The body which represents Europe's workers, employers, and other groups in society has adopted an opinion on the Commission's proposals for the specific programmes under the Fifth RTD Framework Programme. The opinion was adopted at the Economic and Social Committee's plenary session, in Brussels, on 10 September 1998. In its opinion, the Committee calls for a substantially higher budget for the programmes than that adopted by the Council in its February 1998 common position. Furthermore, it argues that each Key Action must have sufficient resources to encourage involvement to reach the critical mass necessary to address complex problems adequately. The ESC calls for measures to ensure the effectiveness of the integrated approach to the Fifth Framework Programme, using forecasting and assessment systems, trend charts, and performance measures for monitoring the programmes and Key Actions. Efficient bottom-up advisory groups need to be supported by a network of national advisory groups, not least to avoid the establishment of exclusive clubs. The responsibilities of each Key Action need to be specified clearly, with unambiguous management structures and set objectives within given time-frames. The Committee also wants harmonised and transparent assessment criteria and procedures for proposals, to allow straightforward access for all. Assessment initiatives could complement projects, with a view to reaping practical benefits and solving common problems. The Committee emphasises the need to provide training in new skills for managing the wide variety of disciplines and sectors, while taking account of SMEs, end-users and standardisation, innovation and human resource developments. In order to make best use of the innovation instruments, the role of the "Innovation Cells" in each Key Action needs to be clearly defined, while participation procedures for SMEs need to be streamlined and simplified. In addition, the ESC wants the actions within the Increasing Human Potential programme to be more closely related to the Key Actions. Finally, according to the Committee, the nuclear research programme should focus more on nuclear fission safety, to ensure the safety of Europe's existing nuclear power plants. The ESC also calls for the Joint Research Centre's role to be clearly defined, supporting EU policies and promoting quality, standards and consumer protection. In the Committee's view, the JRC should focus on a few areas of excellence to guarantee a critical mass, a high profile and practical results.