Competitiveness Council

Trade and Industry written question – answered on 2nd December 2003.

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Photo of Dr Jim Marshall Dr Jim Marshall Labour, Leicester South

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the outcome was of the Competitiveness Council on 27 November; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State (Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women), Department of Trade and Industry

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and I represented the UK at the Competitiveness Council on 26–27 November 2003.

Member States agreed to support France as the EU's candidate for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). It was also agreed that the legal entity for the project would be incorporated in Spain with an office in a city near the French border, and Spain would have one of the two EU directors.

Commissioner Busquin introduced the White Paper on Space emphasising the three main axes: citizens needs, exemplified by satellite projects such as Galileo and Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES); consolidating Europe's space Science and Technology expertise important for growth; and a framework for better use of existing resources.

The Presidency emphasised the importance of the latest approach on the Growth Initiative. R&D projects were included for the first time, and innovative financing instruments would be used, combining FP6, PPPs and EIB funding.

The Commission introduced its new Communication on an Integrated Competitiveness Strategy. Amongst other things it outlines ways to facilitate the work of the Competitiveness Council, and emphasises the three elements of rigorous analysis of challenges; better regulation; and innovation and entrepreneurship.

We welcomed this strategy and the other Reports and Scoreboards presented at the Council. These help us understand the scale of the task we face in delivering economic reform in the EU. The Council adopted wide-ranging conclusions on competitiveness based on these.

Unanimous agreement was reached on the adoption of the proposed review of the Mergers Regulation. The new Regulation introduces some flexibility into the investigation timeframes although their predictability is unaffected, reinforces the "one-stop shop" concept so that it benefits firms, and clarifies that the substantive test contained in the regulation covers all types of harmful scenarios, whether dominance by a single firm or effects stemming from a situation of oligopoly that might harm the interests of European consumers.

Ministers at the Council also reached an agreement on the Takeovers Directive. The agreement makes key articles optional for Member States. It allows them to decide either to impose the defensive measures allowed for in articles 9 and/or 11 on all their listed companies or, if they did not do so, allow companies to voluntarily "opt-in" to the provisions of those articles). Companies will be required to disclose their status as opted-in or out.

Discussion on the final outstanding points on the Regulation to establish a Community Patent continued on and off throughout the Council. Discussion hinged on the issues of languages, in particular, the legal effect of translations on a patent claim and the length of time allowed to file such translations. On the issue of legal effect, the Council managed to find compromise wording. Agreement, however, was not reached on the deadline for filing translations.

A UK compromise text was adopted on the Fifth Motor Insurance Directive, which improves insurance cover for pedestrians and cyclists throughout the EU, whilerespecting national liability and compensation law.

Agreement was also reached on a revision to the Community Trademark.

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