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EU Competitiveness Council

Volume 572: debated on Thursday 12 December 2013

The EU Competitiveness Council took place in Brussels on 2 and 3 December 2013. The UK was represented by Shan Morgan, Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU. A summary of those discussions follows.

The main internal market and industry issues discussed on 2 December were on: electronic invoicing in public procurement; the directive for rules governing actions for damages under national law for infringements of competition law; the European trade mark system. There was also a policy discussion on the European semester and industrial strategy in the context of the February European Council; conclusions were adopted on single market policy, industrial policy and better regulation policy; and, outside the chamber, there was a lunchtime discussion about defence industries.

Council began with a discussion about electronic invoicing in public procurement. There was broad support for the compromise text presented by the presidency and all member states agreed to the general approach.

This was followed by a discussion regarding the directive for rules governing actions for damages under national law for infringements of competition law. In its presentation, the Commission emphasised the importance of this instrument, arguing that it provided a framework for complementing public enforcement of competition law while also providing a practical instrument to give effect to the right to compensation while protecting the leniency regimes on which the ability to break cartels depend. There was a full round-table discussion, with member states agreeing to the objective of the directive and the proposed general approach.

The next substantive discussion was a policy debate on the conclusions on better regulation, industrial policy and internal market policy. The internal market conclusions were adopted without discussion. Some concerns were expressed that the industrial policy conclusions did not sufficiently reflect the lack of alternative energy supplies in some EU countries. Following a minor amendment the conclusions were adopted. The conclusions on smart regulation were adopted following the removal of a reference to the work done by the high-level group on better regulation.

Member states then discussed the key messages that should be inputted into the February European Council discussion on industrial policy. A number of broad themes emerged including: the need to focus on securing prosperity by focusing on smart regulation, removing barriers to trade within the single market and removing barriers to trade with third countries; the cost of energy for industry; the digital single market; and access to finance for SMEs.

The final substantive item was on the European trade marks system. Council noted the importance of getting the trade marks package agreed.

Five AOB points were also on the agenda: the general block exemption regulation; the consumer product safety and market surveillance package; the collective rights management directive; the European patent and patent court; and the work programme of the upcoming Greek presidency.

Space and research issues were covered on 3 December. A general approach was reached on the Copernicus (previously known as GMES—global monitoring for environment and security) programme, with several member states including the UK intervening to support the role of the European Space Agency (ESA) as contracting authority. Discussion ensued on a Commission proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a space surveillance and tracking (SST) support programme. After noting issues raised by the Council legal service, the presidency concluded that the file required further discussion at technical level.

The Council subsequently reached a general approach on proposals for four decisions of the European Parliament and of the Council in respect of public-public partnerships with member states under article 185 TFEU in the following fields: metrology, research performing SMEs (“Eurostars 2”), European and developing countries clinical trials partnership programme (EDCTP) and active and assisted living (AAL) research and development programme.

The Council also reached a general approach on five Council regulations regarding public-private partnerships called joint technology initiatives (JTIs) established as joint undertakings under article 187 TFEU in the following areas: bio-based industries. clean sky 2, ECSEL (electronics), fuel cells and hydrogen 2 and innovative medicines initiative 2.

The Council reached unanimous political agreement on a proposal for a Council decision amending decision 2007/198/Euratom establishing the European joint undertaking for the global nuclear fusion project ITER. This text provides the basis for the financing of the activities of Fusion for Energy—the European procurement agency for ITER—and will enable Euratom to make its contribution to the ITER organisation for the construction of ITER and other ITER-related activities for the period 2014-2020. In addition the Commission reported back on the most recent ITER council and highlighted that significant work was underway to reduce the delays where possible in the construction of the new nuclear fusion reactor.

A wide-ranging debate took place on the topic of public sector innovation, on the basis of an expert group report. In its intervention, the UK noted the importance the Government attached to the digital delivery of public services as well as to modernisation of internal administrative processes. There was scope for mutual learning and networking between member states . At EU level we should seek to build on existing initiatives and prioritise carefully those actions which have the potential to add most value.

Finally, the Council adopted as A points the Horizon 2020 legislative package—with the exception of the Euratom file—which will permit the timely launch of the Horizon 2020 programme.