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Closing speech by the State Secretary at the Ministry of the Economy, Tomaž Jeršič, at the ITRE committee of the European Parliament

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Madam chairwoman Angelika Niebler, honourable members of the European Parliament,

I thank you for this opportunity today, upon the imminent conclusion of the Slovenian Presidency, to present the achievements within the EU Competitiveness Council. The programme that I presented to you half a year ago was pitched ambitiously, and I believe that we have successfully fulfilled all our plans.

Of course in the work of the Competitiveness Council as well as of the transport, telecommunications and energy councils, the European Parliament had an exceptionally important role. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for this successful cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I now move on to look at the concrete results of our Presidency.

The end of our Presidency marks the conclusion of the presiding trio of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia. Energy and climate change have been the two priority topics during this time. Like Germany and Portugal before us, Slovenia continued the solid work in all areas of European Union energy policy, and we devoted great attention especially to the following areas:

  • continuing negotiations on the third legislative package for the internal market for electricity and gas, where we took over from Portugal the handling of five legislative proposals;
  • the climate and energy legislative package, which the European Commission submitted for deliberation on 23 January;
  • addressing the Strategic Energy Technology Plan, which is exceptionally important for the further development of the European technology policy in the field of energy;
  • and of course numerous activities in the field of EU international energy policy.

Permit me to highlight in greater detail the key achievements in the energy field:


A liberalised, well connected internal energy market

As you know, in September 2007 the European Commission set out the third legislative package, which is an important step forward in the area of liberalising the internal energy market, and which covers proposals for the more effective regulation of markets, greater powers for regulators, ownership separation of commercial energy activities, more effective cooperation between the operators of the transmission grid, better functioning of the market and thus also consumer safety.

Your committee and the European Parliament also devoted considerable attention to these legislative proposals, as well as great efforts in formulating appropriate solutions.

In January a group of 8 countries presented a proposal for effective regulation of energy companies and energy markets. Ministers debated how to continue negotiations over the package at the February energy council. Ministers agreed that by June we would reach a political agreement, which was later also confirmed by the spring European Council.

Based on the mandate that we received from heads of government and heads of state, the Presidency holder together with the Commission drafted a new proposal, which was presented at the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) after the informal meeting of director-generals for energy at Brdo on 5 May 2008.

The difficult and intensive negotiations that followed the presentation of this proposal allowed us to achieve a broad agreement regarding the essential elements of the third energy package at the June TTE council in Luxembourg.

Ministers confirmed that in addition to the separation of ownership and the independent system operator (the ISO option), the establishing of the independent transmission operator (the ITO option) would be facilitated. This operator is linked to the vertical parent company, and is governed by mechanisms that ensure a high degree of independence in the management and oversight of the independent system operator and the independence of his decisions to invest in network development. We also envisage a provision on inspection, on the basis of which it will be possible to determine the actual effectiveness and independent functioning of the independent transmission operator.

The agreement reached by ministers is the basis for producing final legal formulations in the legislative proposals.

This exceptional agreement will in the long term lead to better, more efficient and more competitive operation of the market, which is important for users. It involves an important step forward in establishing competition as well as the independence of transmission system operators from other market functions in energy, which will undoubtedly contribute to improving energy supply.

It is also important that effectively liberalised and regulated markets enable the introduction of climate-related energy legislation and thereby achievement of the set environmental goals.

As the departing Presidency holder we trust, of course, that this solid work on both sides will lead to constructive negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council.


Climate-energy package with special emphasis on the directive on promoting energy use from renewable sources

In line with the ambitious and binding targets of “20-20-20”, agreed at the spring meeting of the European Council in 2007, the Commission drafted a comprehensive legislative package that also contains a proposed Directive on promoting energy use from renewable sources.

The Slovenian Presidency addressed the entire package as a priority, and after the original presentation of the renewable sources directive at the energy working group, the Presidency drew up directed questions for energy ministers, who gave their first political responses to the package and aforementioned directive at the February energy council.

The European Council of spring 2008 confirmed the ambitious package and called for a rapid agreement between Member States and EU institutions.

Following the initial responses, Slovenia performed several detailed readings of the directive, and after a debate at the informal meetings of director-generals for energy at Brdo on 5 May, it produced a progress report, which was presented at the June energy council.

Permit me to express my desire for future negotiations between the Council and Parliament to be constructive.


In the area of energy technology the Presidency:

Conducted a debate within the working bodies of the Council, and at the February energy council we achieved the consensual confirmation of ministerial conclusions regarding the Strategic Energy Technology Plan.

The Strategic Energy Technology Plan was also confirmed by the spring European Council. This is currently in the initial stage of implementation – in fact taking place on this very day is the constitutive meeting of the High-level Steering Group.

May I also take this opportunity to reiterate that energy technologies are the foundation for achieving the politically supported targets of energy and climate policy by 2020 and of the EU’s macroeconomic development.


External dimension of European energy policy

During the Slovenian Presidency, climate and energy policies were important topics of every bilateral meeting with third countries.

Some of the main activities pursued within this context were EU-Japan, EU-Latin America and the Caribbean, EU-USA and EU-Russian Federation meetings, as well as the International Energy Forum, the energy and climate meeting within the G8 framework, the EU-OPEC ministerial meetings and the Energy Community, while recently an Agreement on cooperation in the field of energy was signed between the EU and Turkmenistan.

In June representatives of the G8 group of countries signed a declaration in Japan on creating an International Partnership for Cooperation in Energy Efficiency with China, India and South Korea.

As the presiding country we also welcome the fact that during our presidency there has been a breakthrough in negotiations over the new bilateral agreement between the Russian Federation and the European Union, in other words an agreement that will follow the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. Energy is of course a key point in our relations with the Russian Federation, and as such it requires a good framework of cooperation.

In the area of electronic communications the ITRE Committee headed the committee for the “Better Regulation Directive” and for the proposal regarding the new European authority for the electronic communications market, both within a new regulatory framework, and in addition to this for a Decision on mobile satellite services. At the same time it has provided its opinion regarding the “Citizens’ Rights Directive”. Permit me, therefore, to offer a few words on the progress achieved by the Slovenian Presidency.

At the very outset may I express my great satisfaction that at the Council we succeeded in concluding the debate over the Proposed decision on the selection and approval of systems providing mobile satellite services, and that a harmonisation of the text with the European Parliament was achieved. In view of its substance, the decision is extremely important, since with regard to the selection and approval of the operator it envisages a single selection procedure on the Community level and coordinated approval on the part of all Member States. May I take this opportunity to thank you, and especially the rapporteur Mrs Fiona Hall and the shadow-rapporteurs in all the involved political groups, for their constructive contribution in adopting this decision.

As I intimated back in my introductory address to this committee, the Slovenian Presidency prepared for adoption at the TTE Council, which was held on 12 June, a progress report for all three legislative proposals, which are a constituent part of the new regulatory framework. Significant progress was made, particularly in the procedural handling of the two directives, that is the Better Regulation Directive and the Citizens’ Rights Directive. We are delighted that through the common efforts and perseverance of all we were able to coordinate positions regarding numerous elements of the Commission’s proposal of November 2007.

The proposed Better Regulation Directive includes a range of significant substantive changes relative to the existing regulatory framework. The compromise proposal, which was drafted by the Slovenian Presidency and is closer to the position of the Member States, introduces more effective use of the spectrum and a more consistent regulatory framework aimed at the operation of the internal market in the area of electronic communications. This has created a good base for further work under the French Presidency. Nevertheless there remain many unresolved issues. The views of the Member States will still need to be coordinated for instance with regard to the issue of introducing functional separation, in connection with national regulators, security and integrity of the networks and with new procedures of comitology and harmonisation.

As for the establishing of an authority for the European market in electronic communications, the Member States have expressed the majority view that the operation of the internal market in electronic communications needs to be strengthened, but that prior to a debate on the legal structure of the new authority, which could also be an expanded ERG, we need first of all to agree on the objectives and tasks of such a body. Here account needs to be taken of the principles of efficiency, transparency, independence and professionalism. Member States did not demonstrate any inclination to include the existing European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) in the new European authority for the electronic communications market. Regarding the views of Member States, spectrum administration should not play a part in the working tasks of the new authority.

As for the Citizens’ Rights Directive, the Presidency succeeded in coordinating the provisional views of Member States regarding the majority of the essential elements in the Commission proposal. There are still differing views in the Commission and Member States regarding the technical capacities for using emergency calls for VoIP services, regarding personal data protection, the method of achieving a lower level of copyright infringement and regarding the changed scope and manner of ensuring universal services. What is important is the vital point that the proposed changes are aimed primarily at strengthening the rights of consumers and users and increasing the security of privacy and personal data of individuals in the field of electronic communications.

In the light of more efficient use of the spectrum, the decisions of the Council were also adopted at the TTE Council. The decisions are based on the urgent need for active mutual cooperation among the Member States in seeking solutions for the efficient use of the spectrum, and here we need to observe as a basis the decisions already adopted on the ITU level.

The Slovenian Presidency is especially pleased that all together we were able to carry out the work we set ourselves for the good of end users.

In recognition of their hard work and cooperation to date, let me take this opportunity to thank the rapporteurs, Mrs Catherine Trautmann, Mrs Pilar del Castillo Vera and Mrs Fiona Hall, Mr Malcolm Harbour, all shadow-rapporteurs and MEPs with whom we met on various occasions starting back in the autumn. May I wish you every success in your continued work.

Permit me to move on now to the area of industrial policy and competitiveness.

I shall begin with the revived Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs, which serves as an umbrella covering all the main measures that are important for the European Union’s global competitiveness. I regard the successful start up of the second three-year cycle of the revived Lisbon Strategy as a major success of the Slovenian Presidency.

The first meeting of the Competitiveness Council during the Slovenian Presidency was to a large extent devoted precisely to this topic. We are pleased that as its contribution to the spring European Council, this formation of the Council adopted the Key Issues Paper (KIP), which is linked to the microeconomic work of the Lisbon Strategy. The majority of key issues in the area of competition were also incorporated into the actual wording of the European Council decisions, which lends them special weight and confirms the important role of the Competitiveness Council in the Lisbon process.

Here the Competitiveness Council has determined that the revived Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs proved its value for positive economic development of the EU in the first cycle, but the EU economy must step up the implementation of reforms. Let me highlight certain key issues:

In the area of knowledge and innovation emphasis was placed on investment in knowledge, research and innovation, the “fifth freedom” and strengthening of the innovation system.

In the area of freeing up business potential emphasis was placed on the internal market, better legislation and improving the business environment for small and medium-sized enterprises and their growth.

In the area of a sustainable economy it has been highlighted that the EU should promote a flexible and open approach, which will allow it to respond successfully to global challenges, including climate change and energy security. At the same time the EU’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases must be fulfilled in a professionally effective way that allows European industry to remain competitive. 

In the area of promoting European success in the global market, given the opportunities and challenges of globalisation the EU must strive for open markets that lead to reciprocal benefit.

The Slovenian Presidency is especially pleased that within the next cycle of the Lisbon Strategy, small and medium-sized enterprises have acquired a central role. One of our priority tasks has indeed been to support growth for small and medium-sized enterprises.

We devoted special attention to the group of rapidly growing innovative companies, which are the drivers of structural change and a source of dynamism in many sectors. This topic was to a large extent the subject of the debate at the informal meeting of competition ministers in Slovenia, which contributed to the development of two European Commission initiatives, specifically the Small Enterprises Act and the Action Plan for Sustainable Production, Consumption and Industrial Policy.

Regarding the impact of innovation and industrial policy on the global competitiveness of the EU economy, we succeeded in adopting the integrated conclusions of the Council, with emphasis on leading markets, the market for risk capital and pre-commercial public procurement. The integrated conclusions also include three sectoral initiatives as part of modern industrial policy, and these relate to metallurgical industries, industries based on forestry and the defence industry. I am pleased that the conclusions also include messages and recommendations regarding the competitiveness of energy-intensive industries owing to globalisation challenges.

May I also mention briefly the three main achievements of the Presidency in the area of the internal market. The first achievement is the decisions on a review of the single market policy of the EU, which were adopted in February by the Competitiveness Council and represent the political basis for further strengthening of all four freedoms of movement: the free flow of goods, services, capital and persons.

The second exceptional success of the Slovenian Presidency was the confirmation of the agreement on the package for products, which represents a new milestone in building the EU internal market. Through the entry into force of three legislative documents, we will ensure a friendlier legal framework for all economic subjects, and especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, and a high level of safety for products in the European Union market, meaning better consumer protection. This legislative package is especially important given the future challenges of globalisation.

I would highlight as the third achievement in the area of the internal market the agreement secured in January regarding the consumer credit contracts directive. We succeeded in gaining a clear mandate from the Council for a compromise proposal, which contained balanced solutions and ensured that we maintain the attained level of consumer protection.

We have been very pleased over the past six months to have had the opportunity to discuss important topics such as the future challenges in the area of competitiveness and sustainable development of the European Union. I am convinced that through our common efforts we have left an excellent basis and an investment for continued work during the French and future Presidencies.

Finally may I thank you most sincerely for the excellent cooperation and constructive work that we have done together. Special thanks go to all the rapporteurs and shadow-rapporteurs.

May I also thank the commissioners, Vice-President Günter Verheugen, Commissioner Vivian Reding and Commissioners Andris Piebalgs and Stavros Dimas.

I believe that the next presiding trio of France, the Czech Republic and Sweden will also devote great attention to energy, since we still face numerous challenges.


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Date: 26.06.2008