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The creation of the Competitiveness Council in June 2002, through the merging of three previous configurations (Internal Market, Industry and Research) was a response to the perceived need for a more coherent and better coordinated handling of these matters related to the European Union's competitiveness. Depending on the items on the agenda, this Council is composed of European Affairs Ministers, Industry Ministers, Research Ministers, etc. It meets about five or six times a year.
Since then, this Council assumes a horizontal role in ensuring an integrated approach to the enhancement of competitiveness and growth in Europe . In that spirit, it reviews on a regular basis both horizontal and sectoral competitiveness issues on the basis of analyses provided by the Commission and give its views on how competitiveness issues can be properly taken into account in all policy initiatives which have an impact on enterprises. It also deals with legislative proposals in its different fields of activity, where it decides by qualified majority, mostly in codecision with the European Parliament.
The three strands of activity of the Competitiveness Council are the following:
- Internal Market
The Internal Market is one of the European Union’s most important and continuing priorities as it aims to create an area where persons and goods can move freely. To this end, the Competitiveness Council covers a large number of matters: public procurement, free provision of services and establishment, free movement of goods, intellectual and industrial property rights, competition and company law.
Issues related to industrial policy are still mainly competence of the Member States. Actions undertaken under the European Community Treaty must be guided by the necessity of ensuring the necessary conditions for the competitiveness of the Community's industry, through close cooperation between the Community and its Member States .
The Treaty specifies that in accordance with the principle of a system of open and competitive markets, the Community's action shall be aimed at speeding up the adjustment of industry to structural changes, encouraging an environment favourable to initiative and to the development of enterprises throughout the Community, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, encouraging an environment favourable to cooperation between enterprises and fostering better exploitation of the industrial potential of the policies of innovation, research and technological development.
Actions undertaken by the Community until now have been aimed at assisting Member States in resolving the crisis in the Community's main industrial sectors in such a way as to prevent distortions of competition while enabling the sectors concerned to be restructured within a given period. Criteria aim to ensure that this restructuring is coordinated and that the strategy for creating the conditions for promoting sectors capable of competing with their counterparts in other industrialised or newly industrialising countries is assessed.
Scientific Research and Technological Development (RTD) is playing an ever larger role in the process of economic development.
The European Community Treaty sets out the objectives, rules and procedures for the implementation of RTD activities. The main aim of Community activities is the strengthening of the scientific and technological bases of European industry and of its international competitiveness, by combining research resources in certain key areas and priority technologies.
The Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013) is the Union's main instrument for the funding of research in Europe. It contributes to the creation of a European Research Area (ERA) as a vision for the future of research in Europe. It aims at scientific excellence, improved competitiveness and innovation through the promotion of increased cooperation, greater complementarity and improved coordination between the relevant actors at all levels.