SMEs, consumers, public procurement and patent on agenda
By Sophie Mosca | Tuesday 29 May 2012
Competitiveness, alternate dispute resolution, recognition of professional qualifications, modernisation of public procurement and single market governance will be on the agenda of the 30 May Competitiveness Council.
The ministers will debate the ‘Programme for the competitiveness and of enterprises and SMEs’ (COSME) 2014-2020, in particular the financial instruments it would entail. The Commission proposes a loan guarantee facility that would cover loans to SMEs of up to €150,000. The ministers will adopt a position on this ceiling, which is criticised by representatives of SMEs and members of the European Parliament. The Danish EU Presidency nevertheless only plans to adopt a partial general approach on the regulation, since the financing amounts will not be discussed at this meeting. The figures will be known at the time of final agreement on the multiannual financial framework 2014-2020.
The Council will then hold a public debate with a view to reaching agreement on a general approach on two legislative proposals on out-of-court settlement procedures for consumer disputes, presented by the Commission on 29 November as one of the 12 levers for stimulating the single market. The two proposals are: a draft directive enabling consumers to seek amicable resolution of a dispute with a trader through the intervention of an out-of-court settlement body; and a draft regulation setting up an online dispute resolution mechanism for disputes related to online cross-border sales (see separate article).
The ministers will also debate the Commission’s proposal of 20 December 2011 for modernising public procurement rules. They will address two essential aspects of this reform: the use of e-procurement and governance and monitoring of procurement procedures. These two subjects form part of the priorities of the Danish Presidency, which hopes for initial three-way talks on the three directives concerned – classic public procurement, specific ‘network’ public procurement and concessions – next autumn.
The Council will also discuss revision of the directive on professional qualifications, and in particular the creation of a European professional card to speed up recognition of qualifications, as well as the conditions for improving access to regulated professions. Some 800 categories of regulated professions exist as a result of a wide variety of national characteristics and different historical contexts. The Council intends to reduce their number and harmonise these categories, and member states will have to explain their reasons for maintaining a specific framework for certain professions.
The ministers are also set to review the draft agreement on the creation of the unified patent court. The outstanding question concerns the seat of the central division, which divides Germany, France and the United Kingdom (see separate article).
SINGLE MARKET GOVERNANCE
The Council will be invited to adopt conclusions on governance of the single market aimed at improving its functioning and stressing the need for better implementation and transposition, as called for by the European Council last March. The text will highlight the need to complete the digital single market and online services, another of the 12 levers of the Single Market Act.
Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia will brief the Council on the state aid reform, presented on 8 May, aimed at improving the functioning of the internal market, simplifying rules and speeding up decision making (see
The Commission proposes a loan guarantee facility that would cover loans to SMEs of up to €150,000