - to take into account the interests of third parties, notably users, when considering self-regulation in the new media services.

  

8. Invites the Commission, without prejudice to its treaty prerogatives,

 

     - to take account of the present state of discussion on the role of self-regulation in the light of the development of new media services when drawing up the communication mentioned under point 5, bearing in mind that it is up to each Member State to determine the possible complementary role of self-regulation to legislation,

  

     - to facilitate future discussion on this subject by presenting, if necessary, updated information to the Council and the European Parliament.

CULTURAL EVENTS ORGANISED DURING THE GERMAN PRESIDENCY

The Council took note of the Presidency's intention to provide written information regarding the cultural activities and the activities in the field of audiovisual policy which took place during the first semester of 1999.

COOPERATION WITH THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE

The Presidency reported orally on the periodic dialogues between the Council's Cultural Affairs Committee and Council of Europe representatives.

A Convention between the two institutions is being prepared for the Council of Europe's 1999-2000 campaign "Europe - A common heritage".

OTHER BUSINESS

  • Fixed book prices

    The German and Austrian delegations, supported by several more Member States, reiterated their strong opposition to any Commission decision tending to abolish the present cross-border book price agreement covering their two countries. These two delegations also contested the competence of the acting Commission to take a decision in this matter.

    According to these delegations, the contractual system in place does not have an impact on trade for other Member States; its scrapping would not have the result expected by the Commission, but would jeopardise the diversity and broad accessibility of books.

  • "Appeal to the President designate of the European Commission"

    The Italian Minister introduced the "Appeal to the President designate of the European Commission" signed in Rome on 24 June 1999, at her initiative, by the Culture Ministers of seven Member States. Other delegations also associated themselves with this letter which is reproduced in the Annex.

  • EUREKA-Audiovisual

    The French delegation, supported by many others, raised the issue of the continuation of the contribution from the Community budget to audiovisual EUREKA's activities. These delegations considered that this contribution is necessary in order to ensure a continued link between audiovisual EUREKA's mission and the strategy elaborated by the European Union in the audiovisual sector.

  • Trial of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim

    The Culture Ministers fully supported the declaration of 14 April 1999 by the Presidency on behalf of the EU concerning the outcome of the trial of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Mr Anwar Ibrahim is not only the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, but also a former President of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

ANNEX

APPEAL TO THE PRESIDENT DESIGNATE OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION

Honorable President,

At this moment in which you are about to assume the important responsibilities of President of the European Commission, we feel that we must draw your attention to a matter of utmost importance regarding the enrichment of Europe: we are referring to the future of cultural action in the European Union.

As you well know, in 1992 the Treaty of Maastricht elevated culture to a level that was to be treated as a European Community matter and that should be considered as one of the pillars which sustains our "European House".

Since then many initiatives have been undertaken, but above all, public opinion in our countries has come to the conclusion that the European ideals are consolidated not only through an indispensable economic integration but by developing our common cultural roots.

We feel that the political and social future of our continent is built primarily by the development of a common European sense of identity. To make this happen, it is necessary to refer to that mixture of values, principles, variegated social, artistic and spiritual experiences which constitute the highest reason for common sensibility: the solid foundation of a shared European culture.

It is here that we feel the need to emphasise the cultural aspects of the Treaty as well as the economic. European creativity will be effectively stimulated by the challenge of cultural initiatives and the protection of our heritage, recognising the importance of achieving this by respecting and promoting national and regional culture.

Above all, it is in the field of communications where there is need to intensify the efforts which have been done up to now. This is not only to reinforce the European identity of specific areas of fundamental importance in the cultural industry, for example, cinema, but also to develop the beneficial effects that such activity would have on employment, especially for our youth.

For these reasons, we wish to ask you to reflect on the following points which we feel should be given priority in any action taken by the future Commission:

  • To consider culture as a strategic unifying force of the European Union. Culture must be a central part of the European integration process. It is necessary that it be considered as a whole, without drawing a line between cultural issues and the audiovisual sector. Both questions must be settled with a unitary vision by the Parliament, Council and the Commission;

  • To ensure that adequate funds are provided for culture when appropriate to strengthen the role that culture must play into the next Millennium, to the extent that culture is a significant part of the very identity of Europe and that it has many effects on employment and social cohesion;

  • To make effective the reference to culture mentioned in the Treaty but not yet put into practice;

  • To take into account alongside competitive considerations the specificity and the diversity of culture in multilateral trade negotiations.

We are sure that you will pay attention to these questions. We would like these hopes to take effect in order to demonstrate to the Europeans, as the Commissioner Oreja stressed, "that which unites us is stronger than that which divides us, that is the building of a common house together".

Done in Rome, on June 24, 1999-06-28

Giovanna MELANDRI

Manuel Maria CARRILHO

Suvi LINDEN

Michael NAUMANN

Chris SMITH

Catherine TRAUTMANN

Peter WITTMANN

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

(Decisions for which statements for the Council minutes have been made available to the public are indicated by asterisks; the statements in question may be obtained from the Press Office.)

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

FRY - sanctions

The Council adopted a Decision amending the list of persons from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia subject to a visa ban, contained in its Decision of 10 May 1999 (this list needs to be updated regularly to examine requests to add or remove specific individuals).

The present Decision essentially removes from the list the names of four people and adds to it the names of eight others:

persons removed: GAZIVODA Bozidar, IVANISEVIC Miroslav, IVKOVIC Zoran, KRGOVIC Ljubisa;

persons added: KOSTIC Yugoslav (Minister without Portfolio), KOVAC Miodrag (Minister of Labour, Health and Social Security), OGNJANOVIC Vuk (Minister without Portfolio), SAVOVIC Margit (Minister without Portfolio), SIRADOVIC Djordje (Minister of Trade and Tourism), DJOLIC Gvozdan (Local SPS Head, Aleksandrovac), MIHAJLOVIC Milivoje (Mayor of Krusevac, SPS), ZVETKOVIC Zivota (Mayor of Aleksandrovac, SPS). .

African Great Lakes Region - EU Special Representative

The Council adopted a Decision extending the mandate of the EU Special Representative to the African Great Lakes region, Mr Aldo Ajello, for a further twelve months, until 31 July 2000.

The financial reference amount intended to cover the costs related to his mission will be 1.06 million euro.

This Decision will be reviewed in six months. The appropriate Council bodies will examine on a horizontal basis the question of the relationship between the EU High Representative for CFSP and the EU's Special Representatives.

European Economic Area

The Council approved on behalf of the EU a draft Decision of the EEA Joint Committee, amending annex XVI to the EEA Agreement, in order to integrate EC legislation on procurement into the EEA.

Relations with Tunisia

The Council approved on behalf of the EU a draft Decision of the EU/Tunisia Association Council setting up a Working Party on Social Matters, as foreseen in article 73 of the Association Agreement.

TRADE MATTERS

Anti-dumping - imports of cotton-type bed linen from India

The Council adopted a Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 2398/97 imposing a definitive anti-dumping duty on imports of cotton-type bed linen originating in Egypt, India and Pakistan, by adding four Indian companies to the list of companies subject to the - lower - duty of 11.6% set for companies which cooperated with the original investigation.

This decision follows the presentation by these four companies (Emm Libas Private Ltd, Sarna Exports Ltd, Stitchwell Garments and Utkarsh Exim Pvt Ltd) of evidence showing that they meet the requirements to be considered as "new exporters" (no export to the EC during the investigation period; not related to exporters subject to the anti-dumping duties; has exported to the EC after the investigation period or has entered into an irrevocable contractual obligation to export a significant quantity to the EC).

COMITOLOGY *

Further to the political agreement reached at the General Affairs Council on 21 June 1999, the Council formally adopted the Decision laying down the procedures for the exercise of implementing powers conferred on the Commission which will replace the 1987 comitology Decision.

The new Decision will simplify the committee procedures, grant the European Parliament a right of scrutiny over the implementation of acts adopted by codecision and substantially increase transparency in comitology.

The Decision provides for criteria which will guide the legislator in the choice of committee procedure, while allowing for a certain degree of flexibility:

    - the management procedure should be followed as regards management measures such as those relating to the application of the common agricultural and common fisheries policies or to the implementation of programmes with substantial budgetary implications;

    - the regulatory procedure should be followed as regards measures of general scope designed to apply essential provisions of basic instruments, including measures concerning the protection of the health or safety of humans, animals or plants, as well as measures designed to adapt or update certain non-essential provisions of a basic instrument;

    - the advisory procedure should be followed in any case in which it is considered to be the most appropriate and will continue to be used in those cases where it currently applies.

The simplification of committee procedures concerns especially the management and regulatory procedures, which will no longer have two variants each.

The most substantial change relates to the regulatory procedure. If the implementing measures the Commission envisages to adopt do not obtain the necessary majority in the committee, the Commission will present a proposal to the Council. The Council will no longer have the possibility to reject the proposal by simple majority (the so-called "double safety net" is therefore suppressed). If a qualified majority indicates its opposition to the text, the Commission will have to reexamine its proposal, and negotiations will have to continue in order to reach a compromise. The effectiveness of the decision making is guaranteed by the fact that after a time-limit to be fixed in each basic act, if the Council has neither adopted the implementing act nor indicated its opposition to it, the Commission can adopt the measures. (4)

The Decision provides for the involvement of the European Parliament in the implementation of acts adopted by codecision. If the European Parliament considers that an implementing measure that the Commission intends to take exceeds the implementing powers provided for in the basic act, it can indicate so to the Commission, which will have to reexamine the draft measures. In the framework of the regulatory procedure, the European Parliament is also granted a scrutiny right in those cases where, due to lack of agreement by the committee, the Commission refers to the Council a proposal on the implementing measures. The European Parliament will receive extensive information on committee procedures, so it can fully exercise its right of scrutiny.

Information to the public on committee procedures will be substantially improved. The rules on public access applicable to the Commission are made applicable to committee documents, a list of all the committees will be published in the Official Journal, and the Commission will publish an annual report on the working of committees. A public register will be set up containing the references of comitology documents, and the Commission has indicated that it intends to make available to the public the documents communicated to the European Parliament on comitology proceedings.

Finally, it is foreseen that provisions relating to existing committees should be adjusted to align them to the new procedures.

BUDGET

1999 Supplementary and amending budget

The Council established a draft supplementary and amending budget No 1/99 for the financial year 1999 by approving the Commission proposal submitted in order to deal mainly with the balance left-over from the financial year 1998. The draft will be sent to the European Parliament, which is the other arm of the budgetary authority.

The draft provides for:

  • the entry in the budget of the surplus for the 1998 financial year, totalling EUR 3 022 million;

  • the review of the correction of budgetary imbalances for the financial year 1995, resulting in a EUR 537,4 million reduction in the amount allocated to the United Kingdom;

  • the revenue from customs duties is revised downwards by EUR 511 million (gross amount), the VAT and GNP bases are updated and 31.12.98 is set as reference date for euro/national conversion rate.

JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS

Europol - supplementary budget for 1999

The Council approved Europol's supplementary and amending budget for the year 1999, following the opinion of Europol's Management Board.

In view of the extensions of Europol's remit to include the combat against terrorism and counterfeiting/forgery of currency as from the date of its taking-up of activities, the supplementary budget provides for seven new posts, namely four with regard to fighting terrorism and three for its mandate concerning counterfeiting.

The supplementary budget does not require additional financial means from Member States, as the new posts will be financed within the existing financial framework of the 1999 budget.

Signature of the Agreement with Iceland and Norway on Schengen regarding the relations with the United Kingdom and Ireland

The Council adopted the Decision on the conclusion of an Agreement with Iceland and Norway on the establishment of rights and obligations between Ireland and the United Kingdom on the one hand, and Iceland and Norway on the other, in areas of the Schengen acquis which apply to these States.

This Agreement is expected to be signed, at the level of Ambassadors, on 30 June 1999.

It establishes the rights and obligations between Iceland and Norway on the one hand, and Ireland or the United Kingdom, or both, on the other, to the extent that Ireland or the United Kingdom, or both, participate in the Schengen acquis or its development in accordance with the Schengen Protocol of the Amsterdam Treaty.

It is recalled that with regard to the association of Iceland and Norway in the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis, the EU and these two States concluded on 18 May 1999 an Agreement which set out the necessary procedures.

CONSUMER POLICY

Council Resolution on Community consumer policy 1999-2001

The Council formally adopted the Resolution on Community consumer policy 1999-2001 which it had agreed on at its meeting of 13 April 1999.

The full text of this Resolution has been published in Council Press Release No 7212/99 of 13.4.1999. It will also be published in the Official Journal of the European Communities ("C" series).

CUSTOMS UNION

The Council adopted a Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 1255/96 temporarily suspending the autonomous Common Customs Tariff duties on certain industrial and agricultural products.

The amending Regulation takes account of new requests for suspensions which have been presented and accepted, technical product developments or economic trends on the market resulting in the lifting of certain existing suspensions, and amendments to Nomenclature codes. Furthermore, a number of products are being withdrawn from the Annex to Regulation 1255/96 reflecting the reintroduction of customs duties.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Common Framework for Electronic Signatures

The Council adopted its common position on the proposal for a Directive on a common framework for electronic signatures. The text, on which a political agreement had already been reached at the "Telecommunications" Council of 22 April 1999, will now be transmitted to the European Parliament for second reading, in accordance with the co-decision procedure.

The purpose of the proposal is to ensure the proper functioning of the Internal Market in the field of electronic signatures by creating a harmonised legal framework.

This framework, consisting of a set of criteria to be used as a basis for the legal recognition of electronic signatures, will facilitate the use of such signatures and enable consumers and businesses in Europe to benefit fully from the opportunities offered by electronic communications.

A comprehensive summary of the common position can be found in Council Press Release No 7398/99 of 22.4.1999.

Council Resolution on Measures to address the Year 2000 Computer Problem

Subsequent to the agreement in principle reached at the "Telecommunications" Council of 22 April 1999, the Council formally adopted the Resolution on Measures to address the Year 2000 Computer Problem.

The full text of this Resolution has been published in Council Press Release No 7398/99 of 22.4.1999. It will also be published in the Official Journal of the European Communities ("C" series).

LABOUR AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS

Directive concerning the Framework Agreement on Fixed-term Work concluded by ETUC, UNICE and CEEP *

The Council adopted the Directive concerning the Framework Agreement on Fixed-term Work concluded by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE) and the European Centre of Enterprises with Public Participation (CEEP). The Agreement aims at ensuring the application of the principle of non-discrimination against fixed-term workers in relation to their permanent counterparts. Another objective is to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts or relationships.

The agreement sets out the general principles and minimum requirements relating to fixed-term work, recognising that their detailed application needs to take account of the realities of specific national, sectoral, and seasonal situations. It will apply to all fixed-term workers with the exception of those placed by a temporary work agency at the disposition of a user enterprise ("intérimaires").

YOUTH

Community Action Programme for Youth

The Council adopted the common position establishing the Community action programme for youth.

For the contents of this programme see Press release of 27 May 1999 No 8655/1/99 REV 1 (Presse 169-G).

ENERGY

SAVE and ALTENER

The Council adopted its common position on

    - the decision on the multiannual programme for the encouragement of rational and efficient use of energy sources (SAVE) ( 1998-2002), and

    - the decision on the multiannual programme for promotion of renewable energy sourcesin the Community (ALTENER) (1998-2002)

Both programmes have been described in the Press release of 13 November 1998 No 12742/98 (Presse-380-G).

INTERNAL MARKET

Cableway installations designed to carry passengers

The Council adopted its common position on the proposal for a Directive relating to cableway installations designed to carry persons. This adoption follows the political agreement reached at the "Internal Market" Council on 9 November 1998. The common position will now be submitted to the European Parliament for a second reading according to the co-decision procedure.

Cableway installations are principally used in high-altitude tourist resorts and comprise funicular railways, cable cars, gondolas, chairlifts and drag lifts, but they may also include installations used in urban transport.

For additional information on the common position, see press release No. 12562/98 of 9.11.1998.

(1)() O.J. C 306 of 06.10.1998.

(2)() O.J. C 30 of 05.02.1999.

(3)() The three options are:1.Build on current structures2.Develop a separate regulatory model for new activities, to co-exist with telecommunications and broadcasting regulation3.Progressively introduce a new regulatory model to cover the whole range of existing and new services

(4) However, the Commission has stated that in the review of proposals for implementing measures concerning particularly sensitive sectors, in order to find a balanced solution, it will act in such a way as to avoid going against any predominant position which might emerge within the Council against the appropriateness of an implementing measure.The Commission has made a statement of similar scope with regard to implementing measures under the management procedure.


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