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Competitiveness Council

Volume 655: debated on Monday 25 February 2019

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for State for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Henley) has made the following statement:

The Competitiveness Council took place on 18-19 February. I represented the UK on Day 1 (Internal Market and Industry); and by the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), on Day 2 (Research and Space).

Day 1—Internal Market and Industry

Commissioner Bienkowska presented the Commission's analysis on integrated value chains in the single market. A number of member states called for the single market and services to be at the centre of the March European Council discussion on jobs, growth and competitiveness. The UK recalled the close integration of UK and EU supply chains. The presidency concluded that it would summarise views in writing to the President of the European Council.

The presidency and member states welcomed the co-ordinated action plan on artificial intelligence (AI) and stressed the need for EU and national action to boost cross-border research networks and data flows to maximise EU competitiveness. Commissioner Bienkowska called for the EU to put in place ethical and legal frameworks in line with fundamental rights, stressing the importance of flexibility to encourage innovation. The UK noted that our approach aligned closely with the co-ordinated action plan and called for continuing collaboration to help maintain Europe’s international competitiveness. The Council adopted “Conclusions on the co-ordinated plan on the development and use of artificial intelligence made in Europe”.

The Commission introduced its long-term climate strategy stressing the importance of all sectors contributing to decarbonisation. Member states supported the need for coherence across all policy areas, noting the importance of the circular economy and driving innovation. The UK and others highlighted the opportunities for EU industry provided by combating climate change which could be expected to lead to an overall net increase in higher skilled jobs.

On the European semester, the Commission highlighted competitiveness priorities following the adoption of the annual growth survey in November 2018.

The Commission updated the Council on the recent ECJ ruling against the real driving emissions (RDE) legislation. The UK and others called for the Commission to take action to ensure greater certainty for the automobile industry and sufficient time for them to adapt. The Commission noted that the ECJ did not question the revised tests themselves, but rather the way the Commission had enacted the legislation.

The presidency noted that agreement with the Parliament had been reached on the directive on digital tools in company law and the regulation on enforcement of EU harmonisation legislation on products. The Commission noted that the regulation would improve product safety by facilitating engagement with businesses, co-ordination of market surveillance activities and co-operation between market surveillance authorities and customs authorities.

Day 2—Research

Day 2 of the Competitiveness Council focused on an exchange of views on the Horizon Europe Package—Framework programme for research and innovation 2021-2027. The presidency concluded that there was a broad consensus on making missions relevant to all member states and that the European Innovation Council (EIC) would need to operate in complementary manner with the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT) and InvestEU. The presidency said that it would try to find a balanced compromise in forthcoming trilogues.

The Council concluded with a brief update on the ITER project. The Commission confirmed that ITER was back on track and delays/cost overruns had been addressed.