Brussels, 18 May 2004
Talks on the first day of the EU's Competitiveness Council on 17 May focused on how to increase Europe's competitiveness and innovation.
The Council called on the Commission and the Member States to put in place policies and measures, possibly including public-private partnerships, to encourage innovation and stimulate private investment in research. Ministers also discussed initiatives to strengthen excellence in public research, increase the supply of skilled human resources, and enable enterprises to network with universities.
Ministers noted the Commission's view that there is no evidence, at this stage, that deindustrialisation has been taking place within the EU, but emphasised that complacency should be avoided. Insufficient innovation and investment in research and development (R&D), along with weak productivity growth, 'if sustained, could severely undermine the competitiveness of industry with serious consequences for the EU,' state the Council's provisional conclusions.
Ministers agreed that actions which boost competitiveness, innovation, entrepreneurship, research and the creation of small firms are now 'imperative'. But in order to ensure success in each of these fields, and to achieve the Lisbon objectives of sustainable growth, the Member State representatives agreed that they must adopt an integrated policy approach.
Life sciences and biotechnology were identified at the Council as being 'important for the development of a knowledge-based economy and as key enabling technologies for future industrial development and innovation.' Ministers highlighted a number of priority areas, attention to which is needed in order to ensure implementation of the EU Life Sciences and Biotechnology Strategy: strengthened collaboration between Member States and the Commission; effective governance; continuous dialogue between all stakeholders; and commitment to the EU strategy.
The Council also discussed 'better regulation' and the REACH proposal on a new EU chemical regulatory framework. The Council invited the UK to initiate a debate, as soon as possible, on its alternative to the Commission proposal - a 'one substance - one registration' system.
The Competitiveness Council will continue discussions on REACH following consideration of the proposals by the Environment Council in June.
To access the provisional conclusions, please consult the following web address: