Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Busquin alerts MEPs to his plans for a 'common European research area'

Members of the European Parliament's Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy Committee had the opportunity to quiz the new Research Commissioner, Philippe Busquin, on 9 November, when he appeared before them to report on his progress with the research portfolio.

While r...
Members of the European Parliament's Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy Committee had the opportunity to quiz the new Research Commissioner, Philippe Busquin, on 9 November, when he appeared before them to report on his progress with the research portfolio.

While reflecting on the current situation of research policy in Europe and the immediate questions to be answered, he also made it clear to the Committee that he is giving serious thought to the questions research policy might focus on in the future.

This is where Busquin will have an opportunity to make his mark, especially through his role in drawing up the EU's Sixth RTD Framework Programme. In this, he will need to draw on expert advice as well as lessons from the research community's response to the early rounds of calls for the Fifth Framework Programme. Statistics for the first round are now slowly becoming available.

'The scientific community has answered the call for projects well with high quality bids', he said. He is pleased that some 17% of responses to the first round of calls have come from small and medium-sized enterprises, and allayed fears that the delayed start of FP5 might effect the take-up of the first year's budget.

According to the figures quoted by Busquin at the meeting, there has been a 91% take up of the budget available for the first stage of FP5, meaning that the balance is too small to be carried over to 2000. Even so, he stressed the need for the Commission to tighten-up on deadlines to ensure the smooth running of the Programme.

Responding to questions on the Commission's renewable energy policy, he said: 'The time has come to start thinking in broad general terms about what we're going to do about renewable energy policy in Europe.' Disparities between national legislation are a major difficulty that officials face when formulating policy in this area. Busquin used this example to highlight the potential benefits of his concept of a common research area, which he has previously described in detail in an interview with CORDIS News (see RCN 13891). He revealed the Commission will adopt a communication on these plans early in 2000.

Philippe Busquin told MEPs that he wants to encourage more young people to pursue careers in research (and follow their chosen path beyond their degree course). To do this Europe must encourage the transfer of knowledge around Europe and stem the flow of the 'brain-drain', so that Europe becomes as attractive a research area as the USA. Busquin also stressed the need for Europe to make optimum use of its research resources

The common research area might play a coordinating role between governments, he suggested, or set up coordination networks to assist link-ups with partners - even in the USA. Busquin proposed the Joint Research Centre for this role and urged the Committee to take up a dialogue with the JRC to discuss the feasibility of doing this.

Responding to MEPs' concern that the candidate countries (Central Europe and Cyprus) associated to the Programme are falling short of the criteria for their participation in FP5, Mr Busquin stated that he was very pleased with the number of proposals for research funding arriving from these states. He was particularly happy to have been in Warsaw recently to mark the entry into force of the EU-Poland Agreement for scientific and technological cooperation, he said.

Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic are leading the field for the present time, he revealed, each with around 100 participants in the Framework Programme, which he believes is promising at this early stage in their participation.

He stressed the importance of the Commission working closely with the Committee in the preparation of the Sixth Framework Programme, which he believes should be based largely on FP5. But for the moment, he remains focused on defining his concept of a common research area.

Source: European Parliament

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