Mrs. Edith Cresson, the European Commissioner with responsibility for research, education and training, has proposed, in a communication approved on 18 October 1995, to focus the EU's scientific cooperation on eight priority lines of action, including the strengthening of cooperation with the Mediterranean countries and Central and Eastern Europe. Once it has been discussed in the Council, this communication will be followed by concrete, geographically-targeted projects. This communication has been presented in the context of a rapidly changing international environment and is intended to respond to the need for the EU to update its scientific cooperation policy and assign it new objectives. Increased international scientific cooperation will contribute towards stability in Europe and neighbouring countries. It should, in particular, increase Europe's economic competitiveness as well as assisting the development of the less-advanced economies. The European Union has progressively developed a number of actions in the field of international scientific cooperation with the Mediterranean countries, Central and Eastern Europe and the new independent states which emerged after the dismantling of the Soviet Union. However, these initiatives have been launched without sufficient synergy with the existing instruments of the EU's external policy, for example PHARE and TACIS. Well-managed scientific cooperation can play a key role by helping to strengthen the research potential and, as a result, the economic competitiveness of the countries of the former communist bloc. Moreover, the Fourth Framework Programme for research and technological development and demonstration (1994-1998) is insufficient to fund this international cooperation policy. This will provide only ECU 540 million for this purpose, which represents 4.4% of the total budget of the Fourth Framework programme of ECU 12.3 billion. In addition, the European Union is faced with increased competition from newly-industrialized countries. With increasing free trade, the EU may lose competitiveness and jobs to countries where wages and social protection standards are low. And yet the emergence of these economies also offers new outlets. The EU's international scientific cooperation policy should therefore endeavour to find the right balance between competition and cooperation, the latter being essential in order to confront the major challenges of the 21st century. The new technologies, by decentralizing research activities and facilitating long-distance cooperation, could make a decisive contribution in this respect. EU policy in this area should, therefore, be guided by the following objectives: - To strengthen Europe's competitiveness through greater scientific and technological cooperation (notably, by involving more outside partners in European RTD and involving European researchers in third countries' research programmes); - To develop scientific and technological partnership with the EU's neighbours in order to raise their level of competitiveness (particularly the Central and Eastern European countries, the new independent states of the former Soviet Union and the Mediterranean third countries); - To share the burden of research efforts in order to address the major challenges of the decades to come; - To facilitate the access of developing countries to European RTD and the results thereof and to contribute towards the establishment, in those countries, of research infrastructures and policies tailored to their own needs; - To develop contacts and exchanges with third-country scientists and to promote access for groups and associations of researchers involved in new areas of research. In order meet these objectives, the Commission's communication defines eight priority lines of action. These are: - Increasing industrial involvement in international RTD cooperation; - Strengthening the external dimension of European RTD policy by improving mutual access to research programmes and launching projects of common interest; - Promoting cooperation with third countries in specific projects; - Strengthening the research potential in the less-advanced countries and supporting agricultural research in order to develop farming in those countries; - Improving the knowledge of results obtained by third countries; - Resorting to other European funds (eg. PHARE, TACIS, MEDA and the European Development Fund) to support RTD programmes and assistance programmes for the countries of Asia and Latin America. - Specific proposals for Mediterranean countries (this would require additional funds); - Supporting the pre-accession phase for the Central and Eastern European countries and the Baltic Republics (additional means could also be unlocked to help these countries, in particular in the field of nuclear safety).