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Informal video conference of internal market and industry ministers, 25 February 2021

Met dank overgenomen van Raad van de Europese Unie (Raad), gepubliceerd op donderdag 25 februari 2021, 20:00.
Hardwerkende mensen

Main results

European Semester - National recovery and resilience plans

Ministers held a policy debate on how national recovery and resilience plans can best be used as an instrument for delivering on industrial policy goals: strengthening the Single Market, the twin transitions and the strategic autonomy in an open EU.

The Recovery and Resilience Facility has set the scene. It is now up to us to identify the areas, sectors and actions that are crucial for the short-term recovery and long-term resilience of our national economies, as well as of the EU economy as a whole. Today's discussions are an important first step in this direction.

Pedro Siza Vieira, Portuguese Minister of State for the Economy and Digital Transition

Ministers broadly agreed that the Competitiveness Council should play a prominent role in the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility and that it should provide coordination and guidance in the investments to be made.

It was stressed that a well-functioning Single Market and fair competition are the main preconditions for Europe to come out stronger and more resilient from the COVID-19 crisis. Ministers underlined the importance of ensuring the free flow of goods and services for the smooth functioning of the Single Market. They stressed the need for coordination between member states before establishing temporary control measures at the internal borders within the EU.

The EU's strategic autonomy must also remain high on the agenda. The EU needs to reduce dependencies in critical sectors and products such as vaccine production and semi-conductors. At the same time, a large number of ministers pointed out that the EU economy is built on the principle of open markets and relies on multilateral rules and a solid network of free trade agreements with global partners. However, they also emphasised the importance of upholding a global level playing field and making fair and firm use of existing trade instruments to protect EU businesses and consumers from unfair practices by non-EU competitors.

Many ministers stressed the role of research and innovation in speeding up recovery and reinforcing resilience. Support measures should target the specific needs of small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the connective tissue of the EU economy. A large number of member states highlighted the need to develop more harmonised standards to underpin the Single Market. A number of ministers mentioned the importance of innovative cross-border projects, for example on 5G connectivity, as well as the role of important projects of common European interest (IPCEIs) as a way of strengthening their coordination.

Ministers called on the Commission to take into account the above mentioned ideas when finalising its update of the new industrial strategy for Europe.

The presidency will summarise the outcome of the debate in a letter that will be sent to the president of the European Council, as an input for the discussions at the March 2021 European Council meeting.

The new EU Consumer Agenda

Ministers held a policy debate on the Commission communication “New Consumer Agenda”. In doing so, they also referred to the Council conclusions on the subject adopted on 22 February 2021. Both these conclusions and the outcome of the policy debate are meant to provide the Commission with political guidance for future initiatives in this field.

Consumer confidence plays a crucial role in the recovery and resilience of our economies. We need to reinforce this confidence by boosting the internal market and to empower the consumer to play an active role in the transition of our economies towards tomorrow's green and digital Europe.

Pedro Siza Vieira, Portuguese Minister of State for the Economy and Digital Transition

Ministers underlined the crucial role played by consumers in the economic recovery. They stressed that, in order to boost the single market and accelerate the economic recovery, consumer protection needs to be reinforced and integrated into all policy fields.

Several ministers stressed that consumers’ trust and transparent consumer information are important elements for the recovery of Europe’s economy after the COVID-19-crisis. For example, in the context of the green and digital transitions, consumers will need to feel empowered and protected when changing their consumption patterns against practices such as greenwashing.

Some ministers pointed out the importance of fighting against built-in obsolescence and promoting the right to repair, in order to encourage sustainable consumption.

In order to boost online retail consumption, rules on digital services across the EU should ensure a high level of consumer protection by clarifying and reinforcing the accountability of online platforms. Several ministers mentioned the very important role to be played by the future digital services act and digital markets act in this respect.

It is also important that the Commission and the member states examine the effectiveness of existing mechanisms in consumer policy in order to be prepared for future crisis and thus enhance consumer resilience.

Public country-by-country reporting

Ministers held an exchange of views (public session) on how to take the proposed directive forward.

Tax transparency is a fundamental principle in any democratic society. It enables policy makers to take informed decisions and to ensure that all economic actors contribute in a fair and equitable manner to the economy of the various countries where they conduct their business. Today's debate has opened the way for the proposed directive to move forward as a matter of priority.

Pedro Siza Vieira, Portuguese Minister of State for the Economy and Digital Transition

A clear majority of ministers were of the view that the latest consolidated presidency proposal is technically mature. They invited the Portuguese presidency to seek a negotiating mandate without delay in order to explore with the European Parliament the possibility of a deal for the swift adoption of the directive.

The Portuguese presidency concluded that there was political support for it to seek a negotiating mandate in order to explore with the European Parliament the possibility of a deal for the swift adoption of the proposed directive.

Other business

Task force for industrial scale-up of production of Covid-19 vaccines

Ministers were briefed by the Commission on the work accomplished so far by the new task force for industrial scale-up of the production of Covid-19 vaccines within the EU. Member states were invited to provide the Commission with information on national efforts and capacity to address possible bottlenecks associated with Covid-19 vaccines production. In their interventions, many ministers welcomed the creation of the task force to address this important issue.

D9+ Ministerial Meeting - "Leading the Way to Europe’s Digital Decade" (27 January 2021)

Ministers were informed by the Finnish delegation of the outcome of the latest meeting of the D9+ group, hosted via video conference by Finland on 27 January 2021. This outcome consists of a joint declaration “Leading the Way to Europe’s Digital Decade” by all the participating countries, the main message being that Europe’s technological competitiveness is based on digital development, innovations and a functioning internal market.

Meeting information

  • Meeting n°VC-COMP-250221
  • Video conference
  • 25 February 2021
  • 09:30

Preparatory documents

Outcome documents

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