Green light for Sixth Framework Programme
The specific programmes of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) were adopted during a meeting of the Competitiveness Council in Brussels on 30 September. The move will ensure that key research initiatives are launched before the Fifth Framework Programme (1998 to 2002) comes to an end. News of the Council's decision was greeted positively, and with a genuine sense of relief. The agreement was made possible after a compromise was found on the potentially divisive issue of stem cell research. It is understood that a declaration outlined areas that will not receive EU funding until further debate has taken place. On hearing the news, Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin emphasised the positive effect the decision would have on research and development (R&D) activities, and described it as a major step towards creating a European research area. 'I welcome this key vote. All is now set for a rapid start to the Research Programmes [...]. The rapid conclusion of the decision-making process on ambitious EU research programmes provides an additional strong basis for creating a true European research area,' said Mr Busquin. The Danish Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Mr. Helge Sander, was equally positive. 'I feel very relieved and happy over the fact that we have now finally reached an agreement on the five specific programmes. This means that research activities can start very soon.' Such an outcome had at times seemed unlikely. The possibility of funding embryonic stem cell research through FP6 conflicted with national legislation in some Member States, including Germany, Italy and Ireland. Some Member States considered opposing adoption of FP6 because of this issue. The European Parliament also voiced its concern that the EU's elected body had not been thoroughly consulted on the issue of bio-ethics. The compromise, however, places an embargo on EU funding for human stem cell research, cloning and genetic modification until December 2003. At this time, the Commission, in consultation with the Parliament, will produce a proposal on implementation procedures and regulations for funding research in these areas. The five Specific Programmes covered by FP6 are: - Integrating and strengthening the European research area - Structuring the European research area - Joint Research Centre activities (EC) - Nuclear energy - Joint Research Activities (Euratom) The overall budget for activities provided under FP6 is 17.5 million euro.