Mr. Pat Rabbitte, Irish Minister of State for Science and Technology, and President-in-Office of the Council of EU Research Ministers, has confirmed that the Irish Presidency will make every effort to reach agreement in the Council on additional funding for the Fourth RTD Framework Programme. The Minister was speaking to the European Parliament's Committee for Research, Technological Development and Energy at a meeting in Brussels on 9 July 1996. Mr. Rabbitte acknowledged that the additional funding would not be as high as the ECU 700 million proposed by the Commission, and that as a consequence not all of the eight task forces created by the Commission since 1995 could receive additional funding. The priority areas could not be defined until the level of funding had been established. The Presidency hoped, on the basis of work in the Research Council Working Group on the opinions of Parliament and CREST (the Scientific and Technical Research Advisory Committee), to formulate an initiative on the additional funding in time for discussion at the Research Council scheduled for 7 October 1996. Mr. Rabbitte suggested that the Community's research agenda was in danger of stalling, and it was up to Research Ministers to push new ideas forward and convince their colleagues in the ECOFIN Council of the value of funding for Community research. He warned however that the next couple of months' work might show that Member States had no appetite for further discussion on the additional funding, and the task forces would have to continue their work without additional funding. Speaking of the task forces, he expressed the view that the Commission needed to explain the task forces further, in terms of results to be expected and the added value of the approach. Another major priority of the Irish Presidency will be the initial discussions on the Fifth RTD Framework Programme. The Fifth Framework Programme should build on the previous successes of the Framework Programmes according to Mr. Rabbitte, and should respond to the needs of European society. These include creating employment, the continuing development of the Information Society, cohesion within the EU, and promoting European competitiveness in relation to Japan and the USA. The Minister's forthcoming activities include debates at the Research Councils on 7 October and 5 December 1996 on the basis of the Commission's initial proposal expected in summer 1996 and submissions from Member States and scientific organizations. This would provide a strong basis for the Commission's formal proposal expected in spring 1997. The Irish Presidency will also be pushing for an action plan on innovation, following the recent Green Paper consultations. In particular the Minister would like to see a strengthening of the links between research and innovation, given its implications for employment, competitiveness and, in particular, SMEs. Two of the Presidency's overall priorities have a particular relevance for research. The first of these is the new action plan for SMEs, within which the Minister wants to improve the participation conditions of SMEs in the Framework Programmes. The second concerns the fight against drug abuse, where the Presidency will explore the possibility of research playing an integral role in this initiative. The Irish Presidency will also consider the progress of the Joint Research Centre in commercializing its role, and further development plans.