4 Dec

At the Competitiveness Council meeting on 28 November 2019, ministers discussed ways to support European small and medium-sized enterprises and to strengthen the EU's external competitiveness.

During the debate the forthcoming EU SME strategy, Mr László György, State Secretary for Economic Planning and Regulation at the Ministry for Innovation and Technology, presented the main pillars of the recently adopted Hungarian SME strategy. In the strategy, with a perspective to 2030, the envisaged measures cover areas such as support for technology change and digitalisation, reduction of administrative burdens and red tape, or support for generation change. Mr György added that the deployment of green and high-tech solutions are essential for the future of both Hungary and the European Union. It is therefore recommended that EU and national policies aiming to strengthen the SME sector pay particular attention to adapting green solutions and supporting innovation capacities.

As for the debate on the external competitiveness of the EU, Mr György called for more effective actions to protect EU-based businesses against unfair, competition-distorting practices in third countries. He stressed that the EU must also strike the right balance between emission reduction measures and competitiveness. The measures should contribute as much as possible to reducing CO2 emissions, but the same time we also need to ensure that our companies are not disadvantaged in the international market by unjustifiably stringent regulations.

The Competitiveness Council also discussed a draft directive on the public disclosure of income tax information. László György agreed with the objective of increasing publicity and transparency in the area of corporate taxation, but could not support the means proposed to achieve these goals. The main reason for opposing the proposal for regulation on the table is that it may put an unjustified administrative burden on our companies, thereby exposing them to a competitive disadvantage versus companies operating in third countries under less stringent rules. The Council has not endorsed the proposal.

At the research section on 29 November 2019, the ministers discussed three legislative files in order to reach a political agreement: the draft regulation on the Euratom research and innovation training programme (2021-2025); the recitals of the Horizon Europe R&I framework programme and its 4th annex on synergies, and the draft regulation on the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. As unanimity could not be reached in case of the Euratom file, the Council endorsed the Presidency’s progress report. The Council agreed on its position in case of the above-mentioned parts of Horizon Europe and the EIT regulation. The text of the latter was complemented with a review clause.

Apart from the legislative files, the ministers endorsed the progress report on the EIT’s Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda and the council conclusions on the updated Bioeconomy strategy, a sustainable bioeconomy for Europe.
The debate at the ministerial lunch focused on attracting private R&I investments for sustainable growth and the contribution of Horizon Europe to that. State Secretary Prof. József Bódis (Ministry for Innovation and Technology) highlighted that favourable conditions shall be created at national and EU level for instance by having attractive regulatory and fiscal frameworks, cutting red-tape and facilitating access to financial support. He stressed that enterprises shall be strengthened by supporting their technological and organisational innovations, fostering industry-academia partnerships and involving them in knowledge and technology transfer related activities.