Candidate countries share both concern and support for the EU's FP6 (Sixth Framework programme), it emerged on 12 July following the first meeting between all 15 Member State research ministers, their 13 counterparts from the candidate countries and Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. The aim of the informal meeting was to discuss the participation of the candidate countries in the next (Sixth) Framework programme and the European research area (ERA). In order to ensure that every participant was able to state their case, Mr Busquin invited each minister to speak for five minutes on the opinions on the proposals for the next framework programme and the creation of an ERA in an enlarged Europe. Obviously each candidate country has their own priorities and concerns with regard to EU research policy and participation in the Framework programmes, but when asked later by CORDIS News whether any common themes arose in the meeting, the issues of smaller countries, research priorities and coherence were mentioned. Representing Malta, Minister Louis Galea expressed his concern that the smaller countries will lose out following accession, and stated that the seven priorities outlined by the Commission are 'not the most relevant' for these countries. Malta would like to see the inclusion of areas such as culture and heritage, marine sciences and telematic sciences, he said. The Slovenian minister, Dr Lucija Cok reiterated this concern about the smaller candidate countries, expressing the concern that integrated projects, a new instrument proposed by the Commission, will offer fewer opportunities for the small countries. Commissioner Busquin attempted to alleviate this concern, saying that although he understands such worries, it is a mistake to think in terms of smaller and larger countries. We must instead think in terms of critical mass, he said, but we can't do this by spreading our resources too thinly. The Hungarian and Polish ministers were keen to emphasise that although there are concerns, there is also agreement on positive aspects of the next Framework programme between the candidate countries. Hungarian Minister József Pálinkás stressed that all of the candidate countries generally agree that the direction of the Sixth Framework programme (FP6) is correct, highlighting in particular the need for concentration and subsidiarity. He highlighted the importance of maintaining national programmes for addressing national problems, and called for coherence between national programmes and European efforts. Another common issue between candidate countries is the desire for full participation in the structuring of the programme following accession. From Poland, Minister Andrzej Wiszniewski emphasised that one of the aims of the meeting was to find a compromise, and he emphasised that the next Framework programme must suit both the best developed candidate countries as well as those which still need to catch up. Other issues discussed at the meeting included centres of excellence, networks of excellence and. payment methods. Mr Busquin emphasised that researcher mobility between the current Member States and the candidate countries must be a two way street, a point supported by Polish minister Wiszniewski, who argued that a one way street would be 'either charity or robbery'. The Commission is currently examining the possibility of a research scholarship covering two years abroad and a third year back in the researcher's home country. Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen, speaking at the meeting, emphasised that the enlargement in the area of research is no longer a matter of negotiation (as the relevant chapters have now been closed with all accession countries) but of practical measures to ensure the full integration of candidate countries as equal partners in the ERA. 'Practically, we can see however that the benefits are unevenly distributed. We cannot and will not accept this,' he continued. He appealed to the candidate countries to improve their negotiation capacities and research infrastructure so that they can better benefit from the enlargement process. 'We want integration, we want partnership and common benefits. Don't hold back therefore from laying your suggestions on the table, so that we can come closer to this goal,' Commissioner Verheugen concluded.