Energy market liberalisation.The Spanish Presidency stressed on the first day of the Summit that it was "making every possible effort" to achieve progress on efforts to liberalise the EU's energy markets in line with the Commission proposal. But initial hopes that the French Government might be able to accept the proposed dates of 2003 for full liberalisation of the electricity market and 2004 for the gas market for business users appeared over-optimistic after French sources appeared to set new demands. In particular, Paris hinted that it wanted EU leaders and the Commission to agree to a new Framework Directive on public service obligations before agreeing to any moves on market opening. This new Directive would outline measures which governments were allowed to take to ensure that certain goals in terms of public service were met and would apply to other sectors due to be affected by liberalisation such as post and telecommunications. The Commission reacted by saying that there were sufficient safeguards in the proposed Directive on liberalisation to make new legislation superfluous.France also appeared to be toughening its stance in relation to the Commission's 2005 deadline for opening the market for consumers by insisting that business users would be very strictly defined as large-scale industrial consumers and not all non-domestic consumers as the Commission has proposed. In particular, France appears to be adamant that small and medium-sized businesses should not fall into the definition of business users.France's tougher stance emerged as the Commission indicated it would be more flexible on the issue of the dates in return for getting a firm commitment from Barcelona on liberalisation.EU leaders were having their first discussion on liberalisation of network industries on the afternoon of March 15 as European Report went to press. EU officials said they expected discussions to continue late into the evening.The aim of the Summit to take stock of the progress made since the Lisbon European Council in making the EU the most competitive, knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. The strategy involves wide-ranging reforms of industrial sectors and labour market polices and greater emphasis on education and training and investment in research and development.Over dinner, EU leaders and Foreign Ministers are due to discuss the situation in the Middle East and approve a new communiqu? calling backing the Saudi peace plan, which involves Arab states restoring diplomatic relations with Israel in exchange for a withdrawal from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 (see also Section V).Statement by European Parliament President.As agreed with the Council President, Jos? Maria Aznar, once the European Parliament had dropped its plan to take legal action to change the legal basis for the European Company Statute, the Parliament's President, Pat Cox, had the opportunity to swap views in earnest with EU leaders at the start of the session. Apart from Mr Aznar, appearances were made by leaders of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, Germany, Gerhard Schr?der, Austria, Wolfgang Sch?ssel, Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, Sweden, G?ran Persson, and Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Mr Cox felt invested with all the more...

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