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C/99/112

Luxembourg, 22 April 1999

    7398/99 (Presse 112)

2172nd Council meeting

- TELECOMMUNICATIONS -

Luxembourg, 22 April 1999

    President: Mr Werner MÜLLER

    Minister for Economic Affairs and Technology of the Federal Republic of Germany

S U M M A R Y

PARTICIPANTS

ITEMS DISCUSSED
COMMON FRAMEWORK FOR ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES
THE YEAR 2000 COMPUTER PROBLEM - RESOLUTION
STATUS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET
CONVERGENCE OF THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS, MEDIA AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SECTORS, AND THE IMPLICATIONS FOR REGULATION - CONCLUSIONS

GLOBALISATION AND THE INFORMATION SOCIETY: STRENGTHENING OF INTERNATIONAL COORDINATION

INTERNET GOVERNANCE

GREEN PAPER ON PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION IN THE INFORMATION SOCIETY
GREEN PAPER ON RADIO SPECTRUM POLICY
OTHER BUSINESS

    - UNIVERSAL MOBILE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM (UMTS)

ITEMS ADOPTED WITHOUT DISCUSSION
ECOFIN

- Macro-Financial Assistance to Albania

AGENDA 2000

- Structural Funds

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

- ACP - assistance to traditional ACP suppliers of bananas

- Pakistan - approval of the Cooperation Agreement

TRANSPORT

-  Agreement on transit traffic between the EU and Slovenia

HEALTH

- Programmes on rare diseases and on pollution-related diseases

FISHERIES

- Negotiations with Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)

ENVIRONMENT

- Emissions from engines used in heavy-duty vehicles

- Air quality standards - daughter Directive

ENERGY

    - Information on crude oil and petroleum products

    - Commission report on the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste

LABOUR AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS

- Fight against social security fraud and undeclared work

AGRICULTURE

- Animal nutrition

- Fruit and vegetables

- Citrus fruit

- Abandonment of wine growing land

INTERNAL MARKET

- Statistics relating to the trading of goods between Member States

- Preferential trade between the EU, Turkey and certain European countries

- Common Customs Tariff

APPOINTMENT

- Committee of the Regions

DECISION ADOPTED BY WRITTEN PROCEDURE
- Libya - Suspension of sanctions

For more information: tel: 285.62.19 - 285.81.11

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

Belgium:

Mr Jean-Louis SIX

Deputy Permanent Representative

Denmark:

Mr Jan TRØJBORG

Mr Knud LARSEN

Minister for Research

State Secretary for Research and Information Technology

Germany:

Mr Werner MÜLLER

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Technology

Greece:

Mr Emmanouel GIAKOUMAKIS

Secretary General, Ministry of Transport and Communications

Spain:

Mr José Maria VILLAR URIBARRI

State Secretary for Communications

France:

Mr Christian PIERRET

State Secretary for Industry

Ireland:

Ms Mary O'ROURKE

Minister for Public Enterprise

Italy:

Mr Fabio FABBRI

Deputy Permanent Representative

Luxembourg:

Ms Mady DELVAUX-STEHRES

Minister for Communications

Austria:

Ms Judith GEBETSROITHNER

Deputy Permanent Representative

Netherlands:

Ms Monique DE VRIES

State Secretary for Transport, Communications and Public Works

Portugal:

Ms Leonor COUTINHO

State Secretary for Housing and Communications

Finland:

Mr Olli-Pekka HEINONEN

Minister for Transport and Communications

Sweden:

Ms Birgitta HEIJER

State Secretary for Industry, Employment and Communications

United Kingdom:

Mr Michael WILLS

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry

Commission:

Mr Martin BANGEMANN

Member

COMMON FRAMEWORK FOR ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES

The Council noted the existence of a complete political agreement on a Common position regarding the proposal for a Directive on a common framework for electronic signatures.

The common position will be formally adopted, without debate, at a forthcoming Council session; it will then be transmitted to the European Parliament for second reading, in accordance with the co-decision procedure.

Electronic commerce has the potential to become a key stimulus for the world economy in the next century, but secure transactions are essential if this potential is to be realised in Europe. The Directive concerning electronic signatures is intended to remove one of the main remaining obstacles to cross-border electronic commerce. Electronic signatures will also be used in the public sector within national and Community administrations and in communication between such administrations and with citizens and economic operators, for example in public procurement, taxation, social security, or the health and justice systems.

Different methods exist to sign documents electronically, ranging from very simple ones (e.g. the insertion of a scanned image of a hand-written signature into a word processed document) to the very sophisticated (using cryptography).

Digital signatures based on so-called "public-key cryptography" are currently the most recognised form of an electronic signature. In this system the recipient can find out whether or not the signed data has been altered and check the origin of the data by authenticating its source. However, the recipient may also wish to verify whether the sender is really the one he/she claims to be. He may therefore require more reliable information on the identity of the signatory. One way is to have it confirmed (by a certificate) by a third party, e.g. a person or institution mutually trusted by both sender and recipient. In the context of digital signatures these third parties are called "certification service providers".

The Directive aims at facilitating the use of electronic signatures as well as contributing to their legal recognition. It would establish a legal framework for electronic signatures and certain certification services in order to ensure the proper functioning of the Internal Market in this rapidly expanding area.

Further objectives are to promote the interoperability of electronic signature products and to build trust in electronic signatures. In order to achieve this, the draft provides that certain essential requirements specific to electronic signature products must be met.

Although digital signatures based on public-key cryptography are currently the most recognised form of an electronic signature, the Common position follows a "neutral" approach as far as the various technologies and services capable of authenticating data electronically are concerned. This approach takes into account the rapid technological development and the global character of the Internet.

Specific technical requirements are therefore limited and - as far as the signature creation devices are concerned - phrased in a manner which allows them to be achieved by various means. The requirements are spelled out in three annexes, dealing with

    - the requirements for qualified certificates (annex I)

    - the requirements for certification service providers issuing qualified certificates (annex II);

      - requirements for secure electronic signature creation devices (annex III).

A fourth annex lists a certain number of recommendations for signature verification.

In order not to slow down innovation and the development in the Community of certification services, the Common position stipulates that their providers should in general be free to offer such services without prior authorization. Notwithstanding this general principle, service providers would be free to adhere to voluntary accreditation schemes aiming at a further development of their services towards the levels of trust, security and quality demanded by the market. But such accreditation schemes may not reduce competition for certification services.

One of the key provisions is the principle of non-discrimination between electronic and handwritten signatures. Thus, a signature should not be denied legal validity solely on the grounds that it is in electronic form. According to the Common position, an electronic signature should be considered equivalent to a handwritten signature (including, e.g. its use as evidence in legal proceedings) if it meets a certain number of conditions:

    - it must be an "advanced electronic signatures", meaning that it

       (a) it is uniquely linked to the signatory;

       (b) it is capable of identifying the signatory ;

       (c) it is created using means that the signatory can maintain under his sole control; and

       (d) it is linked to the data to which it relates in such a manner that any subsequent change of the data is detectable.

    - it must be based on a qualified certificate; and

    - it must be created by a secure signature creation device.

The Common position also includes harmonised liability rules for certification service providers so as to ensure legal security and predictability for both providers and consumers.

As a further measure to ensure user confidence, which is a prerequisite to stimulating electronic communication and electronic commerce, service providers would be requested to respect data protection legislation and individual privacy.

Finally, the Common position lays down the conditions under which certificates issued by certification service providers from outside the Community would be recognised.

The Directive is not intended to harmonize national rules concerning contract law. For this reason the provisions concerning the legal effect of electronic signatures would be without prejudice to form requirements prescribed by national law with regard to the conclusion of contracts or the rules determining where a contract is concluded.

Furthermore, the Directive would not apply to electronic signatures exclusively used within closed systems, nor would it restrict the freedom of parties to agree among themselves - to the extent allowed by national law - the terms and conditions under which they accept electronically signed data.

The time given to Member States for transposing the Directive into national law will be 18 months from its entry into force.

THE YEAR 2000 COMPUTER PROBLEM - RESOLUTION

The Council had a brief exchange of views on the action taken in order to minimize the potentially adverse consequences of the Year 2000 Computer Problem. Further to a suggestion by the Netherlands delegation, it asked the Permanent Representatives Committee to examine whether a new forum should be established in order to stimulate and coordinate more concrete action in addressing the "millennium bug" problem.

The Council then agreed in principle the following resolution which will be formally adopted in all the official languages at a forthcoming session.

Council resolution on measures to address the Year 2000 (Y2K) Computer problem :

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

Having regard to the Commission communication of 25 February 1998 entitled "The Year 2000 Computer Problem",

Having regard to the Presidency Conclusions of the Cardiff European Council of 15/16 June 1998 which recognised that problems associated with information technology and other electronic systems arising from the year 2000 could have serious cross-border effects, as well as the need for Member States to share best practice in addressing the problem and the importance of establishing national programmes to raise awareness and prescribe action to minimise disruption,

Having regard to the Commission report to the Vienna European Council of 11/12 December 1998 on "How the EU is Tackling the Year 2000 Computer Problem",

Having regard to the Presidency Conclusions of the Vienna European Council of 11/12 December 1998 which urged Member States to implement timely plans for the protection of their own infrastructure and to continue to raise awareness across all sectors, focusing in particular on the public sector and small and medium-sized enterprises, and to examine closely the implications of the problem of supply-chain failures outside the EU, to elaborate contingency plans to address this, and to exchange information with their counterparts in other Member States,

RECOGNISING that :

    - the problem is global in nature,

    - Year 2000 compliance can only be ensured by the suppliers and users of computer-based systems and technical systems with embedded electronics;

    - each Member State and each organisation, private or public, should address the problem within their respective environments and should take measures to minimise the risks associated therein;

    - governments should inform the public at large about the nature of the problem and the need to take timely action; governments can demonstrate leadership and increase public confidence by effectively tackling the problem in the public sector;

    - providing information concerning the activities and progress of the public sector and of vital national and international public utilities and infrastructures is an effective means of maintaining public confidence;

    - the complex interactions and dependencies between organisations and infrastructures is such that it is not possible to provide absolute assurances that all aspects of the Y2K problem have been covered in spite of the best efforts and that there may still be problems arising on or around 1 January 2000 which will require immediate attention by all parties involved.

WELCOMES the initiative of the Commission in establishing a group of experts from the Member States and representatives of industry and of vital infrastructure providers on this topic, and in hosting regular meetings to facilitate the exchange of information and experiences within the EU and invites the Commission to keep the Council informed on these activities;

ENCOURAGES the Member States and the Commission as well as the providers of vital infrastructures to share information and models of best practice;

INVITES the Member States to

    - continue to monitor and report on the progress of the public sector and of key infrastructures, recognising the need to disclose information to the public at large, particularly consumers, as well as to other Member States or to third countries having legitimate economic interests in their country;

    - ensure that contingency plans are in place to secure the continuity of essential services in the event of disruptions of normal services, and to handle emergencies should these arise;

ENCOURAGES companies and industry associations to

    - establish an open and proactive information policy on the Y2K problem;

    - respond to requests for information by other organisations and the public at large, particularly consumers, by providing timely and reliable information on their progress and activities in this domain;

    - participate in the activities of relevant international bodies addressing the Y2K problem;

CALLS ON THE MEMBER STATES AND THE COMMISSION, in accordance with their respective competences, to work collaboratively on the identification of critical cross-border infrastructures or risks, (both internal and external to the Union and including those provided or regulated by international organisations), and to encourage appropriate measures to be taken for maintaining the integrity and continuity of essential services and to reduce potential cross-border risks.

Furthermore, CALLS ON THE MEMBER STATES, together with THE COMMISSION to further strengthen contacts, dialogue, and assistance, including through international fora, industry associations and other appropriate bodies, with countries outside the European Union having significant relations with the Union in terms of important infrastructure or other interactions, to help ensure that these countries are taking all appropriate measures with respect to these linkages.

STATUS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET

At the Presidency's initiative, and further to the presentation by the Commission of the Fourth Report on the Implementation of the Telecommunications Regulatory Package, during Council on 27 November 1998, a general debate took place on the status of the European Union telecommunications market. Delegations were invited to address the questions of how they see the development of this market, the nature of the remaining obstacles to this development and how such obstacles could be removed.

The Council President summed up the debate in the following way:

We have had a very thorough and forward-looking discussion on the further development of the telecommunications market in Europe. A number of interesting ideas have been put forward which, however, also brought out delegations' different approaches. Liberalisation, harmonisation, regulation, and the taking into account of universal service are the key issues.

Overall the telecommunications market in Europe has developed very positively since it was fully opened up. This has, among other things, also created an important basis for the development of Internet services.

However, the situation in the market sectors mobile communications, long-distance communications and local networks still varies considerably, and as regards local networks in particular is still unsatisfactory.

There is still much that Governments and the European Union must do in order to fully realise the great growth potential of the telecommunications market not least in the interests of employment as well. Remaining obstacles must be removed by means of a European regulatory framework.

I hand over with confidence this vital issue which is so important and crucial for Europe's future position in global competition to the forthcoming Finnish Presidency. I also continue to have particular confidence in the innovative role of the Commission.

CONVERGENCE OF THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS, MEDIA AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SECTORS, AND THE IMPLICATIONS FOR REGULATION - CONCLUSIONS

THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,

WELCOMES:

The broad public consultation organised by the Commission on its Green Paper on the Convergence of the Telecommunications, Media and Information Technology Sectors, and the Implications for Regulation;

And, in general, the actions envisaged by the Commission in its Communication of 9th March 1999 concerning the results of the public consultation on the Green Paper.

TAKES NOTE of the general consensus that has been established through the consultation process with regard to the need for an appropriate and stable regulatory framework so as to stimulate the development of the Information Society, competition, innovation and investment, notably in new services, and the development of Electronic Commerce.

STRESSES the importance of maintaining European competitiveness in the face of rapid changes in technology and markets driven by the development of the Information Society;

RECOGNISES THAT:

Transparent, clear, proportionate and non-discriminatory regulatory principles and clearly defined policy objectives must form the basis of the legal environment;

Regulation, which must be based on these principles, is currently a necessary means to achieve public-interest objectives - such as universal service, pluralism, cultural diversity, the protection of minors and human dignity - whilst recognising the need to stimulate investment, particularly in new services;

Sector-specific regulation, complementing effective application of competition rules, is necessary, but should be adapted and, where appropriate, reduced according to market development, in particular increasing levels of competition;

Availability of high quality European content is essential to Europe's role in the emerging global Information Society.

CONSIDERS THAT

A comprehensive approach to regulation, which separates infrastructure from content, seems necessary;

On the one hand a more horizontal approach should be taken to infrastructure and network related services which should be subject to a coherent and homogeneous regulatory framework, taking account of the development of technological convergence;

Content regulation, on the other hand, should be linked to the specific characteristics of given content services, including audio-visual services and with the public policy objectives associated with those services; this implies through a vertical approach, where necessary based on the current regulatory structures.

INVITES THE COMMISSION

To take these conclusions into account when coming forward with new proposals, in particular in the context of the forthcoming Review of the Community Legislation on Telecommunications.

GLOBALISATION AND THE INFORMATION SOCIETY: STRENGTHENING OF INTERNATIONAL COORDINATION

Commissioner Bangemann informed the Council about the latest developments in this field and on the Global Business Dialogue (GBD) on electronic commerce in particular. The GBD is a business-led initiative launched last January in New York which has established itself a work programme focusing on 9 priority issues on which position papers are being elaborated: data protection, taxation, consumer confidence, authentication and security, intellectual property rights, internet governance, liability, jurisdiction and commercial communications. These issues will be discussed at a meeting of GBD in Paris in September 1999.

The Commissioner said he was confident that industry will, within the GBD, reach a consensus on these issues, probably in early 2000. He also pointed out that Governments and the European Union will, in due course, have to decide when and how they will react to the expected position papers.

INTERNET GOVERNANCE

Commissioner Bangemann expressed his confidence that the new Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will come to satisfactory decisions on the future governance of the Internet.

It is recalled that one year ago the United States published a White Paper which raised a number of international policy issues related to Internet governance. A subsequent clarification of positions between the US and the EU led to a view largely shared by both sides on the approach to be taken. The basic arrangements for ICANN reflect the generally satisfactory outcome of the issues raised by the US White Paper. Nevertheless, important questions regarding the structure of ICANN membership and its functioning still need to be resolved.

GREEN PAPER ON PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION IN THE INFORMATION SOCIETY

Commissioner Bangemann drew the Council's attention to the above-mentioned Green Paper which the Commission adopted on 21 January 1999. He stressed that the document is intended to initiate a broad consultation on new ways of exploiting the vast potential of the information held by public services across Europe.

GREEN PAPER ON RADIO SPECTRUM POLICY

Commissioner Bangemann recalled the objectives of the public consultation regarding the Green Paper on Radio Spectrum Policy on which the Commission had requested reactions by 15 April 1999.

Radio spectrum has traditionally been seen as a scarce commodity of considerable economic and political importance. However, new technology is leading to greater capacity and thus providing opportunities to cater increasingly for private as well as public interests. The issues on which the Green Paper requested comments relate to the following: strategic planning of the use of radio frequencies, harmonization of radio spectrum allocation, radio spectrum assignment and licensing, radio equipment and standards, the institutional framework for radio spectrum coordination.

The Council asked the Commission to adopt in time for the forthcoming Presidency a communication on the results of the public consultation.

OTHER BUSINESS

UNIVERSAL MOBILE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM (UMTS)

The French delegation underlined the great importance it attaches to the introduction of a single global standard for the next generation of digital mobile communications in order to ensure complete inter-operability, a seamless service coverage and the rapid emergence of a market with the necessary critical mass for both services and equipment. For this delegation it appears crucial for Europe to pursue the robust approach which underlies the adoption of the UMTS decision, in order to generalise the use of the technical standard established by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). This will ensure that the development of the new generation of mobile telephony follows in the footsteps of the industrial success which was achieved by GSM.

The UMTS Decision adopted in 1998 by the Council and the European Parliament aims to ensure the availability of at least one inter-operable service for third generation mobile communications in the EU and of pan-European roaming for the benefit of consumers. To this end, it establishes the conditions for a harmonised introduction in the European Union of UMTS in a part of the internationally agreed spectrum. The Decision requires Member States to prepare their national licensing regime so that at least one UMTS license is granted in each Member State. It is left to the market and in particular to the operators and to the suppliers, to determine the characteristics of the service.

OTHER DECISIONS

Adopted without discussion.

(In the case of legislative acts, votes against or abstentions are indicated. Decisions containing statements which the Council has decided may be released to the public or explanations of vote are asterisked; the statements and explanations of vote in question may be obtained from the Press Office.)

ECOFIN

Macro-Financial Assistance to Albania

The Council approved a decision providing macro-financial assistance to Albania in the form of a long-term loan facility of a maximum principal of up to 20 million euro, with a maximum maturity of 15 years and a grace period of 10 years, with a view to ensuring a sustainable balance of payments situation and consolidating the country's reserve position. This financial assistance follows the agreement between Albania and the IMF of a comprehensive set of mid-term stabilisation and policy reform measures, to be supported by a loan under the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF).

The macro-financial assistance will be made available to Albania in two instalments. The first instalment shall be released on the basis of the successful completion of a mid-term review of the first year of the stabilisation and policy reform programme supported by a 3-year ESAF arrangement between the IMF and Albania. The second instalment shall be released on the basis of a satisfactory track record in the implementation of the ESAF arrangement and not before one quarter after the disbursement of the first instalment.

The loan will be managed by the Commission, which is empowered to agree with Albania, in consultation with the Monetary Economic and Financial Committee, the economic and institutional policy conditions attached to the loan. The Commission will be obliged to verify at regular intervals that these conditions are being fulfilled and report yearly to the European Parliament and Council.

AGENDA 2000

Structural Funds

The Council agreed to a modification to the draft Regulation laying down general provisions on Structural Funds, following contacts with the European Parliament in view of the latter's opinion to be delivered at its May session within the framework of the assent procedure.

The draft Regulation, which the Council had already agreed on 14 April by written procedure following the agreement reached at the Berlin European Council, is hence amended to include the URBAN Community initiative (economic and social regeneration of cities and urban neighbourhoods in crisis with a view to promoting a sustainable urban development). It is recalled that the three previously agreed Community initiatives are INTERREG (cross-border, transnational and inter-regional cooperation), EQUAL (transnational cooperation to combat all forms of discrimination and inequalities in the labour market) and LEADER (rural development).

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

ACP - assistance to traditional ACP suppliers of bananas *

The Council adopted the Regulation establishing a special framework of assistance for traditional ACP suppliers of bananas, further to the European Parliament's opinion in second reading on 28 January 1999 (cooperation procedure).

The aim of this proposed Regulation is to assist traditional ACP suppliers to adapt to the new conditions of the market, in particular following the amendments to be brought to the common organisation of the banana market, and notably to increase the competitiveness of their production while at the same time encouraging more environmentally-friendly methods of production/marketing.

Specifically, it provides that technical and financial assistance will be granted at the request of the ACP to contribute to the implementation of programmes aiming:

    (a) to improve competitiveness in the banana sector, in particular through

     - increasing productivity, without causing damage to the environment,

     - improving quality, including phytosanitary measures,

     - adapting production, distribution or marketing methods to meet the new quality standards,

     - establishing producers' organisations which have as their objective the improvement of the marketing and competitiveness of their products and the development of systems for certifying environment-friendly production methods, including fair trade bananas,

     - developing a production and/or marketing strategy to meet the requirements of the market in the light of the Community's common organisation of the market in bananas,

     - assisting with training, market intelligence, the development of environment-friendly production methods including fair trade bananas, improving the distribution infrastructure and improving commercial and financial services to banana producers;

    (b) to support diversification where improvement in the competitiveness of the banana sector is not sustainable.

This special framework of assistance will be implemented for a period not exceeding 10 years, starting on 1 January 1999.

The Commission shall decide on the eligibility of these programmes after consultation with the traditional ACP suppliers concerned, and with the assistance of the Member States meeting in the competent committee.

Pakistan approval of the Cooperation Agreement

The Council decided to sign, subject to conclusion, the Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development with Pakistan.

The principal objectives of this Agreement are to enhance and develop cooperation between the Parties through dialogue and partnership, with the following aims:

(1) to promote trade between the Parties in accordance with WTO rules;

    (2) to support Pakistan's efforts for comprehensive and sustainable development, including economic and social development policies which take account of the poor and disadvantaged sections of its population, particularly women in these sections, as well as sustainable management of natural resources;

    (3) to promote investment and economic, technical and cultural links in their mutual interest;

    (4) to build Pakistan's economic capability to interact more effectively with the Community.

The Agreement contains provisions on cooperation in a wide range of areas: trade and commercial relations, development, environment, economic cooperation, industry and services, agriculture, livestock and fisheries, tourism, energy, regional cooperation, science and technology, drug precursor chemicals and money laundering, human resources development, and information, culture and communication.

It also contains the customary provision stating that respect for human rights and democratic principles constitute and essential element, whose breach can lead to a Party taking appropriate measures.

A Joint Commission is established to ensure the proper functioning and implementation of the Agreement, to set priorities and to make recommendations for the promotion of its objectives.

In a Joint Declaration Pakistan undertakes to conclude readmission agreements with the Member States of EU.

TRANSPORT

Agreement on transit traffic between the EU and Slovenia

The Council adopted a Decision concerning the conclusion of an agreement between the European Community and Slovenia concerning the system of ecopoints to be applied to Slovenian transit traffic through Austria as from January 1997.

The purpose of the agreement is to establish the number of ecopoints allocated to Slovenian trucks on the basis of the "no less favourable treatment for Community heavy goods vehicles" principle. The text also provides for appropriate documents and detailed rules for controlling and managing the system.

HEALTH

Programmes on rare diseases and on pollution-related diseases

Following the agreement reached at the European Parliament-Council Conciliation Committee on 4 February 1999, the Council adopted two Community action programmes in the field of public health :

- Rare diseases *

The Council unanimously adopted the Decision adopting a programme of Community action on rare diseases within the framework for action in the field of public health (1999-2003).

- Pollution-related diseases *

The Council adopted by qualified majority, with the Netherlands delegation voting against, the Decision adopting a programme of Community action on pollution-related disease in the context of the framework for action in the field of public health (1999-2001).

Both programmes are described in the Press release of 4 February 1999 (doc.nº 5462/99 - Presse 28-G).

FISHERIES

Negotiations with Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)

The Council adopted the Decision authorizing the Commission to open negotiations with the contracting parties of the IATTC with a view to amending the Convention establishing IATTC to allow for the accession of the European Community.

ENVIRONMENT

Emissions from engines used in heavy-duty vehicles

Further to the political agreement reached on 20 December 1998, the Council formally adopted its common position 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 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).

The common position 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 common position 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.

A detailed summary of the text now formally adopted is included in press release no. 14134/98 of the Environment Council of 20/21 December 1998.

Air quality standards - daughter Directive *

The Council adopted a Directive relating to limit values for sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter and lead in ambient air. In accordance with the provisions of the 1996 Directive on ambient air quality (n° 96/62/EC of 27 September 1996) the text aims at setting out limit values for the substances in question and, as appropriate, alert thresholds designed to avoid, prevent or reduce harmful effects on human health and the environment. Moreover it fixes common methods and criteria for assessing their concentration and establishes that adequate information must be obtained and made available to the public.

This adoption follows the Council common position of 24 September 1998 (see press release n° 9402/98 presse 205G on the Environment Council meeting of 16-17 June 1998), the Opinion of the European Parliament in second reading of 13 January 1999 and the re-examined Commission Proposal of 8 March 1999.

ENERGY

Information on crude oil and petroleum products *

The Council adopted a Decision regarding a Community procedure for information and consultation on crude-oil supply costs and the consumer prices of petroleum products.

This Decision simplifies the information system on the overall crude-oil supply cost and the consumer prices of petroleum products and gives the weekly publication-the "Oil Bulletin"- a legal basis.

Commission report on the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste

The Council took note of the Second Commission report on the application in the Member States of Directive 92/3/Euratom of 3 February 1992 on the supervision and control of shipments of radioactive waste between Member States and into and out of the Community.

LABOUR AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS

Fight against social security fraud and undeclared work

Further to its approval by the "Labour and Social Affairs" Council on 9 March 1999, the Council formally adopted the Resolution on the fight against social security fraud and undeclared work ("Resolution of the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council on a Code of Conduct for improved cooperation between authorities concerning the combating of transnational social security fraud and undeclared work, and concerning the transnational hiring-out of workers"). See Press Release doc. nº 6223/99 of 9 March for the full text.

AGRICULTURE

Animal Nutrition

The Council adopted a Directive on the undesirable substances and products in animal nutrition. The text constitutes a straightforward consolidation of Council Directive 74/63/EEC, without any substantive changes.

Fruit and vegetables

The Council adopted, the United Kingdom abstaining, an amendment and correction to Regulation (CE) 2200/96 on the common market organisation in fruit and vegetables. The amendment aims at extending the right of producer organisations to authorise their members to sell a limited proportion of their production directly to consumers.

Accordingly such direct sales might be authorised not only on the farm of the producer in question, but also away from it. Moreover the amendment establishes a legal basis permitting the reimbursement to producer organisations of transport, sorting and packaging costs of all products withdrawn from the market and distributed free of charge.

Citrus fruit

The Council adopted an amendment to Regulation (EC) 2202/96 introducing a Community aid scheme for producers of certain citrus fruits. The system whereby aid is reduced if processing thresholds for citrus fruit are exceeded is modified in relation to the year of application of the reduction. This will no longer be the year in which the overrun has taken place but the following marketing year, in order to reduce the uncertainty regarding the level of aid to be paid.

Abandonment of wine growing land

The Council adopted an amendment to Regulation (EEC) 1442/88 on the granting, for the 1988/89 to 1998/99 wine years, of permanent abandonment premiums in respect of wine growing areas. The aim is to facilitate the application of the scheme in the specific case of the Charentes region, which is undergoing an over-production crisis, through a derogation on the deadline for submission of applications.

INTERNAL MARKET

Statistics relating to the trading of goods between Member States *

Further to the agreement with the European Parliament reached in the Conciliation Committee on 18 March 1999, the Council definitively adopted the Regulation amending Regulation nº 3330/91 on the statistics relating to the trading of goods between Member States (INTRASTAT). The result of the conciliation procedure will also have to be confirmed by a vote in plenary session of the European Parliament.

The Regulation aims at reducing the data to be provided by companies to the national administrations. It is part of the so-called SLIM initiative (Simpler Legislation for the Internal Market). See Press Release doc. nº 6778/99 for more details on the new Regulation.

Preferential trade between the European Union, Turkey and certain European countries

The Council adopted a Common position on the Decision of the EC-Turkey Customs Cooperation Council on procedures to facilitate the issue of movement certificates EUR 1 and the making of invoice declarations under the provisions governing preferential trade between the European Union, Turkey and certain European countries.

Common Customs Tariff

The Council adopted two Regulation amending Annex I to Council Regulation (EEC) nº 2658/87 on the

    - tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff (Chapter 27),

    - tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff (drilling platforms).

APPOINTMENT

Committee of the Regions

The Council adopted a Decision appointing Mr Werner BALLHAUSEN a member of the Committee of the Regions in place of Mr Rembert BEHRENDT for the remainder of his term of office, which runs until 25 January 2002.

DECISION ADOPTED BY WRITTEN PROCEDURE

Libya Suspension of sanctions

The Council adopted on 16 April 1999, by written procedure, a Common Position providing for the suspension of the sanctions imposed against Libya in 1992 and 1993 in implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 748(1992) and 883(1993).

Further to the adoption of this Common Position, the Council adopted on 20 April 1999 equally by written procedure, a Regulation suspending the application of Regulation (EC) No 3274/93 preventing the supply of certain goods and services to Libya.

These decisions are taken in accordance with UNSC resolution 1192(1998) which made the suspension of the sanctions conditional upon the UN Secretary General being able to report that the two persons charged with the bombing of PanAm flight 103 have arrived in the Netherlands for the purpose of trial as well as on the cooperation of the Libyan government with the French judicial authorities with regards to the bombing of flight UTA 772. On 5 April 1999 the UN Secretary General reported that this condition had now been fulfilled.

The Common Position will be reviewed in the light of the further report on Libya's compliance with the remaining provisions of the UNSC resolutions, that the UN Secretary General is to deliver within 90 days, with a view to the lifting of the suspended measures.

In the meantime the EU considers it appropriate to continue implementing the measures decided by the EU Member States in 1986 against Libya for its support of terrorism (embargo on the export of arms, restrictions on the freedom of movement of diplomatic and consular personnel, reduction of the staff of diplomatic and consular missions and stricter visa requirements and procedures), though the Netherlands will benefit from an exemption for the purpose of facilitating the holding of the "Lockerbie trial".


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