Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Parliament holds hearing on Fifth Framework Programme

The European Parliament's Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy held a public hearing on the Fifth RTD Framework Programme, in Brussels, on 15 April 1997. The hearing was held as a first step in the Committee's examination of the Commission's proposal for...
The European Parliament's Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy held a public hearing on the Fifth RTD Framework Programme, in Brussels, on 15 April 1997. The hearing was held as a first step in the Committee's examination of the Commission's proposal for the Fifth Framework Programme, adopted the previous week.

Members of the Committee heard first from Viscount Etienne Davignon, a former research Commissioner, who chaired the recent evaluation of the Framework Programmes. He outlined the major recommendations from the independent evaluation panel which looked at Community research activities over the past five years. In his view, the Fifth Framework Programme will represent a turning point in the evolution of the EU's RTD Framework Programmes. He particularly stressed the need for the the forthcoming Programme to be better focused and respond more clearly to the needs and priorities of the EU.

He also emphasized the need to streamline the decision-making procedures for both the adoption and implementation of the Programme as the existing procedures take too long and, requiring unanimous approval amongst the Member States, lead to a patchwork of national interests rather than focusing on genuine European needs. Furthermore, the Programme needs greater flexibility in order to allow new research areas to be opened up, and ineffective ones to be closed during the five years of the Programme.

Mrs. Edith Cresson, Commissioner responsible for research, presented the Commission's proposal to MEPs. The Fifth Framework Programme, she said, would have different methods and different content than the Fourth Framework Programme. It would focus more on the needs of European society and would also aim to correct weaknesses of the earlier Programmes, in particular by addressing the question of innovation - of transferring skills and new technologies into new products and services.

The Programme's structure would be based on six specific programmes, about a third of the number existing under the Fourth Framework Programme. The management and administration procedures within the Commission would also be simplified. Mrs Cresson noted that the proposed budget for the Programme would not be lower in terms of percentage of the Community's GNP than that of the Fourth Framework Programme's. She emphasized the need to allocate a budget sufficient to meet the objectives of Community research. Comparing the EU's research spending with its competitors', she noted that in the field of aeronautics research, Europe spent less than a quarter of the USD 9 billion spent by the USA.

In conclusion, the Commissioner stressed that a major priority for the the Fifth Framework Programme is the need to meet citizens' expectations. To achieve this, science needs to be open and accessible to the citizen, and has to be relevant to the public, particularly in areas such as improving health and the environment.

The Committee then heard the views of a number of representatives of industry and academic research institutes on the Commission's proposal, and on possibilities for innovative financial instruments in the Fifth Framework Programme. Although the majority of views expressed have been submitted to the Commission, the hearing gave MEPs the chance to hear directly from the speakers, and to question them on their submissions.

The Committee will be undertaking an in-depth examination of the proposal, given the importance of the Programme. It is likely, however, that the Committee will not get beyond preliminary discussions before the Commission presents its proposals for the budget of the Programme. This will not be before July 1997, following the conclusion of the intergovernmental conference (IGC) which is currently meeting with the aim of revising the EU Treaty in preparation for enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe.

The proposal will be discussed by the Committee at its meetings over the next few months, before it presents its report to the full Parliament. Since the Decision will be adopted under the co-decision procedure, both Parliament and Council will have two readings, with the possibility that a conciliation committee will be needed to resolve differences between the two.

Source: CORDIS Information Collection Unit

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