Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Finnish EU Presidency- New Innovation Policy a priority

From 1st July for the next six months Finland has the Presidency of the EU - it will be followed by Germany.

The outline work plan has been agreed in advance and will broadly cover the issues agreed in a joint document with Austria ( the previous President) See here for details:

The President, however, does have the opportunity to pick some key areas they want to focus on. A word of warning though- Presidency agendas are notoriously overambitious and tend to get bogged down in political in fighting.

The Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen is today setting out the priority areas for their Presidency at the plenary session of the European Parliament. Copy of his speech here:

There are a number of issues that are relevant to those interested in IP and Health issues .I highlight some of the points made in Mr Vanhanen's speech and the points made in the draft agenda:

It's a mixed bag. Very welcome are the strong commitments made to greater openness of the secretive Council of Ministers proceedings, with the Finnish Government committing to webcast public Council sessions itself , if the Commission does not get its own website in order. Also welcome is the agreement for the Council to make greater use of economic, social and environmental impact assessments before agreeing to legislation- though of course it all depends on how the impact assessments are drawn up !

The greater commitment to communication also involves a weekly briefing in Latin to celebrate Europe's ancient culture!

Innovation and competition are key themes:
'The Finnish Presidency wants to make progress on the development of a broad-based innovation policy. In the Council's legislative work and at the meeting of Heads of State or Government in Lahti, we will focus on initiatives aimed at creating an environment that is conducive to innovation and to the effective use of it. The goal is a policy that generates demand for innovation.'

'A broad-based innovation policy requires joint action at EU level and more effective decision-making with regard to standardisation, protection of intellectual property and development of financial markets, for example.'

The more detailed workplan indicates , as well as continuing the work on copyright levies and the Community Patent, Finland will produce a report on new ideas and challenges in innovation policy by end 2006. In developing its broad based innovation policy it will draw on the Aho report:

One of the Aho report's main points is the creation of an innovation-friendly market in which businesses can launch new products and services. The report considers e-health, pharmaceuticals, energy, environment, transport and logistics, security and digital content as the top sectors in which the market needs to be urgently created, with public procurement driving the demand

As was made clear in a good article on ( from which some of the information below has been taken see below for link) ' Finland proposes to change the direction of EU innovation policy.'

For this purpose, the Finnish Presidency has prepared a background discussion paper for the Competitiveness Council ministerial meeting taking place on 10-11 July 2006.

While much of the paper in practice is not new ( and very much based on the Aho report) what is new in a Presidency paper is an emphasis on the demand ( user) side of standards , R&d and IP and the emphasis on the need for users to have a role in all these areas.

At the competitiveness meeting ministers will be invited to participate in workshops on different topics related to innovation:

- competition and innovation-friendly regulation,
- public services as drivers for innovation,
- adaptability of research systems,
- entrepreneurs' role in bringing innovation to the markets.

Next Steps
The Finnish Presidency will provide a summary of the informal Competitiveness Council's results soon after 11 July, 2006.

The Commission will publish a Communication on Innovation in September 2006.

The December 2006 Competitiveness Council is set to discuss "concrete deliverables and suggestions for practical policy improvements that might be taken up by the forthcoming German Presidency".

Other issues

During the Presidency they will also set out the preparations for the ratification and implementation of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression.

Community competence on Health matters is a controversial subject, while there is cooperation and competence in limited areas, many Member States want to retain their ability to make policy independently in this area. Equally some sections of industry are opposing the use of health concerns as a justification for new regulations. Against this backdrop there is an intriguing sentence at the beginning of the work plan section on Health:

'Protecting Health is an obligation under the Treaties which extends to all common policies. Finland wants to determine explicitly what that entails during the Presidency'

They are also keen to try to finalise the 7th Research Framework Programme during their Presidency which contains key commitments on medical R&D.

A new pharmaceutical forum will hold its first meeting during the Presidency which will set out a strategic blue print for the work of the G-10 working party on pharmaceuticals and competitiveness. Regrettably by all reports the forum looks like shaping up to be an other opportunity for Pharma to present its wish list , with most relevant NGO's excluded. Perhaps the Finns could live up to their ambitions on openness and transparency by allowing a broader range of stakeholders to take part?

The Presidency also commits to taking forward the EU commitments on development and in particular the Africa Strategy.

Read On : . Article on Finnish proposals on Innovation with links to key documents :


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