At the initiative of Mrs. Edith Cresson, the European Commission has sent a communication to the Council of Ministers setting out its proposals for refocusing its efforts on scientific and technological cooperation with the New Independent States (NIS). Initially, the Commission sought to direct its activities towards as large a number of researchers as possible. The result was that a large range of small projects was supported, but principally for the academic research community. The Commission has been prompted to revise its thinking by two events. Firstly, the deteriorating economic situation in the NIS means that it is now vital to ensure that the NIS benefit from RTD activities which respond swiftly to actual needs to enable them to improve their competitiveness and so help redress their current economic and social difficulties. Secondly, less funding is available for the NIS and the Central and Eastern European countries under the Fourth Framework Programme (ECU 248.5 million for the 1995-1998 period, compared to ECU 120.1 million for 1994 alone). This means that the Commission needs to make good the shortfall by ensuring that it funds more relevant and useful projects with higher impact. The Commission is therefore recommending that resources should be directed towards fewer but more appropriate projects and has identified certain priority fields for this purpose. These include: environmental protection; nuclear safety; nuclear, information and spatial technologies; energy production, distribution and transportation; economic and social sciences. The Commission is also eager to help the NIS to improve project preparation and to achieve greater success in finding research partners. A series of round tables on industrial cooperation is proposed to explain how projects should be selected and prepared to improve the chances of funding. Moreover, in future, when selecting projects for funding, more emphasis will be placed on usefulness in terms of likely industrial exploitation and the participation of an industrial partner. The Commission stresses that coordination needs to be improved generally to enable the NIS to benefit from R&D activities in the European Union. The TACIS programme could be better used as a vehicle for ensuring increased cooperation in this respect. Similarly, much greater coordination is needed between TACIS-funded programmes and those run by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Bank and the individual Member States.
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan