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Efforts were made to strengthen EU Internal Market and Industry during Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council

Date

2014 01 07

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During its Presidency of the European Union (EU) Council, Lithuania focused on results, did its best for decisions to be made efficiently, and successfully accomplished the high-level tasks committed to it.

‘During the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Competitiveness Council, the agenda of which was the responsibility of the Ministry of Economy, we focused on promoting of Europe’s economic growth and strengthening its economic competitiveness. The priority was placed on deepening of the EU Internal Market, better environment for industry and small and medium-sized businesses, as well as the modernisation of public administration,’ said Minister of Economy Evaldas Gustas.

The Minister underlined that to achieve objectives common to the EU, Lithuania acted as a fair and unbiased intermediary and, throughout the entire period of the Presidency, actively cooperated with economic and social partners. The success of the Presidency was determined by both Lithuania’s and also other EU Member States’ and the European Parliament’s ambitious efforts and willingness to find agreement, co-operate and seek for compromises.

Lithuania has achieved substantial results in its attempts to increase Europe’s competitiveness and implementing the programme of the Presidency of the European Union Council.

On 2 December 2013, the EU Competitiveness Council adopted three sets of Council conclusions prepared by the Lithuanian Presidency with regard to the Internal Market Policy, Smart Regulation and European Industrial Policy. The conclusions provide guidance on how to implement the priorities of the Lithuanian Presidency in the areas of the Internal Market, Industrial Policy and Smart Regulation to ensure better conditions for cross-border business in Europe, and in particular small and medium-sized businesses.

The  conclusions on the Internal Market Policy determine specific actions to strengthen the EU Internal Market and the timeframe for their timely implementation. Monitoring the implementation of the Internal Market rules should be continuously enhanced, also by making use of specific recommendations intended for the Member States. Efficient implementation of the mutual recognition principle must be ensured, which is of particular importance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The conclusions state that there will be ongoing analysis of the proportionality of the remaining restrictions with regard to service providers. It has also been agreed to identify, together with the European Commission, by spring 2015, the obstacles related to the participation of retailers in other markets.

During Lithuania’s Presidency, the following steps were also taken in the area of the Internal Market: adoption of the directive on the recognition of professional qualifications, completion of negotiations on the public procurement directives package, and achievement of a consensus regarding the directive on e-invoicing in public procurement as well as the directive regulating actions for damages for infringements of the provisions of competition law of Member States and of the European Union. Progress was also achieved in the negotiations regarding the product safety and market surveillance legislative package comprising the regulation on market surveillance of products and the regulation on consumer product safety.

The EU Council-approved conclusions on European Industrial Policy include proposals on how to foster the competitiveness of European industry and address the challenges of growing energy prices, highlighting the removal of unreasonable and non-proportionate obstacles in the single market, ensuring continuous energy supply at an affordable price, and creating favourable conditions for the application of financing measures. The conclusions also state that more attention needs to be given to the application of research in business and more active implementation of non-technological innovations. Moreover, the European Commission has to be responsible for the preparation of practical guidelines for the promotion of innovation through public procurement. It was also agreed to enhance the internationalisation of SMEs by promoting specialisation of their activities as well as more active participation in the activities of clusters and global value-added chains. The Council undertook a commitment to strengthen the monitoring of the implementation of structural reforms related to industrial competitiveness.

During the Lithuanian Presidency, negotiations were also concluded in the area of Industrial Policy regarding the new legislative system which includes eight directives establishing the rules for regulating some products; also, progress was achieved in the negotiations regarding the directive on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to pressure equipment.

The conclusions on Smart Regulation presented by the Council highlight the need to reduce the regulation burden on companies. To achieve this objective, the European Commission was invited to cooperate with business organisations and prepare a 5-year plan for the reduction of the regulation burden, especially in the areas where it is the largest, first of all, taking account of the needs of SMEs. The Member States are encouraged to transpose directives into national law so as to ensure that companies are burdened as little as possible. In addition, the EU Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) for 2014-2020 was adopted, with a budget of EUR 2 billion. Sixty per cent of the COSME Programme budget will be allocated to finance venture capital or provide loan guarantees for SMEs. The rest of the funds will be used to reduce the administrative burden on companies and promote the entry of SMEs into the market.

In the area of Company Law, progress was achieved in the negotiations regarding the Council regulation on the Statute for a European Foundation (FE), which aims at creating a new European-level legal form of a legal entity.

Considerable progress was also reached in the area of the European space industry – achievement of an inter-institutional agreement with the European Commission and the Parliament, conclusion of negotiations regarding the Copernicus Earth Observation Programme, and progress on a decision establishing a space surveillance and tracking support programme.

The following events of the Presidency of the EU Council organised by the Ministry of Economy in Vilnius attracted major attention of all the EU Member States as well as guests from other countries: the Informal meeting of Ministers of the EU Competitiveness Council (Internal Market and Industry), Directors and Experts of Better Regulation (DEBR), the European space exhibition European Space Expo, the 13th European Corporate Governance Conference, Conference ‘Mutual Recognition: Boosting the Single Market’, the 12th European Tourism Forum, the Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Assembly, the Attaché meeting of the Working Party on Competitiveness and Growth, and Vilnius Innovation Forum ‘Innovation Drift’.