The Industry Council met on 7 April 1995 in Luxembourg and discussed a number of themes including industrial competitiveness, industrial cooperation with the PECO countries and high-technology industry and enterprise. The Council heard a presentation by Commissioner Van Miert on the interim report on European competition policy during 1994 and confirmed the importance of a policy for the future competitiveness of European industry. In the context of promoting industrial competitiveness, the Council took note of action by the Commission in the following areas: - The promotion of immaterial investment and the reinforcement of the research effort, in particular investment taking account of market needs, in the definition of RTD policies and in the context of the information society; - Facilitating the creation of European enterprise consortia with respect to competition rules. The Council also called for a greater effort to align Member State competition rules and better integration of actions in the area of professional training with other policy areas. With regard to industrial cooperation, the Council noted the importance of the formation of industry round tables and the use of databases for providing information on opportunities for industrial cooperation. The Council proposed the establishment of a database and the preparation of an annual report on the obstacles confronting the functioning of global markets. This initiative would enable the integration of centralized information on electronics, as well as information and communication technologies. On the subject of industrial cooperation with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (PECO), the Council reaffirmed the pre-membership strategy defined during the Essen Council. It also stressed the importance of dialogue in the area of industrial cooperation (at the business and administration levels), in addition to its crucial role in the process of integrating the PECO countries into the European economy, while ensuring a level playing field with regard to State aid. The Council requested the Commission to adopt measures to facilitate industrial cooperation with the PECO countries and to contribute to the development of a regulatory environment favourable to business, so as to overcome the obstacles to industrial cooperation. The following priorities were identified: - Support for the development process in the PECO countries by improving investment conditions, particularly transparency, security for investors and the alignment of legislation protecting investments; - Technical assistance for increased competitiveness, the establishment of a single market, trade development and industrial development. Technical assistance to align evaluation procedures with those operating in the EU, including regulation for the protection of the environment and encouraging the participation of the PECO countries with international standards organizations will be increased. In particular, measures should be aimed at: - Encouraging the significant development and use of round tables between industrialists in the EU and the PECO countries, with a view to developing industrial cooperation; - Reinforcing scientific and technical cooperation, particularly with regard to the information society, and to developing relations between research and industrial development in the PECO countries. In general the Council decided to promote industrial cooperation through the following actions: - Management training for Central and East European businesses; - Support for feasibility and viability studies for concrete projects, taking into account market conditions: . Accelerating the reconstruction and modernization of businesses in Central and Eastern Europe from the point of view of sustainable economic development and respect for the environment; . Stimulating privatization; . Facilitating cooperation with European companies; - Improved identification and mobilization of the existing financial mechanisms for industrial cooperation. In this regard, the Council invited the Commission to analyse the investment risks in the transition economies and to investigate possible responses to improving returns on investment in the PECO countries. The JOPP programme's contribution to the establishment of SME joint ventures was recognized during the discussion. The Council invited the Members of the Commission, in their respective areas of competence, to actively follow the above EU objectives, and by way of conclusion: - Stated its intention to encourage the initiation of a permanent process of consultation to ensure the maximum cooperation and synergy between the EU assistance programmes and private sector initiatives in this area; - Invited the Commission to follow works on industrial cooperation with other third countries with which the Community traditionally works and to present its initiatives in this area as soon as possible. The Council stressed the important role of SMEs in the area of high technologies, in particular: - The Council awaits with interest the completion of the Commission's White Paper on the preparation of the inclusion of the PECO countries into the single market; - The importance of RTD and higher level qualifications in business; - The continued production of innovative products. In so doing, the Council has equally stressed the importance of making technological advances available to traditional industries and thereby increasing industrial competitiveness in general. The Council made the following points: - The importance of risk capital for financing high-technology industries at both the creation phase and the development phase; - European technology policy must take account of market needs, with due consideration to the generic and pre-competitive nature of technologies developed under Community RTD Framework Programmes. This can be facilitated by: . Consultation of enterprises, including SMEs and technology users under all programmes; . Anticipation of the relevant synergies between the Framework Programmes and EUREKA through a greater exchange of information; - In the area of competitiveness, the global nature of the market in which high-technology enterprises operate implies: . An examination of the consequences which can result in the difference between the rules governing European competitiveness and those of the principal competing nations; . An active policy to allow access by European high-technology enterprises to third markets. Industrial development necessitates the promotion of cooperation between businesses, in order to contribute to the diffusion of high-technology products and processes and the increase in industrial competitiveness. The Council asked the Commission to prepare a report on the initiatives which are already operational, particularly in view of encouraging the development of a capital market for promoting SME participation in, amongst other areas, the development of the information society. The Council received a presentation from Commissioner Bangemann on the progress achieved in the development of the information society, as well as the activities of the Commission following the G7 ministerial meeting on the information society which took place on 25-26 February 1995, particularly the implementation of the pilot projects.