The EU Competitiveness Council will meet in Brussels on Wednesday, 30 and Thursday, 31 May chaired by Mr Ole Sohn, Danish Minister for Business and Growth and Mr Morten Østergaard, Danish Minister for Science, Innovation and Higher Education. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Joaquín Almunia responsible for Competition, Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Commissioner Michel Barnier, responsible for the Internal Market and Services, Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, responsible for Research and Innovation and Commissioner John Dalli, responsible for Health and Consumer Policy.
Wednesday, 30 May
Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME)
Ministers will be invited to adopt parts of a general approach on the Proposal establishing a Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME).
As one of its programme proposals for the next multi-annual financial framework, the Commission adopted the proposal for the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) on 30 November 2011. In times of economic crises, the programme will be an important contribution to achieve the goals of Europe 2020, in particular the creation of growth and jobs. The focus of the programme is on improving the access to finance and to markets for European enterprises, in particular SMEs. It will also promote entrepreneurship and better framework conditions to support the creation of enterprises and jobs.
Vice-President Tajani will provide his views on the draft proposal presented by the Danish Presidency and invite the ministers to express their views. It is expected that the Council will reach a general approach on the file leaving the question of budget and some other horizontal issues open.
More information: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/cosme
State Aid Reform
Vice President Joaquín Almunia will present to the Council the Commission's communication on State Aid Modernisation.
On 8 May 2012, the European Commission adopted a Communication on State Aid Modernisation (IP/12/458). The Communication launches a broad, far-reaching and strategic reform process designed to help Europe’s governments foster economic growth. The Communication on State Aid Modernisation (SAM) is a first step to realigning State aid policy in order to make the best use of scarce public resources. In this respect, it identifies three main objectives. First, state aid control shall support sustainable growth and contribute to improving the quality of public spending by discouraging aid that does not bring real added-value and distorts competition. Second, state aid enforcement shall focus more on cases with the biggest impact on the internal market. Third, procedures will be streamlined to deliver faster decisions.
The main elements of the reform shall enter into force by the end of 2013.
Revision of the European rules on public procurement: proposals for Directives on Public Procurement and Concessions
As part of the Single Market Act (IP/11/469) tabled on 13 April 2011, the European Commission presented on 20 December 2011 its legislative proposals (IP/11/1580) on public procurement and concessions. The objective of the proposals is to put in place more flexible and simpler instruments for the conclusion of public contracts and to ensure the optimal use of funds in order to foster growth and job creation, thereby contributing to achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. The efficiency of public tendering has become a priority for all Member States in view of the current budgetary constraints.
After having discussed, at its last meeting on 20 February 2012, the conditions of access to the competitive procedure with negotiation whereby contracting authorities can negotiate with the tenderers to improve the quality of the offers and the services which should benefit from a lighter regime under the new rules, the Competitiveness Council will now have an orientation debate on two other important issues: the deadline and conditions for the full transition to electronic communication for public procurement, and the governance measures required for public procurement (see MEMO/11/931).
The directive on concessions establishes a framework ensuring the necessary legal certainty for public authorities and guarantees effective access to the concessions market for all European economic operators.
The Council will take note of the progress made with regard to the discussions on the proposal on concessions.
Professional qualifications (Directive 2005/36/EC)
On 19 December 2011, the European Commission tabled a proposal (IP/11/1562) aimed at simplifying rules for the mobility of professionals within the EU, notably through the introduction of a European Professional Card which would allow easier and faster recognition of qualifications. The proposal invited Member States to bring more transparency to their regulated professions and to evaluate the need for regulation.
The Professional Qualifications Directive is essential to enabling professionals to start a new business or to find a job in another Member State requiring a specific qualification. The modernisation of the Directive was one of the twelve levers for growth set out in the Single Market Act (IP/11/469).
The Competitiveness Council will have a first orientation debate on two important issues: the European professional card and the transparency and mutual evaluation of regulated professions.
Unified Patent Court
As part of the Single Market Act (IP/11/469) tabled on 13 April 2011, the European Commission presented two legislative proposals (IP/11/470) under the enhanced cooperation procedure to reduce the post-grant costs of patents in Europe by up to 80%. Once in place, they will allow any company or individual to protect their inventions through a single European patent which would be valid in 25 Member States. Another major element of the reform of the patent system is the creation of a Unified Patent Court. The Unified Patent Court would be a specialised jurisdiction for all patent litigation. It would be created through an international agreement of the Member States.
At the Competitiveness Council in December 2011, the Polish Presidency presented a compromise package on the remaining outstanding issues. An overall compromise however could not be achieved as governments remained split on the location of the seat of the central division of the Court. The Informal European Council of 30 January and the European Council of 1-2 March agreed to find a solution on the last remaining issue by June 2012.
Commissioner Barnier calls on the heads of governments to reach an overall political agreement as soon as possible so that new sources of growth for the European economy can be delivered through substantially reducing the costs and complexity of the European patent system.
More information: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/indprop/patent/index_en.htm
Internal market governance
On 27 February 2012, the European Commission presented its first report on governance (IP/12/187) which set out what is being done and what still needs to be done to make the Single Market fully operational. This included infringement procedures for non-compliance with rules but went much further by presenting practical tools that can make a real difference.
The Competitiveness Council will adopt conclusions on the governance of the Single Market. On this occasion, Commissioner Barnier will stress that the Single Market is a key driver of economic growth, and that efforts to make it work better in practice will boost growth and job creation. Member States, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission must step up efforts to ensure that Single Market rules are effectively applied and work in practice, so as to translate Single Market opportunities into real benefits for citizens and businesses.
The Commission will make proposals to this effect in a Communication on 8 June, as requested in the Statement of the Informal European Council of 30 January 2012.
Alternative Dispute Resolution and On-line Dispute Resolution
The Council is expected to achieve a general approach on the proposed Directive on Alternative Dispute Resolution and Regulation on On-line Dispute Resolution for consumer disputes (ADR-ODR package). The ADR-ODR legislative package is a priority initiative of the Single Market Act and of the Digital Agenda for Europe. It is therefore included among the EU-level proposals with growth potential presented in the 2012 Annual Growth Survey.
Commissioner John DALLI in his intervention will highlight that the General Approach brings an important added value both in terms of potential for growth and consumer protection and constitute a very good basis for further discussions with the EP. The Commission will continue to deploy all efforts towards a constructive negotiation between the co-legislators aimed at ensuring a swift agreement on these strategic proposals for the functioning of the Single Market.
More information: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/redress_cons/adr_en.htm
Thursday, 31 May
Ministers are expected to reach a so-called Partial General Approach (a preliminary agreement pending European Parliament first reading) on the Regulation establishing Horizon 2020, the European Commission proposal for funding science, research and innovation after 2014. While the Commission will maintain a reserve pending the opinion of Parliament and progress on the Multiannual Financial Framework, achievement of a Partial General Approach will show that the Commission proposal of November 30, 2011, got things right in terms of vision, goals and contents towards fulfilling the Europe 2020 priorities of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The broad endorsement of the Commission's proposals should be confirmed by a progress report covering the three other legislative proposals linked to Horizon 2020, namely the Rules for Participation and Dissemination, the Specific Programme and the Euratom programme.
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will emphasise that the Rules for Participation play a central role in our effort to make access to funding simpler for participants, for example through a single funding rate per project and a flat rate of 20% for indirect costs.
Innovation Union: http://ec.europa.eu/innovation-union
Europe 2020: http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020
Council conclusions on European Innovation Partnerships
The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on European Innovation Partnerships (EIPs). European Innovation Partnerships were introduced under the Innovation Union in order to accelerate the development and uptake of innovations addressing key societal challenges. At the end of February 2012 the Commission issued a package of EIP Communications. It endorsed the pilot EIP on 'Active and Healthy Ageing' and put forward proposals for new EIPs on 'Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability' and on 'Raw Materials'. In May it added a proposal for an EIP on 'Water'.
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will underline that after the start of the pilot and the proposals for three new EIPs, it is time to emphasise practical implementation, the involvement of stakeholders and the timely delivery of results.
European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)
As of 2014 the Commission proposes to bring the EIT under Horizon 2020, while maintaining the flexibility and autonomy that the Institute needs to foster innovation. The EIT will therefore be part of the partial general approach the Council is expected to reach on the Horizon 2020 regulation.
Moreover, the Competitiveness Council will adopt a progress report on the state of play of the negotiations on the EIT's Strategic Innovation Agenda (SIA) and amended EIT regulation, which were presented to Council by Commissioner Vassiliou earlier this year. During lunch, the Competitiveness Council will also have an informal exchange of views on the EIT.
A main focus for the EIT in 2014-2020 is the launching of new Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs). The Commission proposed the establishment of six new KICs in areas of high societal relevance, namely healthy living and active ageing; food for the future; raw materials; added value manufacturing; smart secure societies and urban mobility.
More information: http://eit.europa.eu/
Roaming regulation (A point)
Final adoption by the Council of Ministers of the new Roaming Regulation is on the agenda. Political agreement was reached on 28 March (see MEMO/12/227). Under the new Regulation, from 1 July 2012, customers will receive alerts when using their smart devices outside of the EU (alerts when approaching €50 of data downloads or pre-agreed level), will benefit from data roaming prices caps of €0.70 per megabyte (excluding VAT), and from lower call and SMS prices. From July 2014, customers will be able to shop around and sign up for a separate mobile roaming contract that best suits them. 0r, if they prefer, they can pick one when they arrive at their destination, like selecting a WiFi provider. Meanwhile, decreasing retail price caps will keep the cost of roaming down. By 2014 the maximum cost of downloading data will be 20 cents a Megabyte (excluding VAT), charged by Kilobyte used. By 2014, sending a text message will cost no more than 6 cents, plus VAT. These new caps are a safety net for the consumer while also leaving room for competition to develop. In the longer term, competition will deliver cheaper prices, significantly below the safeguard caps.