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Freedom to supply services, competition, unfair pricing practices and free access to ocean trade

Freedom to supply services, competition, unfair pricing practices and free access to ocean trade

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Freedom to supply services, competition, unfair pricing practices and free access to ocean trade


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Competition > Rules applicable to specific sectors > Competition in transport

Freedom to supply services, competition, unfair pricing practices and free access to ocean trade

Document or Iniciative

Council Regulation (EEC) No 4055/86 of 22 December 1986 applying the principle of freedom to provide services to maritime transport between Member States and between Member States and third countries [See amending acts]


Four Regulations, Nos 4055/86, 4056/86, 4057/86 and 4058/86, set out to apply the principles of freedom to provide services, competition, and free access to the market in sea transport. Another Regulation, No 3577/92, deals specifically with freedom to provide services in sea transport within Member States (” maritime cabotage “).

Regulation (EEC) No 4055/86: Freedom to provide services

The Regulation gives Member State nationals (and non-Community shipping companies using ships registered in a Member State and controlled by Member State nationals) the right to carry passengers or goods by sea between any port of a Member State and any port or off-shore installation of another Member State or of a non-Community country.

Any current national restrictions which reserve the carriage of goods to vessels flying the national flag are to be phased out.

Existing cargo sharing arrangements in bilateral agreements with non-Community countries are to be adjusted or phased out according to this Regulation.

Cargo sharing arrangements in future bilateral agreements with non-member countries will be limited to those Member States whose shipping companies would not otherwise have an opportunity to ply for trade to and from the particular non-member country.

The Regulation lays down a procedure for cases where Member State shippers have no effective opportunity to ply for trade to and from a particular non-Community country.

It allows the extension of the benefits of the Regulation to non-Community nationals established in the Community.

Regulation No 3573/90 inserts a clause providing for the adjustment of agreements concluded by the former German Democratic Republic.

Regulation (EEC) No 4056/86: Application of the competition rules in maritime transport

The Regulation defines the following terms:

  • “tramp vessel services”: the transport of goods without a regular timetable where the freight rates are freely negotiated case by case in accordance with supply and demand;
  • “liner conference”: a group of carriers who provide international liner services for the carriage of cargo within specified geographical limits and who agree to charge uniform or common freight rates and to apply any other agreed terms for the provision of liner services;
  • “transport user”: a firm that has entered into, or demonstrates an intention to enter into, a contractual or other arrangement with a conference or shipping line.

The Regulation lays down the rules for applying Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty (free competition) to maritime transport. The transport must be between one or more Community ports, and tramp vessel services are excluded.

Technical agreements whose sole object is to achieve technical improvements or cooperation are exempted by the Regulation from the prohibition in Article 81(1) of the Treaty.

Restrictive practices engaged in by members of one or more liner conferences are exempted from the prohibition in Article 81(1), on certain conditions, in so far as they seek to coordinate shipping timetables, determine the frequency of sailing, allocate sailings among members of the conference, fix rates and conditions of carriage, regulate carrying capacity, or allocate cargo or revenue among members.

Regulation No 1/2003 provides for a changeover from a centralised system of prior notification to a directly applicable exception scheme: competition law is now to be enforced by any competition authority, including the Commission, and by the courts of the Member States.

Regulation (EEC) No 4057/86: Unfair pricing in maritime transport

This Regulation enables the EC to apply compensatory duties in order to protect shipowners in Member States from unfair pricing practices on the part of non-Community shipowners.

The Regulation defines the injury that can be taken into consideration, e.g. a reduction in the shipowner’s market share or profits or in employment.

It lays down a procedure for complaints, consultations, and subsequent investigations.

It allows compensatory duties to be imposed on foreign shipowners. These follow an investigation which demonstrates that injury has been caused by unfair pricing and that the interests of the Community make intervention necessary.

Regulation (EEC) No 4058/86: Free access to ocean trades

This Regulation applies when action by a non-Community country or by its agents restricts free access to the transport of liner cargoes, bulk cargoes or other cargoes by shipping companies of Member States or by ships registered in a Member State, except where such action is taken in conformity with the UN Liner Code.

The Regulation defines the expressions “home trader” and “cross-trader”.

It provides for coordinated action by the Community following a request made by a Member State to the Commission. Such action might include diplomatic representation to non-Community countries and countermeasures directed at the shipping companies concerned.

Similar coordinated action can be taken at the request of another country belonging to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with which a reciprocal arrangement has been concluded.

Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EEC) No 4055/86 01.01.1987 OJ L 378 of 31.12.1986
Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EEC) No 4056/86 01.07.1987 OJ L 378 of 31.12.1986
Regulation (EEC) No 4057/86 01.07.1987 OJ L 378 of 31.12.1986
Regulation (EEC) No 4058/86 01.07.1987 OJ L 378 of 31.12.1986
Regulation (EEC) No 3573/90 17.12.1990 OJ L 353 of 17.12.1990

This summary is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document which remains the only legally binding document.

Single market for capital

Single market for capital

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Single market for capital


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Internal market > Single market for capital

Single market for capital

With the free movement of people, goods and services, the free movement of capital is one of the four fundamental freedoms of the EU. Making this a reality as of 1 July 1990 was the first stage towards economic and monetary union which culminated in the introduction of the euro.

Applying the principle of the free movement of capital

  • Achieving the free circulation of capital
  • A concerted effort to establish a European financial area
  • The legal aspects of intra-EU investment
  • Impact on capital markets
  • Facility providing financial assistance for balances of payments
  • Removing obstacles to cross-border investments by venture capital funds
  • A common European approach to Sovereign Wealth Funds


Public and private economic stakeholders and free movement of capital – banks

  • Cross-border payments in euros
  • Information on the payer accompanying transfers of funds

Public and private economic stakeholders and free movement of capital – businesses

  • Statute for a European Company
  • A European Private Company Statute
  • Fourth Directive: annual accounts of companies with limited liability
  • Seventh Directive: consolidated accounts of companies with limited liability
  • International accounting standards (IAS)
  • Accounting documents of branches of foreign credit and financial institutions
  • Settlement finality in payment and securities settlement systems
  • Investor compensation schemes

Public and private economic stakeholders and free movement of capital – consumers

  • Unfair terms
  • Consumer credit agreements
  • Actions for injunctions

Fiscal aspects of the free movement of capital – economic stakeholders

  • Common system of taxation applicable in the case of parent companies and subsidiaries of different Member States
  • Indirect taxes on raising capital
  • Common taxation of parent companies and their subsidiaries

Fiscal aspects of the free movement of capital – economic stakeholders – private individuals

  • Taxation of savings income
  • Tackling tax obstacles to the cross-border provision of occupational pensions

Fight against fraud

  • Money laundering: prevention of the use of the financial system
  • Money laundering: prevention through customs cooperation
  • The prevention of and fight against organised crime in the financial sector
  • Corporate and financial malpractice

Free movement of capital and relations within and outside the Union

  • Enlargement of the euro area after 1 May 2004
  • Purchasing property in another Member State
  • The euro and the international economy
  • Effects of foreign legislation on the Union’s financial interests
  • Combating the financing of terrorism
  • Agreement on the European Economic Area

Industry and environment

Industry and environment

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Industry and environment


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Enterprise > Interaction between enterprise policy and other policies

Industry and environment

Document or Iniciative

Conclusions of the Council of 14 and 15 May 2001 on “A strategy for integrating sustainable development in the European Union’s enterprise policy” for the Gothenburg European Council.

Conclusions of the Council of 6 and 7 June 2002 on enterprise policy and sustainable development.


The activities carried out by businesses can exert considerable pressure on the environment. European legislation lays down rules aimed at preventing pollution and repairing the damage companies cause to the environment. It also contains measures aimed at promoting the development of environmentally friendly industrial activities.

The European Union’s objective is to separate the economic development of businesses from the environmental damage that their activities cause, by ensuring a high level of environmental protection without compromising business competitiveness.

Preventing pollution and repairing damage to the environment

Article 174 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty) sets out the basic principles of Community action on the environment, in particular the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle. These general principles are implemented by specific legislation applicable to industrial activities in Europe.

Under Article 6 of the EC Treaty environmental protection requirements must be integrated into Community policies, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development.

By adopting the strategy for sustainable development at the Gothenburg European Council in 2001, the EU made the simultaneous pursuit of environmental objectives and the integration of the environment into economic and social objectives one of its priorities.

European legislation on the environment sets limits on the amount of polluting substances discharged by industry into the air or water.

In order to prevent or minimise pollutants being released into the air, water and soil as well as waste, in particular from industrial plants, the IPPC Directive also establishes a procedure for authorising activities with a high pollution potential and sets minimum requirements to be included in all permits, particularly in terms of pollutants released.

In addition, the EIA Directive (SK) (SL) (FI) requires an environmental impact assessment to be carried out on certain public and private projects before they can be approved. This is the case in particular for projects involving dangerous industrial plants such as oil refineries or chemical facilities.

The environmental liability of companies is covered specifically in Directive 2004/35/EC, with a view to preventing and repairing damage to the environment. This liability regime applies to some explicitly listed occupational activities as well as other occupational activities when the operator is guilty of error or negligence.

Companies whose activities involve hazardous substances are also subject to certain specific obligations in order to prevent accidents and limit their consequences.

European legislation also sets out detailed rules for the management of waste produced by businesses, both for “traditional” waste (recycling, landfill, incineration, etc.) and for certain specific types of waste (radioactive substances and waste, plastics, waste resulting from certain industrial activities).

Waste management is increasingly seen as a stage in the life cycle of resources and products. Thematic strategies on preventing and recycling waste and on the sustainable use of natural resources adopted in 2005 focus mainly on the ways of promoting more sustainable waste management, reducing the amount of waste produced, minimising the environmental impact of waste and reducing the use of resources. This global, life cycle-based approach obliges businesses to manage their resources and products in a more sustainable way.

Promoting environmentally-friendly activities

The Council stated in its conclusions of May 2001 that an effective strategy for integrating sustainable development into industrial policy cannot be based on legislation alone, but that a large part of this work must be stem from market-based and voluntary approaches. It reiterated that integrating sustainable development is a challenge, but at the same time an opportunity to stimulate innovation and create new economic prospects and a competitive advantage for European businesses.

The EU has instruments that favour the development of environmentally friendly economic activities. The aim is to boost the competitiveness of businesses that meet environmental standards or help improve the environment. These instruments include incentives and measures aimed at facilitating business activities.

Among these incentives, the EU offers businesses numerous funding possibilities in the form of co-financing or loans through various financial instruments and programmes, such as LIFE or the successive research and technical development framework programmes, or through other financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) or the European Structural Funds.

Other incentives focus on improving businesses’ visibility and image. The main examples are the Ecolabel, the Community Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) and certain one-off events such as the European Business Awards for the Environment.

European action also aims to facilitate businesses’ activities, in particular by spreading best practice resulting from instruments such as the IPPC Directive on integrated pollution prevention and control, integrated product policy, European standardisation, or the Best project. The integrated product policy is the main policy for promoting sustainable production and consumption. The Commission and the national and local public authorities must act as catalysts by fostering dialogue and coordinating the spread of knowledge and best practices.

The EU has also developed instruments to improve the regulatory and management frameworks in which businesses develop. These include the action plan in favour of ecotechnologies, the EMAS system and the promotion of voluntary agreements between businesses.

Voluntary initiatives taken by businesses as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices play an important role in integrating social and environmental concerns into business strategies and action. These initiatives demonstrate the business sector’s commitment to sustainable development, innovation and competitiveness.


The Vienna European Council (December 1998) asked the Industry Council to define a strategy aimed at integrating environmental issues and sustainable development into enterprise policy.

The Cardiff European Council (June 1998) laid the foundations for coordinated action at Community level to integrate environmental requirements into the Union’s policies.

The Sixth Environment Action Programme, adopted in September 2002, reaffirmed the importance of the principle of integration and laid the foundations needed to create the horizontal thematic strategies which required by the various economic and political actors.

Related Acts

Commission working document of 1 June 2004 – Integrating environmental considerations into other policy areas – a stocktaking of the Cardiff process [COM(2004) 394 final – Official Journal C 49 of 26.02.2006].
In this document the Commission stresses the substantial positive achievements made as a result of measures to integrate environmental considerations into industrial activities. These measures have contributed to an overall reduction of carbon dioxide produced by European industries. They have also made it possible to break the link between industrial activities and emissions of atmospheric pollutants (acidifying gas and ozone precursors in particular), and to some extent between energy production and the use of raw materials. However, despite this progress the Commission indicates that industrial production processes still account for a considerable share of all pollution in Europe. Industry generates 21% of EU greenhouse gas emissions and is a major source of pollution (such as heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, nutrients, etc.).

Communication from the Commission of 11 December 2002 on industrial policy in an enlarged Europe [COM(2002) 714 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission of 15 May 2001 – A Sustainable Europe for a Better World: A European Union Strategy for Sustainable Development (Commission’s proposal to the Gothenburg European Council) [COM(2001) 264 – Not published in the Official Journal].
The EU has formulated a long-term strategy to dovetail the policies for economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development, its goal being sustainable improvement of the well-being and standard of living of current and future generations. A review of this strategy was launched in 2005.

Council report of 9 November 1999 on the integration of sustainable development in the Union’s industrial policy, written for the Helsinki European Council.
In this report the Council points out that the integration of environmental considerations into industrial policy is based on certain essential principles, namely the importance of competitiveness as a key aspect of industrial policy in the three dimensions (economic, social and environmental) of sustainable development, the satisfactory cost/efficiency ratio of policies and business measures, the promotion of voluntary action between parties involved, and the specific features and interests of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Conclusions of the Council of 29 April 1999 on integrating the environment and sustainable development into the industrial policy of the EU.


Green Paper on corporate social responsibility

Green Paper on corporate social responsibility

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Green Paper on corporate social responsibility


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Employment rights and work organisation

Green Paper on corporate social responsibility

1) Objective

To launch a wide debate on how the European Union could promote corporate social responsibility on a European and International level, in particular, on how to make the most of existing experiences, to encourage the development of innovative practices, to bring greater transparency and to increase reliability in evaluating and validating the various initiatives undertaken in Europe.

2) Document or Iniciative

Green Paper – Promoting a European framework for Corporate Social Responsibility [COM(2001) 366 – Not published in the Official Journal].

3) Summary


Corporate social responsibility can make a positive contribution to the strategic goal decided by the Lisbon European Council: “to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world”. A European approach to corporate social responsibility forms part of the broader context of various international initiatives, such as the United Nations Global Compact (2000), the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (1997-2000), or the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (2000). While these initiatives are not legally binding, the European Commission is committed to the active promotion of the OECD guidelines. Observance of the core ILO labour standards (freedom of association, abolition of forced labour, non-discrimination and elimination of child labour) is central to corporate social responsibility.

Corporate social responsibility

Being socially responsible means not only fulfilling the applicable legal obligations, but also going beyond compliance and investing “more” into human capital, the environment and relations with stakeholders. The experience with investment in environmentally responsible technologies and business practices suggests that in going beyond legal compliance companies can increase competitiveness and it can have a direct impact on productivity.

Corporate social responsibility should nevertheless not be seen as a substitute to regulation or legislation concerning social rights or environmental standards, including the development of appropriate new legislation. In countries where such regulations do not exist, efforts should focus on putting the proper regulatory or legislative framework in place in order to define a level playing field on the basis of which socially responsible practices can be developed.

Whilst corporate social responsibility is so far mainly promoted by large or multinational companies, it is relevant in all types of companies and in all sectors of activity, from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to multinationals. Certain SMEs already assume their social responsibility, particularly through community involvement. Worker cooperatives and participation schemes, as well as other forms of cooperative, mutual and associative enterprises structurally integrate other stakeholder interests and take up spontaneous social and civil responsibilities.

Corporate social responsibility: the internal and external dimensions

Under increasing pressure from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), consumer groups and now also investors, companies and sectors are increasingly adopting codes of conduct covering working conditions, human rights and environmental aspects, in particular those of their subcontractors and suppliers. Surveys have shown that consumers not only want to buy good and safe products, but they also want to know if they are produced in a socially responsible manner. In recent years, investors have seen socially responsible investing (SRI) in the social domain and investment in environmental protection as a good indication of sound internal and external management. Socially responsible practices can thus help open the way to reconciling social development with improved competitiveness.

Within the company, socially responsible practices primarily involve investment in human capital, health and safety, and managing change. They also cover environmentally responsible practices relating to the management of the natural resources used in production. In addition to these internal aspects, companies also contribute externally to their local communities, by providing jobs, wages, services and tax revenues. On the other hand companies depend on the health, stability, and prosperity of the communities in which they operate. In this sense, corporate social responsibility involves a wide range of stakeholders: business partners and suppliers, customers, public authorities and NGOs representing local communities, as well as the environment.

In a world of multinational investment and global supply chains, corporate social responsibility must also extend beyond the borders of Europe. One of the external dimensions to corporate social responsibility is that of human rights, particularly in relation to global production activities. Despite the existence of international instruments such as the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, human rights remain a very complex issue presenting political, legal and moral dilemmas.

Integrated management of social responsibility

Companies’ approaches in dealing with their responsibilities and relationships with their different stakeholders vary according to sectoral and cultural differences. In general, companies tend to adopt a mission statement, code of conduct, or credo where they state their purpose, core values, and responsibilities towards their stakeholders. These values are then translated into action across the organisation, adding a social or environmental dimension to their plans and budgets in order to carry out social or environmental audits and set up continuing education programmes.

Many multinational companies are now issuing social responsibility reports. While environmental, health, and safety reports are common, reports tackling issues such as human rights or child labour are not. In order for these reports to be useful, a global consensus needs to evolve on the type of information to be disclosed, the reporting format to be used, and the reliability of the evaluation and audit procedures.

The Green Paper invites public authorities at all levels, including international organisations, enterprises from SMEs to multinationals, social partners, NGOs, other stakeholders and all interested individuals to express their views on how to build a partnership for the development of a new framework for the promotion of corporate social responsibility, taking account of the interests of both business and the various stakeholders. Enterprises need to work together with public authorities to find innovative ways of developing corporate social responsibility.

4) Implementing Measures

5) Follow-Up Work

Access to financing for businesses

Access to financing for businesses

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Access to financing for businesses


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Job creation measures

Access to financing for businesses

Setting up one’s own business and developing its activity requires considerable financing. Although their first investors are generally family members or friends, entrepreneurs often have to resort to other sources of financing. However, access to appropriate financing often proves difficult, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as financial players are unwilling to take the risk that such businesses represent. The consequent market shortcomings compromise European entrepreneurship and, as a result, European growth.

It is therefore essential to ensure a more favourable financial environment for businesses, particularly SMEs. Some of the market shortcomings can best be remedied by the Member States. The European Union supplements and widens the scope of national mechanisms by offering European businesses financial support mainly indirectly (financial instruments) but sometimes also directly (other types of financial support).

Indirect Support

The Community financial instruments facilitate access for businesses, in particular SMEs, to equity loans or financing. Businesses do not receive the Community financing directly but via a financial intermediary.

The financial instruments fall within the scope of the Framework Programme for Innovation and Competitiveness (2007-2013) and, more specifically, of its Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme, which ensures the continuity of the multi-annual programme for businesses and entrepreneurship, in particular for SMEs (2001-2006). 510 million euros had been allocated under the multiannual programme and 3.6 billion euros have been allocated under the Framework Programme.

The financial instruments provide indirect financial support to European businesses. The European Investment Fund (EIF) covers the management side on behalf of the Commission. It acts through financial intermediaries, banks and investment funds, thereby guaranteeing proximity financing.

Injection of equity

Initial investment and the ongoing injection of equity are essential if a business is to tap into its growth and innovation potential. However, SMEs often face an equity gap.

The Community financial instruments therefore encourage the supply of equity to SMEs, particularly innovative SMEs, by investing in specialised venture capital funds which in turn provide equity to SMEs. The investments can also take the form of investment funds or arrangements promoted by informal investors, business incubators or business angels.

Under the Multiannual Programme for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, the ETF (European Technology Facility) start-up facility supports innovative businesses and rapidly developing start-ups. This facility focuses mainly on seed capital.

The High Growth and Innovative SME Facility (GIF) ensures the continuity of the ETF start-up facility within the framework of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme. The GIF facilitates the supply of seed and start-up capital for young SMEs. It introduces a new element by also offering “follow-up” capital during the expansion stage for high-growth, innovative businesses. It thus helps businesses to market their products and services and encourages them to innovate.

Bank credit and guarantee systems

Loans provide an advance of funds that are often essential for business establishment or development. However, SMEs and innovative businesses often cannot offer sufficient guarantees to obtain a loan. This situation is aggravated by the increasing reluctance of financial institutions to take risks (“Basel II” regulatory framework).

The Community financial instruments therefore encourage financial institutions to grant loans to businesses, in particular SMEs and innovative businesses, using guarantee instruments based on risk-sharing. They thereby increase the loan facility available to businesses.

The SME guarantee mechanism, for instance, facilitates access to debt financing, i.e. loans and leasing. It guarantees loans for developments linked to information and communication technologies (ICT), which are considered to be high risk. This mechanism also offers guarantees for micro-credits to encourage financial institutions to grant loans of less than 25 000 euros, which involve high risk and low profitability. In addition, it provides guarantees for the acquisition of shareholdings or for equity investments in SMEs.

The SME guarantee mechanism was introduced under the Multiannual Programme and has been continued under the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme with a new securitisation instrument for debt finance portfolios which will help to mobilise additional loan financing for SMEs.

Capacity building

The financial instruments also strengthen the capacity of financial intermediaries, particularly in the new Member States, thereby stimulating the venture capital available to innovative businesses and businesses with growth potential.

The seed capital action of the Multiannual Programme and the capacity building instrument of the Enterprise and Innovation Programme support investment funds by improving their technical and technological potential and helping with the recruitment of specialised staff.

Direct Support

The Structural Funds provide an important source of financing for businesses, particularly SMEs. In fact, businesses make a crucial contribution to achieving the objective of reducing development disparities between regions and promoting economic and social cohesion in the European Union.

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) supports development and structural adjustment in regional economies by helping small businesses and promoting entrepreneurship. The purpose of the Joint European Resources for Micro-to-Medium Enterprises initiative (JEREMIE), to become operational in 2007, is to improve access for small and medium-sized businesses to financing in the least developed regions, thereby encouraging the creation of new businesses, particularly in innovative sectors. The initiative offers loan guarantee systems and also equity and venture capital financing.

Financing under the Structural Funds is made available through the national or regional authorities. Under the JEREMIE initiative, financing can be accessed through financial intermediaries, banks and investment funds, and in particular through the EIF and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Businesses can also have direct access to European financial support when it is to be used for the achievement of specific objectives. The Community programmes therefore offer the possibility of direct financing in the fields of research and innovation (the Sixth and Seventh European Community Framework Programmes for Research), environment and energy (see section entitled “Incentives and Environment Subsidies”), education and training (Socrates and Leonardo da Vinci) and health and safety.

If they meet the criteria laid down by the programme in question, businesses can make a direct application for financial support to the European Commission department responsible for the programme.