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Fourth Framework Programme: Commission communication to the European Parliament on the Council's common position

A communication from the Commission to the European Parliament sets out its views on the Common Position reached by the Council on the Fourth Framework Programme of Community research, technological development and demonstration (1994-1998).

The Council established its Common...
A communication from the Commission to the European Parliament sets out its views on the Common Position reached by the Council on the Fourth Framework Programme of Community research, technological development and demonstration (1994-1998).

The Council established its Common Position on 14 January 1994. The next step in the legislative procedure is a second reading by the European Parliament.

In the communication (SEC(94) 20), the Commission wishes to confirm its willingness to contribute to a satisfactory overall agreement between the three institutions. It outlines the points of agreement and the divergence of opinion between Parliament and Council, as well as the Commission's own view.

It is considered that most of the Council's amendments are a constructive attempt to clarify or provide more detail on certain points. With the exception of the Council's opinion on the breakdown of the overall financial appropriation, and on the role of the JRC, the Common Position does not differ substantially from the Commission's proposal. However, some of the amendments water down the policy guidelines proposed by the Commission, reducing the concentration of activities. This, together with the reduction in overall financing, is likely to make Community research less effective.

As a result, the Common Position emphasizes continuity with previous Framework Programmes rather than paving the way for the changes made necessary by the current socio-economic climate.

In addition, a number of Parliament's amendments have not been incorporated because they refer either to non-RTD activities, for instance in the energy sector, or to across-the-board issues which should be settled in the broader context of inter-institutional relations.

The Commission seeks to stress the agreement as to the broad principles of Community research which have emerged during the course of the formal and informal negotiations. In particular:

- Community RTD must seek to promote industrial competitiveness, quality of life and sustainable development;
- It must contribute to growth and job creation;
- The generic and non-sectoral nature of Community RTD is reaffirmed;
- Activities must take account of the needs of society and end users;
- Efforts must be made to improve consultation and coordination at programme level and between the partners involved;
- The value of establishing regional research networks is stressed, in order to study problems common to a particular region, such as the Mediterranean;
- Particular attention should be paid to bioethics as a prerequisite for Community research activities and applications;
- The need to ensure equal opportunities for male and female research scientists is stressed;
- Emphasis must be placed on high-standard, independent evaluations of the Framework Programme and of the specific programmes in taking decisions on future programmes;
- The importance of dissemination and optimization of the results of Community RTD is stressed, although this is not reflected in the share of funds allocated to these activities in the Council's Common Position.

As regards divergence of opinion, the Commission points out that the overall amount adopted by the Council (ECU 12 billion) represents a drop in the level of activity compared with 1993. The possibility of unfreezing a reserve of ECU 1 billion at a later stage would almost enable the level proposed by the Commission to be attained. The Commission deplores the fact that this reserve could not be made available immediately, as research activities must be planned on the basis of partial decisions, creating uncertainty. Further, a period of crisis is an unsuitable time to cut the already small share (some 4%) of resources represented by joint RTD activities in the European Union.

Concerning the breakdown between the four activities, the substantial increase made by the Council for the first activity (RTD programmes) and the slight increase for the fourth activity (training and mobility of researchers) will work to the detriment of the second activity (international cooperation) and the third activity (dissemination and optimization of results).

In the former case, the reduction will make it impossible for the Commission to meet its commitments in the international arena, and possibly lead to the cancelling of funding for laboratories and research institutes in third countries to enable them to participate in Framework Programme activities.

The reduction in the share earmarked for dissemination and optimization of results will make it extremely difficult to extend the established networks, particularly towards SMEs. On the basis of the experience of the Third Framework Programme, which saw an increase in funding for dissemination of results, it would be appropriate to increase the allocation from 1% of the overall allocation for the Framework Programme to 2% gradually during its course.

Further comments concern the breakdown of funding within the first activity (RTD programmes), and the new, competitive role of the JRC.

In conclusion, the Commission notes that, in line with the guidelines issued by the European heads of State and Government (the European Council), the object of the exercise is to arrive at a Framework Programme which is commensurate with the challenges to be met, while being tailored to the economic climate in the Union, and which is adopted in time to avoid any disruption, even momentary, which would have a disproportionate impact on Community-led cross-border cooperation.

Source: Commission of the European Communities

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