Monday 13 June 2016
Business, Innovation and Skills
My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills (Baroness Neville-Rolfe) has today made the following statement.
The Competitiveness Council took place in Brussels on 26-27 May. Under-Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, represented the UK during the internal market and industry discussions on day one, with Shan Morgan (UK Deputy Permanent Representative) representing the UK in the research discussion on day two.
The presidency presented on the recent Quantum Technology conference in Amsterdam. This was followed by a presentation by Luxembourg on high performance computing. There was no debate.
The next item dealt with the Commission’s online content portability proposal. I have previously made you aware of the UK’s interest in the speedy implementation of this package. The proposal means citizens will be able to watch films, sport and other subscription services while on holiday or working temporarily in another member state. Following interventions by a number of member states, the Council agreed a general approach to the regulation. The proposal will now pass to the European Parliament who will agree its position in the coming months which could mean implementation of the proposal by the end of 2017.
At the regular competitiveness check-up the Commission gave a presentation that highlighted the issue of EU productivity. The UK welcomed the presentation and highlighted the link between services and productivity; I spoke about the significant amount of evidence which shows how important services are to economic growth.
The following item was a policy debate on the better regulation conclusions. I spoke for the UK in support of the conclusions, which build on the Commission’s better regulation package released last year. I also welcomed the Commission’s commitment to reduce burdens on business through the introduction of targets.
There was a presentation by Slovakia as the incoming presidency of the Council of the EU. This was followed by a readout of the recent Friends of Industry conference in Warsaw. The final any other business item was on the principle of country of origin marking.
The final item on the agenda was a discussion on proposed revisions to the posting of workers directive. There was a divergence of views between member states. The explanatory memorandum for this proposal was submitted on 24 March.
The research day of the Competitiveness Council took place on the morning of Friday 27 May.
The plenary opened with a discussion on Framework Programme 7 (FP7, which ran from 2007-13) and the future outlook for research and innovation. Council Conclusions on this topic were approved, noting that the recent evaluation of FP7 will be an important input to next year’s interim evaluation of the successor Horizon 2020 programme.
The meeting also approved Council conclusions on research and innovation friendly regulation, following a short discussion on the subject.
The presidency then opened a debate on open science, noting that the Council conclusions called for a transition to open access to publications in Europe by 2020.
There was general agreement that the benefits of open access were achievable, though a number of member states highlighted concerns on practical issues such as remuneration systems for scientists publishing in open access journals. Following the discussion, the Council approved the draft conclusions. There followed a presentation from Professor John Womersley (Chief Executive of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council, and Chair of ESFRI, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures). Professor Womersley briefed the Council on ESFRI’s work to develop an updated set of priorities for European research infrastructure.
Commissioner Carlos Moedas followed this with a brief summary of the responses that had been received to the public consultation on his proposal for a European Innovation Council.
Finally the incoming Slovakian presidency outlined its priorities on research, which included "support for young researchers", "implementation of widening participation under Horizon 2020" and "improving the framework conditions for researchers in the EU".
Energy and Climate Change
Energy Council (6 June 2016)
Today, my noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change made the following statement.
I am writing to report on discussions at the Energy Council held in Luxembourg on 6 June.
The Council, chaired by the Dutch presidency, featured discussions around a central theme of energy security.
The meeting began with the Council approving a general approach on the proposed decision with regard to intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) in the field of energy.
For the second agenda item European Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete opened a policy debate on gas security of supply by calling for improvements to regional co-operation, solidarity and the transparency of commercial gas contracts. This was in order to address vulnerabilities that still exist in the case of major disruptions to gas supplies. Interventions from member states were mixed; some supported the Commission’s approach whereas others referenced the need for a more flexible, voluntary approach to regional configurations. There was further discussion on the concept of solidarity arrangements and how these would apply not only to EU member states but to energy community states; a group of countries from south-east Europe and the Black Sea region.
Later, the Dutch presidency presented their conclusions on electricity market design which they hoped would provide guidance to the Commission on their proposals due out by the end of the year.
In the afternoon the Council listened to presentations from the Dutch presidency on the security of supply of medical radioisotopes to promote a longer term, more sustainable market. This was followed by a presentation from the Slovak Minister on their forthcoming presidency’s work programme.
The Council ended with an update from Commissioner Cañete on recent events in international relations as well as progress on implementing the Commission’s strategy on LNG (liquefied natural gas) storage which is to be implemented later this year.