Preparation of the Competitiveness Council of Ministers, Brussels, 29/30 May 2006 (full report)

May 25, 2006

Brussels, 24 May 2006

The EU Competitiveness Council will meet in Brussels on Monday 29 and Tuesday 30 March at 9.30 under the chairmanship of Austrian Federal Minister for Economics and Labour Mr Bartenstein and Austrian Research Minister, Mrs Elisabeth Gehrer. The European Commission will be represented by Vice President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry, Charlie McCreevy, Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Science and Research and Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection .

Monday 29th May

Review of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy

In December 2005 Commission presented its review of EU sustainable development strategy and a new platform for action on the strategy. ( IP/05/1582 ) The Commission’s review called on all governments, businesses, NGOs and citizens to come up with new and better ways to move towards a more sustainable way of life and seize the opportunities available. The review aims at furthering developing the strategy rather than replacing it.

The Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS):

&ndash provides a platform for action for business leaders, regional and local authorities, NGOs, academia and citizens’ organisations – who, together, can make change happen;

&ndash identifies key issues such as climate change and energy efficiency where action needs to be speeded up;

&ndash makes links between how EU polices affect sustainability in third countries and vice-versa;

&ndash is a starting point for ensuring that the EU institutions and Member States work in an effective partnership to achieve change, measuring progress and regularly reviewing priorities.

Ministers will hold a policy debate on the review of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy based on a questionnaire from the Presidency.

Proposal for a Directive on Services in the Internal Market

Ministers will continue their discussions on the modified proposal for a Directive on Services with a view to reaching political agreement.

Better Regulation

The regulatory framework in which businesses operate is a key factor of their competitiveness, growth and employment performance. The Commission came forward in April 2005 with a Better Regulation package which is a centrepiece of the “Partnership for Growth and Jobs” - the renewed 'Lisbon Strategy'. It is essential to setting up the right conditions for growth and employment in Europe. The better regulation package is designed to cut-red tape, tackle excessive regulation and help to strike the right balance between the costs and benefits of legislation. To make sure that regulation is used only when necessary and that the burdens they impose are proportionate to their aim, the Commission has a number of processes and tools in place:

1. Withdrawal or modification of pending legislative proposals

2. Measures to simplify existing legislation

3. Better quality of new Commission proposals: systematic use of impact assessment and public consultation in the development of new policy proposals

The Council will have an exchange of views on the progress to date on the Better regulation agenda.

Modified proposal for a Directive on credit agreements for consumers

Ministers will have a policy debate on a modified proposal for a Directive on credit agreements for consumers, which takes into account the amendments of the European Parliament and the views of stakeholders. The debate is expected to centre on the full harmonisation approach and on mutual recognition in certain areas where some flexibility is left to Member States.

A points: Industrial Policy

In October 2005, the Commission launched a proposal for a new industrial policy: to create the conditions for manufacturing to thrive. It contains an analysis of several EU manufacturing sectors and an outlook for future activities for EU industrial policy. The new EU industrial policy will complement work at Member State level to support a strong and dynamic industrial base. It includes seven new cross-sectoral initiatives – on competitiveness, energy and the environment, on intellectual property rights, on better regulation, on industrial research and innovation, on market access, on skills, and on managing structural change - which will benefit a wide range of industry sectors. In addition, there are seven new initiatives targeted at specific sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, defence and information and communication technologies. There is a focus on investment in skills and equipping people for change. This industrial policy aims to support adaptability and structural change to boost the competitiveness of EU manufacturing, especially in the light of increasingly strong competition from China and Asia. This is an important step in the delivery of the new Lisbon “Partnership for Growth and Jobs” The Council is expected to adopt as an A point at this meeting.

Tuesday 30th May

Research Policy

The Council is expected to adopt a General Approach on the FP7, i.e. on the budget and the content of the programme.

This General Approach will take into account the revised budgetary figures, adopted by the Commission on 24 May. The revised budgetary figures received overwhelming support at the informal Competitiveness Council on 21 April.

The General Approach should follow very closely the Partial General Approach (PGA) that the Council reached on 28 November 2005. In the PGA, the initial Commission proposal of April 2005 ( MEMO/05/114 ) received a very large degree of support.

Other issues under discussion at this Council include: Joint Technology Initiatives, Art 169 initiatives, energy research and funding of activities currently undertaken by INTAS.

Instead the Presidency will give a progress report on the Specific Programmes ( IP/05/1171 ).

The Presidency also intends to reach a General Approach on the Rules of Participation.

Over lunch, the President of the Scientific Council of the ERC will speak on the funding of young researchers.

The Commission will present the Communication on Universities, adopted on 10 May.

Finally the Commission will make an oral report on the progress on the ITER fusion energy project ( IP/06/676 and MEMO/06/216 ).

European Space Policy

With the increase in environmental monitoring, navigation systems, weather forecasting, toll collection, early flood warnings. - the role that space plays in our daily lives is increasing. Taking the full economic impact of space applications into account, the European Commission outlined the first elements for a European Space Policy, in May 2005. The communication identified the roles and responsibilities in space policy of the EU, Member States, the European Space Agency (ESA) and other stakeholders and the relevant funding sources and instruments. It also specified priorities, funding principles and an approach to developing a broad industry policy for Europe as a whole. The Commission will inform Ministers of progress to date.

Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security

In February 2004, the European Commission adopted an action plan, (2004-2008) on Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security. The plan outlines steps towards the establishment of a system that will harness, co-ordinate and enhance existing Earth observation and monitoring information from satellites and Earth-based sensors, in order to support better decision-making for the environment and security. The aim of the initiative is to provide independent, cost-effective, and user-friendly services that can help to anticipate or address crises such as forest fires or floods, and lead to better management of issues ranging from the protection of the environment to combating illegal immigration.

GMES is the second space flagship for the EU after Galileo and will have an important place in the 7th Frame work programme for research. A conference “A Market for GMES in Europe and its Regions“ was organised by the Austrian Presidency, and took place in Graz on 19 and 20 April. The Presidency will report back to Ministers on the April conference.

Any other business

a) Competitiveness clusters to promote industrial growth and to strengthen regions in Europe – information from the Commission

b) Conference on “REACH at the Second Reading “ Vienna 30-31 March – Information from the Presidency

c) Conferences related to consumer protection held during the Austrian President – information from the Presidency

d) Proposal for a Programme of action in the field of Health and Consumer Protection 2007-2013 – Progress Report

e) Information on EU import Duties on Primary Aluminium

f) Commission interpretative communication on “Community law applicable to contract awards not or only partially covered by the Public Procurement Directives” – Information from German, French and Austrian delegations

g) Commission Communication on a new Tourism Policy

The Communication on ‘A renewed EU Tourism Policy: Towards a stronger partnership for European Tourism’ was adopted by the Commission on 17 March 2006. It presents a global policy approach covering all issues related to tourism; it outlines the Commission’s future initiatives on the principal aspects of European policy making and the ways partnerships amongst concerned stakeholders should evolve. It also aims to increase the awareness of the economic, social and environmental importance of this industry.

Enhancing the competitiveness of the EU tourism industry plays an important role for the attainment of the Growth and Jobs Strategy goals. In this context, it will be crucial for the tourism sector to successfully address a number of challenges, including population ageing, growing external competition, sustainability concerns and evolving demand patterns for specific forms of tourism. A renewed EU tourism policy, building on past achievements and setting clear goals and priorities is necessary in order to help the European tourism industry to face the challenges and thus create more and better jobs through the sustainable growth of tourism in Europe and globally. Vice President Verheugen will present the renewed EU Tourism Policy to Ministers.

h) Tourism Ministers Conference Vienna 20-21 March- Information from the Presidency

i) Delivering on the modernisation agenda of universities: Education, Research and Innovation – Information from the Commission

j) ITER – Information from the Commission

Item source: MEMO/06/215 Date: 24/05/2006

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