Ministers push for a competitive and sustainable industrial policy

The EU must continue its drive to improve conditions for enterprises and promote sustainable production, ministers in charge of competitiveness said after their Council meeting in Brussels on 22 November.

EU competition ministers particularly stressed the “huge importance” of making full use of SMEs’ growth potential by improving their access to finance and speeding up the implementation of the better regulation agenda, according to Portuguese Economy and Innovation Minister Mariano Gago, who was chairing the meeting. 

The Council also adopted the Commission’s 10 July Communication on simplifying the business environment for companies in the areas of company law, accounting and auditing. The communication had called for reporting requirements to be streamlined, reducing the number of preventive legality checks and increasing and optimising the use of electronic means. 

The Council asked the Commission to turn these ideas, as well as the EU’s goal of reducing the administrative burdens arising from EU legislation by 25% by 2012, into concrete results by the end of 2008. 

Ministers also lent their support to the promotion of the transition to a low carbon economy through a new sustainable approach to industrial policy. This measure should help “make Europe a world leader in environmentally friendly and socially acceptable products, technologies and services”, according to the Council conclusions. 

The Council called on the Commission to draw up a complementary action plan to promote sustainable production “while fostering energies”, with the Strategic Energy Plan (SET) presented by the Commission on 22 November and the existing Environmental Technologies Action Plan. 

Industry Commissioner Gunther Verheugen gave a positive assessment of the implementation of the growth and jobs strategy. “We are getting much closer to the targets concerning growth rates, jobs and innovation than we had thought we would three years ago.” 

The EU has also made “significant progress” towards establishing a Community Patent, according to Minister Gago, although officials from the Portuguese Presidency told journalists that such a “complex, sensitive topic” as the creation of a community patent was “unlikely to become a reality in the next five years”, pointing notably to remaining disagreements over the language issue (see LD)

“We are moving slowly but on solid ground”, said Pedro Bartolo, Portugal’s deputy permanent representative. 

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