EU: Competitiveness Council

House of Lords written statement – made on 10th March 2010.

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Photo of Lord Davies of Abersoch Lord Davies of Abersoch Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Trade, Investment and Small Business) (also in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (UK Trade and Investment) (also in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)

My honourable friend the Minister for Business and Regulatory Reform (Ian Lucas) has today made the following Statement.

The EU Competitiveness Council took place in Brussels on 1 and 2 March 2010 and the following is a summary of those discussions.

The main Internal Market/Industry Council items discussed on 1 March were on industry policy, intellectual property rights enforcement and the Europe 2020 new long-term EU economic strategy.

Council conclusions on EU industrial policy were adopted after a debate involving divergent opinions between member states, particularly on how much focus there should be on electric cars. The UK (with support from a number of other member states) successfully argued for the importance of a technology-neutral approach to EU support for low-carbon vehicle technologies. The UK also emphasised the need for open and competitive markets and for a horizontal rather than sector-specific approach to EU industry policy.

A council resolution on enforcement of intellectual property rights in the EU internal market, which the UK supported, was also adopted. The UK and others called for more transparency in the international anti-counterfeiting trade agreement negotiations. The Commission agreed to raise these transparency issues with the EU Trade Commissioner.

In the exchange of views on Europe 2020, the Commission outlined its main themes as being innovation, green growth and social inclusion. There was broad support for the Commission's priorities, with emphasis on support for SMEs, better regulation, energy, infrastructure, internal market and competition. The UK stressed the need for increased EU venture capital (particularly for high technology investment) and the importance of the digital economy to the EU. There was general support for the Commission's proposals on governance and for a more social dimension. The presidency undertook to report the council's discussion to the General Affairs Council ahead of the forthcoming European Council debate on Europe 2020.

At a Ministerial lunchtime discussion, Professor Mario Monti discussed his preliminary views in advance of his forthcoming report for the Commission on relaunching the EU internal market. He wanted to promote to business and citizens better enforcement, free movement of services, implementing the digital agenda and real economy measures with acceptable regional, social and tax co-ordination policies. The Commission said it planned to follow up the Monti report with a Commission communication in June 2010. The UK stressed the need to engage with business, to focus on growth and jobs and also the importance of services directive implementation.

The any other business items discussed covered reports on the outcomes of the December 2009 Copenhagen conference on climate change and the February 2010 EU Informal Competitiveness Council on electric cars; updates on the EU internal market scoreboard of member states' transposition of EU directives and on the EU internal market information system for administrative co-operation; progress on EU services directive implementation; and a Commission update on a proposed a private-public partnership model on the development of the future internet.

The main Research Council items discussed on 2 March were the research and innovation aspects of Europe 2020, the global monitoring for the environment and security (GMES) programme, a joint Baltic Sea research and development programme (BONUS) and the international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER) nuclear fusion research project.

The Commission advised that research and innovation would be a central theme for the new Europe 2020 strategy. The UK said that the framework conditions for investment in research and innovation (R&I) should be improved and suggested using the European Investment Fund to raise a further €3 billion from the private sector for venture capital. The UK also called for a greater proportion of the EU budget to be spent on these activities. The Commission said a detailed EU research and innovation plan would be launched in autumn 2010 which would focus on tackling "grand challenges" such as climate change, energy, food security, health and an ageing population.

At the discussion of GMES, the Commission stressed that it would have a prominent role within a new European space policy, the requirement for an effective governance structure and the need to identify further funding. A progress report was given on BONUS, with the Commission saying it would be a pilot initiative for research initiatives in other European marine regions.

The Commission also gave an update on ITER, saying it was vital that the project was delivered at a reasonable cost and within acceptable levels of risk. The Commission said that a range of funding options for ITER would be put to the council working group prior to further discussion at the May Competitiveness Council. The Research Council also adopted conclusions on the European Research Council and on European researchers' mobility and careers.