Speech by Evaldas Gustas, Minister of Economy, at the European Parliament, ITRE Committee


2013 07 10



Madame Chair,
Honourable Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to present to your Committee the priorities and programme of the Lithuanian Presidency in the areas of Industry, Innovation and SME as well as Space policy.
The European Parliament represents the interests of the European Union’s 500 million citizens.   Moreover, the Lithuanian Presidency fully understands and respects the central role you play in the EU’s decision-making process. So we are looking to have the most constructive, productive and mutually beneficial cooperation with you during our Presidency.
We shall be seeking to base our Presidency around the themes of a credible, a growing and an open Europe.
During the next six months, our attention will be focused above all else on constructive negotiations with the other institutions so as to achieve the best possible results for Europe’s citizens.   As an honest and impartial broker, Lithuania will seek to ensure a smooth and efficient legislative process involving all partners.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Irish Presidency, for their considerable achievement while working with you in the European Parliament on the issues under discussion today. Today’s meeting is just as much an opportunity for me to hear your views.   Our close cooperation matters to me, and I am keen to get this off to the best possible start. 
Let me begin with Industry, Innovation and SME policy.
During the period of economic crisis, the significance of the European industry and its role in ensuring the economic recovery, growth and job creation became all too apparent. However, in order for enterprises to survive, ensure competitiveness and capacity to contribute to growth and jobs, it is necessary for the EU to develop a smart industrial policy.
For this purpose, strong and close cooperation between the European institutions and the Member States is necessary. My ambition is that our Presidency should focus its attention on the implementation of competitive, integrated and innovation-based EU industrial policy.
I think that should mean that we:
-          Assess the progress achieved and further improvements needed in strengthening EU industrial competitiveness,
-          Have a broad discussion and agreement on short and medium-term priorities supporting the European framework for competitiveness.
In this respect, promotion of the demand for innovative goods and services, ensuring continuous access to raw materials and energy sources at competitive prices will play a role. Improving access to finance and skills as well as focusing on the policies promoting clustering and networks can create the environment, where European enterprises may flourish further contributing to growth and jobs. 
As a first step, we plan the discussions on the promotion of innovation through public procurement, on 23 July this year at the informal meeting of the Competitiveness Council in Vilnius. Furthermore, an exchange of views on industrial policy will take place in Competitiveness Council in September. By continuing this theme at the Competitiveness Council in December, we will link innovation with industrial policy in order to promote the development of “young” innovative enterprises and innovation-based growth more actively.
The outcome of all the aforementioned objectives sought by us – the conclusions of the Competitiveness Council regarding the growth-promoting EU industrial/innovation policy. The conclusions will be based on the report on the implementation of industrial policy, the European Competitiveness Report 2013, further contributing to February 2014 European Council conclusions.
Not to forget the European Council to be held in October 2013 , I would like to mention that here the contribution of the Competitiveness Council will be based on the Communication from the Commission on the State of the Innovation Union in 2012, the Report on the European Research Area, and the Communication on the Rate of Innovation. 
Small and medium-sized enterprises are the driving force of our economy and have a substantial impact on economic development in Europe and on creation of new jobs.
Our presidency has an intention to mark the 5th anniversary of the Small Business Act, which was endorsed in 2008. We will start with discussing the application of the “Think Small First” principle at the informal Competitiveness Council in Vilnius. At the next stage - September Competitiveness Council in Brussels - the results of the informal council discussions will be presented and continued with the policy debate on the progress of the implementation of Small Business Act measures. Furthermore, the outcomes of the policy debate would contribute to the October European Council conclusions. In other words, our aim is to raise the implementation of the Small Business Act up to the highest political level in order the progress and the obstacles hindering the full implementation of Small Business Act would be identified.
We appreciate the attention paid by the European Parliament to SMEs and entrepreneurship policy and the current work carried out by Mr. RUBIG.
In the Assembly of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises to be held in Vilnius in November, representatives of business organisations, European, national government and academia will discuss the significance of these companies to the economy and their importance for Europe’s recovery after the crises. Our hopes are that the participants of this event will leave Lithuania with new ideas, contacts and new potential business prospects. 
During the Presidency period, we will seek that the implementation of Smart regulation initiatives would promote a favourable environment for business, particularly SMEs, and contribute to enhanced industrial competitiveness and cutting the compliance costs. More efficient and consistent application of smart regulation tools (such as the SME test, competitiveness proofing, etc.) and the use of best practice of the Member States will be emphasised. Also, my plans are to evaluate how the impact assessments carried out by the Commission are used in practice in the work of the Council’s bodies.
In the field of improvement of the financing conditions, which is very important for enterprise competitiveness, particularly SMEs, which account for 98% of the EU business, I will seek that Europe take every measure to ensure the timely transformation of the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme into the Programme for the Competitiveness of enterprises and SMEs from the beginning of 2014 and the implementation of EU initiatives related to this Programme.
Continuing my speech on COSME program, I would like to thank Mr. CREUTZMANN for the successful completion of negotiations on this program. I will seek to ensure a smooth completion of legislation-making procedures.
Perceiving the significance of the space field and its impact on the EU’s competitiveness and growth, we will concentrate on the proposals submitted by the Commission regarding the legal acts relevant to this field. First of all, we will seek progress on the proposal by the Commission regarding the Copernicus Programme Regulation. Having a good understanding of the significance and relevance of this programme we will make every effort so that the legal basis be laid down for the implementation of this Programme as soon as possible. In this respect, we look forward to effective co-operation with the EP on this dossier
We will also seek to secure progress on the decision establishing the Space Surveillance and Tracking Support Programme. We will seek the general approach in the Council on the main issues that were raised by the Member States during the negotiations under the Irish presidency: data policy, governance, funding mechanism. We are grateful to the rapporteur Madame ANDERSDOTTER for an initial exchange of views on the dossier and look forward to the fruitful co-operation in the upcoming months.
During the Lithuanian Presidency, on 18-20 September, we would like to kindly invite you, MADAME Chair, to visit the international conference “Space Economy in the Multipolar World” to be held in Vilnius. This is the fourth annual space event. It is one of the largest space events in the Baltic countries attracting high-level space economy and science and technology experts from both the countries with major space programmes and the starting ones. This year the conference will be organised in conjunction with the exhibition of the European Commission “Space Expo” in Vilnius.
Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
Hoping for great, successful and, most importantly, productive cooperation in the future, I would like to thank you for your attention and now, MADAME Chair, I will be glad to answer any questions that the Committee might have.
Thank you for your attention!