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Danish Presidency hopes for compromise deal on bio-ethics in FP6

Denmark, currently holding the EU Presidency, has drawn up a compromise on bio-ethics for the Sixth Framework programme (FP6) to overcome the 'split' between Member States, Chief Advisor to the Danish Ministry of science, technology and innovation, Knud Larsen, has told CORDIS...

Denmark, currently holding the EU Presidency, has drawn up a compromise on bio-ethics for the Sixth Framework programme (FP6) to overcome the 'split' between Member States, Chief Advisor to the Danish Ministry of science, technology and innovation, Knud Larsen, has told CORDIS News. If accepted by the Member States, the deal will pave the way for adoption of the specific programmes. At the heart of the compromise is the commitment to establish detailed implementing provisions on the bio-ethical scrutiny of research activities within life science involving the use of human embryos and human embryonic stem cells. These should be drawn up by 31 December 2003, and such activities will not receive Community funding before that time except in certain specified cases. This is in addition to the Commission's pledge that no FP6 funding will support research activities in the three 'no go areas', in the words of Mr Larsen, namely research aimed at human reproductive cloning, modification of the genetic heritage of human beings or the creation of human embryos solely for the purpose of research or stem cell procurement. A compromise deal was necessary to overcome the 'split between European countries,' according to Mr Larsen. Europe could be divided in two regarding its position on bio-ethics, said Mr Larsen: those with fairly liberal attitudes, such as the UK, Sweden and Finland, and those with fairly strict regulations in their national legislation, including Germany and Ireland, where such research is restricted for constitutional reasons. 'Creativity in science and technology and genuine innovation in its applications must go hand in hand with due reflection on any challenge it poses to mankind. I would like to think of 'freedom under responsibility' as the main feature of European efforts in this field. Personally, I cannot think of a stronger basis for a true knowledge-based economy,' said Danish Minister for science, technology and innovation, Helge Sander. The proposal for the specific programmes is the only section of the FP6 package where agreement has yet to be reached. With the Fifth Framework programme (FP5) expiring at the end of 2002, the need for agreement is becoming more urgent. For this reason, the Presidency is proposing to Member States that the Council adopt the specific programmes following a written procedure in mid-August to overcome the traditional summer break. A full text of the compromise will be finalised within the next couple of weeks, translated into all EU languages and then sent to the EU's Research Ministers. In theory, the written procedure process should take up to 10 days, at the end of which the specific programmes will have been adopted, explained Mr Larsen. The guidelines promised in the compromise will be drawn up following a Council discussion on the issue in September 2003, based upon a Commission report.

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