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Press remarks by Vice-President Šefčovič at the Competitiveness Council

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op woensdag 29 september 2021.

Dear Minister Počivalšek, dear colleagues,

I would first like to thank everyone for organising today's meeting and the very fruitful discussions held today.

Some of these issues are really the core of the challenges that face all of us today.

To go straight to the point. First we had a very important discussion on the Green Deal and achieving the colossal task ahead to reach climate neutrality by 2050.

Just an interesting fact for you: to achieve climate neutrality, we need to reduce our GHG emissions by 4% per year for the next 8 years. Since 1990, we've only managed to achieve annual reductions of less than 1%.

This is a huge task in itself. And it can't be achieved without a huge transformation of our industries.

Today I want to tell you that we're moving fast with our work on transition pathways. This means working with industry, Member States and other partners to prepare joint plans on how each of our industrial ecosystems can manage the green and digital transformation. The aim is to better understand the specific conditions in each ecosystem and what can help drive the transformation, from investments, to regulatory issues, and other enabling factors.

I am pleased to announce that just earlier this week; we launched this joint work to see how a transition pathway should look like for energy intensive industries and for tourism. And we look forward to accelerating this work for other ecosystems in the coming months.

But I also want to touch upon new challenges, such as the recent increases of electricity and gas prices. We know that these are mostly related to an increase in global demand as economic activity picked up after the pandemic, combined with an unusual undersupply, and less so, to the impact of the EU ETS.

The Commission is of course monitoring the situation across the EU. And we continue to work on a well-functioning and well-integrated EU electricity market, making sure that there are investments available, and ultimately ensuring the green transition is fair for everyone.

To support Member States in dealing with these challenges, we are now also organising practical workshops to facilitate dialogue and cooperation. We want national authorities to share their analyses and methodologies for assessing the impact of the Green Deal package on industries.

This brings me to my second point about the importance of close collaboration between the Commission and Member States.

We had a pleasure today to present to minister colleagues around the table the result of the work of the Single Market Enforcement Task Force (SMET). We launched this forum in April of 2020, to work on better enforcement of Single Market rules.

This proved crucial especially during the pandemic, where the forum played an important role in addressing some of the barriers preventing the free movement of essential medical and protective equipment at the time.

But more than that, the Task Force also worked on restrictions in different areas, from the agri-food sector for instance, to those affecting service providers. Especially for this latter, the task force helped remove the need for permits and prior checks of qualifications for more than 160 professions, allowing these professionals to more easily work across borders.

Today we published a report that covers the work of this Task Force. And I hope that the discussion we started today will help us to prepare the ground for its work in the future.

We also covered patents, the state of play of the unitary patent system and its related Court. This is envisaged as a one-stop-shop for patent protection and enforcement in the EU, to help boost the competitiveness and recovery of our businesses.

As we stand, we're very close to the launch of the whole system. With the right political will, we expect that we could start the provisional application period of the UPC Agreement in time for the Czech presidency in late 2022.

To make that happen, we now need one more Member State to agree to this Provisional application, which will allow to start setting up of the Court, including to hire the judges. Today, we invited the Member States to keep the momentum achieved, complete their internal procedures and quickly proceed with the remaining steps.

On the contrary, the UK's exit should in no way delay or obstruct the implementation of the unitary patent or the establishment of the Unified Patent Court.

Minister Koritnik very well described our discussion on Better Regulation and Strategic Foresight. I very welcome the opportunity by the Slovenian Presidency to share our first experience with the new approach. I am very glad that everyone who intervened in this discussion first and foremost acknowledge that better regulation is a shared responsibility of the Member States, of the Commission, of the European Parliament. There was a high appreciation of the quality of our impact assessment and consultation system which is regularly ranked by the OECD as one of the best in the world. And I have also heard valuable advice on how to develop the system further and I was very encouraged to use the strategic foresight technics, this modern anticipatory governance approach to make sure our legislation is future proof. We are working with scientific advice to make sure that the proposals we put on the table will handle the time not only of today but also of tomorrow.

Dear Minister Počivalšek,

Thank you again for organising this important meeting with topics so high on everyone's agendas. I want to congratulate you for your presidency's role in advancing these important issues and look forward to more fruitful cooperation.

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