Preparation of the Informal Competitiveness Council of Ministers, Graz, 21/22 April 2006

April 21, 2006

Brussels, 20 April 2006

The EU Competitiveness Council will meet in Graz on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 April under the chairmanship of Vice Chancellor and Minister Hubert Gorbach, Austrian Federal Minister for Economics and Labour Mr Bartenstein, Austrian Research Minister, Mrs Elisabeth Gehrer. The European Commission will be represented by Vice President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry, Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Science and Research, Neelie Kroes, Commissioner for Competition Policy, and Charlie McCreevy, Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services.

Friday 21 April


In the morning Ministers will have an exchange of views on security research and Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security, (GMES) and Space Policy. Security research is a sensitive subject and is an area where there is fragmentation in Europe both on the supply and user sides. Vice President Verheugen will flag the relevance of this area for meeting the Lisbon objectives. He will also point to the need for a comprehensive approach which includes community building, cooperation and co-ordination.

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. The Ministers discussion on GMES follows on the conference “A Market for GMES in Europe and its Regions“organised by the Austrian Presidency, which took place in Graz on 19 and 20 April. 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.

Ministers will then have a thorough exchange of views on the revised budget for the 7th Research framework programme further to the agreement on the Financial Perspectives.

The discussion will be based on the Presidency Questionnaire which will focus on three issues: the overall assessment of the budget as agreed at the Trilogue on the financial perspectives; the breakdown of the revised budget between the specific programmes; the breakdown between the thematic priorities of the “Cooperation” specific programme.

Commission hopes to get a broad support for the revised budget.

Economic Segment – “The Opportunity of Globalisation”

In the afternoon of Friday 21 April Ministers will focus their discussions on innovation, state aid and risk capital. Vice President Verheugen will speak to Ministers about “Competitiveness and innovation – the European approach”. The Vice President will present his views on an effective cluster policy, which needs a European dimension to achieve “critical mass” and attract sufficient investment. Commissioner Kroes will make a presentation on less and better-targeted state aid for growth and jobs, in the context of which she will focus in particular on the future rules on research, development, innovation and risk capital, first drafts of which have been sent to Member States experts today.

Saturday 22 April

Services in the Internal Market

On Saturday morning Ministers will turn their attention to the question of services in the internal market. This discussion follows on from the conclusions of the Spring European Council and the call on Member States to swiftly conclude the legislative process on the Services Directive. Commissioner Charlie McCreevy will take part in this informal exchange of views with Ministers.

Item source: MEMO/06/165 Date: 20/04/2006

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