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EU Competitiveness Council

Volume 510: debated on Wednesday 2 June 2010

The EU Competitiveness Council took place in Brussels on 25 and 26 May 2010. The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, my right hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Vince Cable) represented the UK on EU internal market and industry issues on 25 May and the Minister for Universities and Science, my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr Willetts) represented the UK on EU research issues on 26 May. Andy Lebrecht, the UK’s deputy permanent representative to the EU represented the UK when a Minister was not in attendance. A summary of those discussions follows.

The main Internal Market/Industry Council items discussed on 25 May were harmonisation of the marketing of construction products, energy-efficient vehicles, future revision of the trade mark system in the EU, the services directive, EU consumer rights, and the Mario Monti report on the EU single market.

The Council reached political agreement with UK support on a common position for a regulation on the marketing of construction products. Council conclusions were agreed on an EU strategy for clean and energy-efficient vehicles. In discussion the UK supported the strategy but stressed the need for a technology-neutral approach, which was also supported by several other member states.

The Council approved conclusions on the future of the trade mark system in Europe and the Commission confirmed their commitment to the harmonisation of EU trade marks systems and the enforcement of intellectual property rights. The Commission and the Spanish EU presidency gave an update on the implementation of the services directive, stressing the added value that full implementation would bring to the EU.

There was a ministerial lunchtime discussion on the recent Mario Monti report on the future strategy for the EU single market. The Council also debated the proposed EU consumer rights directive which seeks to harmonise consumer law to make cross-border trade easier. The UK stressed the importance of full harmonisation where this would be beneficial, while allowing member states to determine the right level of consumer protection and consumer rights.

The any other business items discussed covered a draft regulation on textile labelling, the Commission’s EU digital agenda document, the latest EU consumer markets scoreboard and a legal framework for gambling and betting in the EU. There were also Commission reports on a recent European shipbuilding conference and on an informal EU Ministers meeting on tourism.

The main Research Council items discussed on 26 May were the Commission’s Europe 2020 strategy, ITER (the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), the Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security (GMES) European earth observation programme, the Baltic sea research and development programme (BONUS) and the European research area.

On Europe 2020, the proposed EU-wide 3% GDP target for investment in research and development was debated by Ministers. The UK stressed the importance of research and innovation and said it was considering its national target. A number of member states said they wished to keep their national targets under review.

The Council discussed the status and long-term funding of ITER. The UK and a number of other member states recognised the scientific importance of ITER but stressed the need for careful negotiation on funding to avoid placing undue cost burdens on member states.

The Council also agreed conclusions on innovation which will contribute to the Commission’s research and innovation plan. The presidency gave an update on progress on reaching agreements with the European Parliament on GMES and on BONUS. The Council also agreed conclusions on the European research area on the formation of a new more strategic committee.

The any other business items discussed covered updates on the Citizens agenda of Science and Innovation, the European Institute of Technology, European Co-operation in Science and Technology (COST) and the Strategic Forum for International Scientific and Technical Co-operation.