The purpose of the Joint Work Programme, which is presented in revised and updated versions to the Internal Market Council every six months, is to inform about the priorities and the general direction of work in the area of the internal market under the three Presidencies concerned. The present version of the Joint Work Programme is put forward by the Finnish Presidency on behalf also of the following Portuguese and French Presidencies.
It should be recalled that the Joint Work Programme is only indicative and has to be adjusted in the light of new developments. Its content at any given time depends to a large extent on what the Commission has presented or plans to present in terms of legislative proposals, communications, reports and other documents which merit the attention of the Internal Market Council. Another factor which determines the direction of work is the broad, horizontal
nature of the internal market issues and the need to take into account the close links to a number of Community policy areas and work in other Council formations. This calls for effective coordination between the relevant Council formations in order to ensure a convergence of objectives and to achieve a higher degree of integration of policies. The obvious connections between the internal market and policy areas such as the environment, consumer and health protection, employment and economic and social development are likely to play an increasingly important role in the Internal Market Council in the future. The Cardiff process on economic reform and the integration of environmental protection and sustainable development into internal market policy are two clear examples of these new dimensions and illustrate the increasing broad responsibilities of the Internal Market Council. These aspects are addressed in more detail below.
Past versions of the Joint Work Programme of the Presidencies have in the first place focused on the implementation of the Single Market Action Plan which the Commission presented in June 1997. Although the Action Plan to a large extent has been a clear success, much still remains to be done to ensure a well-functioning internal market which is fit to meet new challenges and opportunities in a climate of increased competitive pressures. Against this background and mindful of the need for an effective follow-up to the Action Plan, the Internal Market Council at its meeting on 28 October 1999 welcomed the Commission’s consultative Communication on a New Strategy for the Internal Market and looked forward to receiving the definitive Communication as a basis for an in-depth discussion on future priorities in the field of the internal market. Examination of the Commission’s Communication and the development of a New Strategy for the internal market with a view to further enhancing its effectiveness and capability to deliver tangible benefits both to citizens and business will be a first priority for the three Presidencies. They consider the strategic objectives suggested by the Commission to be an important framework for policy development over the next five years. These strategic objectives will be supplemented by more operational objectives to be pursued through target actions which should be achieved within established time limits. An
important task will be to prioritise these actions and to elaborate effective, result-oriented monitoring and review procedures for evaluation of progress achieved, identification of possible new problems and examination of the need for revised target actions. The Internal Market Council will be called upon to address these issues in the framework of an annual review debate, based on inputs from the Commission. A first interim review is scheduled for the second meeting of the Internal Market Council under the Portuguese Presidency, in May 2000.
There is a close link between the New Strategy for the Internal Market and the Cardiff Process on economic reform, as pointed out by the Commission in its Communication and underlined by Internal Market Ministers at the Council meeting of 28 October 1999. The further development of this process, including the need to improve procedures and working methods, with a view to enabling the Internal Market Council to contribute more effectively to the elaboration of the annual Broad Economic Policy Guidelines, is a matter of high priority for the Presidencies. Initiatives will be taken to further improve the coordination between the relevant Council formations, as well as with the Commission services and the Economic Policy Committee. Draft Conclusions, summarising the result of the examination of the 1999 national and Commission reports under the Cardiff process - focusing on aspects which are relevant for the internal market - will be submitted to the Internal Market Council in March 2000. These Conclusions will serve the purpose of contributing both to the preparation of the special European Council meeting in Lisbon at the end of March on employment, economic reform and economic and social cohesion and to the elaboration of the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines, to be adopted by the ECOFIN Council. They will also provide an input for the first interim review of the New Strategy.
A third subject matter to which the three Presidencies will pay particular attention is the continued development of a comprehensive strategy for the effective integration of environmental protection and sustainable development into internal market policy. Since the report submitted to the Helsinki European Council is only the first step towards the development of a comprehensive strategy, the Internal Market Council is committed to pursue its efforts in this regard, building on the report as well as on additional contributions from the
Commission and individual Member States on specific issues. The continued work will focus inter alia on the development of effective monitoring mechanisms, including indicators. The scope, direction and timetable for this work will depend on possible political guidance from the Helsinki European Council. However, it is likely that a first review of progress towards a more comprehensive strategy will take place under the French Presidency (the Internal Market Council in November 2000).
In addition to the three broad policy areas outlined under section II above, the three Presidencies wish to highlight the following priority areas, in the non-legislative field as well as with regard to new legislation.
Firstly, some further progress can be noted regarding the implementation of Community legislation in the Member States. The "fragmentation factor", i.e. the percentage of internal market Directives which have still not been implemented in all Member States has fallen to 12,6 percent in November 1999 from 14,9 percent a year before. Although this represents an improvement, the Presidencies underline the need for reinforced efforts in all Member States to transpose remaining legal acts without further delay. A renewed commitment to speed up the implementation should become part of the New Strategy. In this context, the Presidencies express their strong support of the Commission’s Scoreboard as an effective monitoring instrument and look forward to receiving, as in the past, updated versions every six months as a basis for exchanges of views in the Council.
Equally important are effective means for enforcement of Community legislation, administrative cooperation – between national authorities as well as with the Commission – and problem solving. Significant steps have been taken in recent years to improve these instruments which play a crucial role in the efforts to enhance the
efficiency of markets and to assist economic operators, not least small and medium-sized enterprises, in making full use of the potential of the internal market. In this context, the Presidencies underline the importance which they attach to an effective follow-up, by the Commission as well as by the Member States, to the Resolution on mutual recognition which the Internal Market Council adopted at its meeting on 28 October 1999. This is also valid for the Resolution on standardisation, adopted at the same Council meeting. The Presidencies look forward to receiving some first indications from the Commission in the Internal Market Council on 7 December 1999 on how it intends to contribute to the implementation of the important measures which have been agreed.
Increased attention will be paid to the need for more effective mechanisms for market surveillance and product control in key sectors such as foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals in order to restore the confidence of consumers in the internal market by ensuring a high level of product safety. Recent events clearly illustrate that there are important links between the internal market and consumer policy issues which need to be addressed in a coherent manner.
A continued – and intensified – Dialogue with Citizens and Business appears to be more important than ever. The confidence in and the credibility of the internal market depend on the extent to which it can deliver the benefits which citizens – both as consumers and as employees – and enterprises rightly expect from it, such as a wide variety of high quality and safe products at lowest possible prices, free access to markets and freedom to move across national frontiers. The three Presidencies, in close consultation with the Commission, will pay particular attention to the need for an integrated approach to these fundamental aspects of the internal market, building inter alia on the Commission’s New Strategy for the Internal Market which, quite correctly, puts the emphasis on measures to improve the quality of life of citizens.
As has been the general policy orientation in recent years, the further development and improvement of the internal market will be less a question of new legislation, although there still is a need for new or modified common rules in certain key sectors. Instead,
the focus will continue to be on ways and means to improve the regulatory and administrative framework through better regulation and simplification of legislation.
The three Presidencies attach high priority to continued efforts in these regards, at Community level as well as in the Member States, and underline the importance of projects such as SLIM, BEST and the Business Test Panels. The Presidencies regret that the Internal Market Council is still not in a position to make a general evaluation of the SLIM initiative but trust that the Commission’s report on the subject will be available in time for an in-depth debate on this topic at the first Internal Market Council meeting under the Portuguese Presidency.
As regards new or modified legislation, the Internal Market Council has in recent months adopted or reached political agreement on common positions on a number of important legislative proposals:
The cooperation with the European Parliament within the framework of the expanded co-decision procedure is a matter of key importance for the Internal Market Council. The three Presidencies will, as a matter of priority, actively support the ongoing efforts to develop the dialogue and cooperation with the Parliament, building on the positive results achieved under the Finnish Presidency. The Presidencies find it particularly important to continue and extend the informal contacts which have been established with the Parliament in the mutual interest of speeding-up the legislative process by avoiding – to the extent possible – time consuming conciliation procedures. Under the Finnish Presidency such informal contacts made it possible to come to rapid agreements on five important files (Electronic signatures, Cableway installations, Speedometers, Liquid fuel tanks and Customs 2000).
7 December 1999
16 March 2000
25 May 2000
28 September 2000
30 November 2000.