Examination of Witness (Questions 1160
WEDNESDAY 7 JUNE 2000
1160. You bring together all of the different
Councils for the industry, do you not, so there is no misunderstanding?
(Mr Oldeman) If we say "Councils", we mean,
of course, the Council in different compositions. Up to now for
telecommunications it is the Telecommunications Council, although
for certain parts it is also the Internal Markets Council. Sometimes
it is very clear for which Council it is, sometimes the Presidency
decides in which Council at the end the discussions will take
1161. I do not know whether this is appropriate
to you or not but we have had some evidence put to us that the
Internal Markets Council and the Industry Council ought to be
subsumed into a Competitiveness Council to assist with the development
(Mr Oldeman) With real European logic now they have
brought the Industry and the Energy Councils together. The Internal
Market Council is still as it was and the Telecommunications Council
has merged with the Transport Council. What the practice will
be, I do not know.
1162. What is your view on the Industry and
Internal Market Councils becoming closer? Should they be subsumed?
(Mr Oldeman) The fact that the Industry Council should
have been merged with the Internal Market Council?
(Mr Oldeman) It could have been done. There is also
a practical point because most of the ministers of industry are
also in the Internal Market Council. In the Internal Market Council
half of the ministersdo not attack me if it is one more
or one lessare ministers or secretaries of state for European
affairs and the others are ministers of economics or industry.
1164. As part of the Secretariat do you have
any involvement in the make up of the Councils, in recommending
who should be on them?
(Mr Oldeman) No, that is the Presidency. In fact,
in most of the cases it is already clear where the subject is
going. If there is a proposal for a Directive in the energy field,
in the former days it went to the Energy Council but now in the
future it will be the Council for Industry and Energy, it is not
1165. When exchanges take place how do they
emerge? Which eye gets the gleam in it first of all?
(Mr Oldeman) There was at a certain moment a rationalisation
and the number of Councils would diminish. A decision was taken
some time ago, not too long ago, and some Councils were merged,
like Industry and Energy and Telecommunications and Transport.
1166. Do you think the set up is properly structured
to deal with this increasingly all-embracing topic of e-commerce?
It starts in a limited area and you see before long it is moving
into this one and then health is now being looked at, it is starting
to affect health, it is starting to affect transport.
(Mr Oldeman) It is a phenomenon that we did not meet
before but we now realise is coming up. Co-ordination in the Council
in former days was mainly a problem in the capitals of each country
but now with the three pillars we suddenly realised that some
Councils were dealing with the same subjects. In the Telecoms
Council we adopted a Directive on electronic signatures and all
of a sudden we discovered that in the framework of the Third Pillar
they are now starting to develop activities also. In what sense
it is going I do not know because from what I have seen they are
still in the framework of fact finding. This is going to be a
problem in the Council. We need more co-ordination to see that
there are not three Councils dealing with one item and coming
to contradictory decisions.
1167. Have you any ideas that you might perhaps
like to share with us on how these problems can be anticipated
and best addressed?
(Mr Oldeman) As this is not directly my competence
I have not reflected much on it. As a first reaction I would say
that Presidencies are changing so it is only for six months that
it is their problem. There should be some continuous unit dealing
with this problem and I guess it should be within the Secretariat.
1168. I suppose we have got some big changes
coming out of the French Presidency at the end of the year on
the number of Commissioners and so on and there could even be
changes on the timetabling of appointments of Presidents and so
on, could there not?
(Mr Oldeman) You mean that we change the six month
1169. Yes. I am not saying this is coming but
there is the unfinished business left over from Amsterdam with
knock-on effects that could range into a number of areas, is there
(Mr Oldeman) Yes. You have arguments in favour and
against the six months, even that two or more countries could
share Presidencies. At first sight for me personally it would
not be a good thing.
1170. You said, I think, that the job of your
Secretariat is, if you like, to facilitate the Presidency. Do
you not find it incredibly disruptiveI am not arguing for
a longer period, this has just come upalways preparing
for the next Presidency or even preparing for the one thereafter?
This must give you a tremendous administrative problem.
(Mr Oldeman) Maybe. That has dominated our work.
1171. You are there to cope with the problem.
(Mr Oldeman) For the first six months only. Every
Presidency is trying to make a sprint working under high pressure
trying to achieve something and that is a very good thing.
1172. They only have one intensive period every
number of years whereas you get each one of them coming in fresh
and you have to cope with them.
(Mr Oldeman) Yes.
1173. To what extent do you facilitate or help
with the Commissioners themselves? With the future of this IGC
and whatever, if it was ultimately decided that over the next
number of years there would be more Commissioners, do you see
this as being a problem or do you see that it is something that
might even help the administrative side?
(Mr Oldeman) I do not think it would be a problem
for us because each proposal by the Commission lives its own life.
At the moment the Commission has taken a decision about a proposal
and it is presented to the Council. We know in general which Council,
which working party, COREPER is always the same of course, and
on the other hand we know who is the Commissioner responsible
and the Commissioner decides who is going to represent the Commission
and fairly often it is not just one but two.
1174. Your power as the same permanent Secretariat
through each Presidency must be really quite significant. Do you
feel that each Presidency has completely different ideas or have
they co-ordinated them with the previous Presidency? Are you part
of that co-ordination?
(Mr Oldeman) You are completely right. It has been
the experience in the last few years that this co-ordination is
growing more and more between former and future Presidencies.
I have to be careful what I say about this but, because a Presidency
has many heads, in each field the future President has to prepare
himself or herself. The experience last week in Sweden in the
preparation of the Swedish Presidency in the industrial field
is they already have their contacts with the sitting Presidency
and even Presidencies before and the future Presidency, etc.
1175. Since you deal with the different countries
regularly, or once every six months, do you find a great diversification
in their capabilities IT wise, e-commerce wise, and their functions
electronically as governments? We are involved in e-commerce,
so to an extent e-government is an issue.
(Mr Oldeman) I do not think that we can really have
a judgment about it. We see delegations coming in in the working
parties, in the Council, they have opinions about proposals but
that does not immediately show their general approach to the problem
because on some specific items it is very difficult to discover
what the position of a delegation is.
1176. As a Secretariat are you very far forward
in e-government within your Secretariat? Do you find that Member
States who come forward for the Presidency are equally capable
in each case of managing e-government within the system of the
Presidency, or is that not an issue?
(Mr Oldeman) I think that is not an issue. In the
beginning I did not understand you very well, I am sorry.
1177. I explained it rather badly.
(Mr Platten) There are some delegations that are more
advanced in terms of more routinely they use e-mail and in terms
of functioning and their contacts with us. There are still a few
backwaters but it is not necessarily always the same country,
it might be one particular ministry in one particular country.
I do not think there are any trends.
1178. The e-policy has been very much run by
the Portuguese Presidency, has it not, left over from Helsinki,
picked up from Helsinki and then run by the Portuguese Presidency?
We now have the French Presidency in preparation and soon to take
over and it is going to continue, is it not, to be a major issue
(Mr Oldeman) eEurope, yes.
1179. eEurope, yes.
(Mr Oldeman) Absolutely, it is their intention to