Brussels, 30 November 2005
The third meeting of the Space Council – a joint and concomitant meeting of the ESA Council at ministerial level and of the European Union Competitiveness Council – was held in Brussels on Monday, 28 November. Vice-President Verheugen underlined the importance of Europe speaking with one voice to international partners. Ministers stressed the strategic importance of the initiative for Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES). The objective of GMES is to provide Europe, on a sustained basis, with reliable and timely information related to environmental and security issues in support of public policy makers’ needs. Vice-President Verheugen underlined that GMES would have to be based on existing institutional and hard-ware capacities. Ministers recalled the importance of maintaining a European autonomous Earth Observation capacity supporting political decision making as well as the importance of the international dimension of GMES and its status as the main European contribution to the worldwide Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).
New industrial policy
The Council discussed the Commission’s proposal for a new, modern industrial policy. Mr. Verheugen stressed that the importance of the issue and the need to improve industry’s framework conditions in Europe were clearly understood and broadly supported. The Commission proposed horizontal or cross-sectoral initiatives. They address three major areas: The need to strike a balance between competitiveness, environment, energy and competition policies and instruments. To better deal with this, we proposed setting up a High Level Group on Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment. Knowledge-society is the second area: We must improve our research and innovation systems, accompany and foster structural change, protect intellectual property rights more effectively, both in Europe and world-wide, and, last not least, improve the qualification of our work force. A third issue concerns access to markets and more particularly the question how we can improve access to markets for European companies. Besides, the Commission proposed individual initiatives to improve our understanding of specific problems in some specific industries such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, defence, space, ICT and mechanical engineering. The Council welcomed the Commission proposal.
Better regulation – simplification
The Council adopted conclusions which represent the Council response to the various initiatives tabled by the Commission since its March Communication 2005 on “Better Regulation for Growth and Jobs”. The Council welcomed these various initiatives and invites the Commission to pursue its efforts in order for the initiatives to lead to tangible actions, contributing to the achievement of the Lisbon objectives. The Council also committed itself to assume its share of the effort. Commissioner Verheugen stressed that better regulation was not about deregulation, but better regulation. He added that the objective was to give EU citizens and enterprises, especially the small ones, a legal framework of the highest possible quality.
The Council held a political debate on REACH, following the vote in the European Parliament. The Presidency noted that there was a clear will from all parties to reach political agreement at the Competitiveness Council on 13 December. The Council identified the outstanding issues on authorisation and on the scope of REACH. Commissioners Verheugen and Dimas welcomed the good progress made in the EP and the Council. They underlined that the Commission continue to contribute constructively to find a balanced compromise.
New competitiveness and innovation programme
The Council held a debate on the new competitiveness and innovation programme (CIP) the Commission proposed in April 2005. CIP aims to foster innovation, especially in SMEs. Mr. Verheugen said that the complementarity between FP7 and CIP was that CIP would create the conditions that enable innovation, whereas FP7 would support research in particular areas. The added value of CIP in relation to FP7 is in its concentration on innovation and its understanding that innovation is a process that is close to the market and therefore undertaken by enterprises”, he stressed.
Progress report on Partnership for Growth and Jobs
Vice-President Verheugen gave Ministers and update on the partnership for Growth and Jobs. So far, the Commission has received the growth and jobs national reform programmes (NRPs) from all EU Member States except Poland and Germany, where new governments have just taken office. The Commission has already started to assess the programmes and will table a report in January 2006, which will subsequently go to the March European Council. “The new process is off to a very good start. The cooperation between Member States and the Commission is excellent and the new approach has strengthened the ownership of Member States.”, Vice-President Verheugen said (see also IP/05/1491 ).