The programme for the EU competitiveness Council is firmly rooted in the ten year strategy for growth, economic reform and job creation agreed by the Lisbon European Council in 2000. At the start of the Presidency, I published a priorities paper for the Council. Copies have been placed in the Oireachtas Library and it is also posted on the official Irish Presidency website atwww.eu2004.ie and on my own Department’s website at www.entemp.ie.
Particular stress will be laid by the Irish Presidency on the need for the competitiveness Council to focus on and develop its horizontal remit in line with the Seville European Council in June 2002 and the Presidency conclusions of the 2003 spring summit. It is important that attention is paid at the highest political level to issues affecting the competitiveness of enterprise and the role of the competitiveness Council is central to achieving this. The Council will also discuss a range of issues in areas covered by its remit.
I will chair two formal meetings of the Council in Brussels on 11 March and 17-18 May 2004. The agenda for the Council on 11 March includes the following: preparation for the spring European Council — policy debate and approval of the competitiveness Council's input to the spring European Council; stimulating entrepreneurship — the Council is expected to adopt conclusions under this heading; a proposal for a Council regulation on the Community patent — political agreement; draft directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights throughout the EU — report on the state of play; competitiveness of business related services and draft framework directive on services — adoption of Council conclusions; draft framework directive on services — presentation by the Commission and exchange of views; proposals on the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals, REACH, — progress report; Europe and basic research — Council conclusions on recent Commission communication; space policy — exchange of views on recent Commission white paper and related communication; draft consumer protection co-operation regulation which aims to create a network of national consumer protection authorities — progress report; adoption of a proposal for a Council regulation concerning a temporary defensive mechanism to shipbuilding.
The final agenda for the May Council will depend on a number of matters, including the outcome of the Council on 11 March and the level of progress achieved on various issues between now and May. In addition to finalising or further progressing items which will not be disposed of in March, the May Council is expected to deal with issues in the area of company law, innovation policy, proposals for directives on computer implemented inventions, the recognition of professional qualifications and the mobility of third country researchers. It is also anticipated that there will be additional items in the area of consumer policy such as the regulation of sales promotions in the internal market, unfair business to consumer commercial practices and a proposal concerning credit for consumers.