The EU Competitiveness Council is meeting in Brussels today and tomorrow under the chairmanship of the Mr Zoltán Cséfalvay, Minister of State for Strategic Affairs of Hungary. The main discussions will pave the way to the 24/25 March European Council. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Commissioner Marie Geoghegan-Quinn responsible for Research and Innovation, and Commissioner Michel Barnier responsible for Internal Market and Services.
Wednesday 9 March agenda sees presentations and speeches about research and innovation issues. Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will urge Ministers to work with their government colleagues to ensure that the National Reform Programmes that Member States will adopt in April fully reflect the fact that research and innovation policies form an integral part of the Annual Growth Survey and that implementing the Innovation Union is a pre-requisite for achieving the objectives set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy
She will call on Member States to implement rigorous but “smart” fiscal consolidation to enhance macro-economic stability. Investment in key areas such as research, innovation and education – all needed for “smart” growth – should not be reduced.
She will highlight, in particular, the need for far-reaching structural reforms in four key areas.
First, intellectual property (IP), where the European patent will reduce costs for innovators and work is ongoing on a new instrument to ensure more advantage is taken of IP rights to benefit the rights holders, others who want to make use of the intellectual property and the economy as a whole.
Second, standardisation, where the Commission will shortly adopt proposals to modernise and accelerate standard-setting to ensure better interoperability, especially in the ICT sector.
Third, access to private finance, where both a new EU-wide support scheme and an operational framework are being prepared to lift remaining barriers that prevent the cross-border operation of venture capital funds.
Fourth, public procurement, where new measures will be launched to leverage public procurement expenditure to stimulate market take-up of innovative products and the growth of innovative small and medium-sized enterprises.
The Commissioner will also underline the importance of the development of a single integrated innovation indicator to allow better performance benchmarking across the EU and beyond, and the need to complete the European Research Area by 2014.