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Research Council - 5 December 1996

The Research Ministers of the European Union, meeting in Brussels on 5 December 1996, reached agreement on a financial supplement of ECU 100 million for the Fourth RTD Framework Programme. The Research Council also held further discussions on the Fifth RTD Framework Programme ...
The Research Ministers of the European Union, meeting in Brussels on 5 December 1996, reached agreement on a financial supplement of ECU 100 million for the Fourth RTD Framework Programme. The Research Council also held further discussions on the Fifth RTD Framework Programme and adopted conclusions on a number of issues.

Ministers held lengthy discussions on the financial supplement for the Fourth Framework Programme proposed by the Commission in January 1996. Although the European Parliament had approved, at first reading in June 1996, the proposed addition of ECU 700 million for the remaining years of the Programme, the failure of the EU's Finance Ministers to agree on a reallocation of budgetary resources meant that this amount was not available for research. Following a revised proposal from the Commission in the autumn, Ministers were eventually able to reach agreement on additional funding of ECU 100 million for the remaining two years of the Programme.

The additional funding would be allocated to research topics, within the work programmes of the specific RTD programmes, as follows:

- Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (including vaccines and viral diseases): ECU 35 million;
- Aeronautics: ECU 20 million;
- Education and multimedia: ECU 12 million;
- Transport intermodality and interoperability: ECU 12 million;
- Environment RTD/water: ECU 12 million;
- Land-mines: ECU 9 million.

A common position, based on the political agreement reached by Ministers, will be finalized by the Committee of Permanent Representatives. Following its formal adoption by the Council, it will be returned to the Parliament for a second reading. It will therefore be some months before the Decision on the financial supplement is formally adopted, and the additional money made available to the specific RTD programmes.

The Council adopted conclusions on research into transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (including Mad Cow Disease, or BSE, and its human form, Creutzfeld Jacob Disease) and agreed on the Commission's proposal for an action plan in this sector. Funding of ECU 35 million, included in the financial supplement, will be allocated for this research. Under the plan, activities in the Member States will be coordinated and a joint call for proposals in this area, involving the three Life Sciences RTD programmes (BIOMED, BIOTECH and FAIR), will be launched.

Ministers held a second debate on the Fifth RTD Framework Programme, due to start in 1999, on the basis of the Commission's working documents. The Council agreed that scientific excellence was the overriding priority but that Community research should: add value at European level; contribute to sustainable development and growth, economic and social cohesion and international competitiveness; and respond to the needs of citizens and society.

The Council also adopted conclusions, which will be considered in the development of the Fifth Framework Programme, on the following subjects:

- The role of research in the fight against drug abuse: Ministers agreed to provide for research on health and socio-economic aspects, bio-medical approaches to the problem, research on physical detection and the sharing of information;

- Participation of SMEs in the RTD Framework Programmes: The Council agreed that further measures to facilitate the access of SMEs to RTD programmes should be introduced, in view of the important role of SMEs in the creation of employment;

- On the role of the Joint Research Centre (JRC): Ministers welcomed progress so far in the JRC's transition to a more competitive approach, and called on the Commission to present a strategy for the JRC's future operation before the end of 1997.

Finally, the Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation between the EC and South Africa, agreed in May 1996, was signed by representatives of both parties. This Agreement will enter into force following its conclusion by both parties, likely to be during 1997. It will allow South African entities to participate in Community research programmes and Community entities to participate in South African programmes.

Source: Council of the European Union
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