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EU Competitiveness Council

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 4 March 2008

This statement provides a summary of the proceedings of the Competitiveness Council meeting held in Brussels on 25 February 2008.

The Council held an exchange of views on the Lisbon reform package and adopted its key issues paper “Turning Challenges into Opportunities”, with a view to forwarding it to the spring European Council (SEC) in March 2008.

Areas of particular focus were the role of the Competitiveness Council in complementing the national reform programmes by meeting the Community level objectives laid down in the Community Lisbon programme, the broad-based innovation strategy and the improvement of the business environment for SMEs through measures like the small business act initiative, better regulation, simplification and the reduction of administrative burdens.

The UK intervened to support the Council’s view that the integrated guidelines for 2008-10 were still valid and to support an evidence-based approach to the Community level objectives. We acknowledged the central role of the Competitiveness Council in pushing forward the Lisbon agenda but stressed the importance of empowering it to examine the impact of all major EU policies on competitiveness—for example, the climate change and energy package and the need to continue to open markets within the EU and beyond. On innovation, the UK pressed for the involvement of member states in the “lead markets” initiative. Finally, we welcomed Vice-President Verheugen’s statement that the Small Business Act (SBA) initiative should be a combination of measures, not solely legislative, and emphasised the importance of better regulation, common commencement dates, longer consultation periods and exemptions for SMEs.

The Council adopted conclusions on the single market review to be forwarded to the SEC in March 2008. Commissioner McCreevy welcomed the positive endorsement and said the follow-up would focus mainly on improving the policy framework, better regulation, policy tools, market monitoring and partnership working, but also on some policy initiatives like the Small Business Act.

Any other business included a presentation by the Commission of its proposal to reduce the emissions of CO2 from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles which will be discussed at the Environment Council meeting in March 2008. The UK intervened to welcome the proposals but also to highlight its concern about their impact on small and medium sized independent manufacturers and to support calls for further discussion at the Competitiveness Council in May 2008.

Under AOB items, the Council also took note of presentations from the Commission on the defence package, the goods package, the consumer and internal market scoreboards, the European clusters conference and memorandum, a strategic report on better regulation, and the climate energy legislative package.