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Research Ministers debate Fifth Framework Programme

The Commission's proposal for the Fifth Framework Programme for research and technological development was the main item on the agenda of the Council of EU Research Ministers meeting, in Brussels, on 14-15 May 1997.

The Council held a substantive debate on the Fifth Framework...
The Commission's proposal for the Fifth Framework Programme for research and technological development was the main item on the agenda of the Council of EU Research Ministers meeting, in Brussels, on 14-15 May 1997.

The Council held a substantive debate on the Fifth Framework Programme, generally endorsing the objectives of the Commission's proposal. Ministers, however, noted that, although there is a consensus on a large number of issues, on a number of matters divergences still exist and these need to be examined in greater depth. The Dutch Presidency adopted conclusions summing up the state of the debate within the Council on the proposal for the Programme, as the Spanish delegation was unable to support formal Council conclusions on the subject.

With regard to the structure of the Fifth Framework Programme, all delegations welcomed the emphasis on problems and challenges at European level and considered the proposed "key actions", in particular, to constitute an innovative and important element. In this context, the "key action" is regarded as a cluster of small and large, applied, generic and, as appropriate, basic research projects directed towards a common European challenge or problem.

A large majority of delegations, however, were in favour of increasing the number of thematic programmes from three to between four and six programmes. It was also felt that two thematic programmes in particular - "The living world and the ecosystem" and "Competitive and sustainable growth" are too heterogeneous and should be grouped in a more coherent manner. Suggested areas for new thematic programmes included environment, energy, social sciences and transport.

The Council stressed the important role played by generic technologies and basic research and considered that these should focus on a limited number of clearly defined objectives. It was also felt that they should complement the key actions and, as far as possible, be an integral part of them. In this context, the Council called on the Commission to clarify the relationship between key actions and generic technologies and basic research.

The importance of complementarity and effective coordination between programmes, with other policies/activities of the European Union and between Community and national activities was underlined. The Ministers were of the opinion, however, that further discussion is needed as to how such coordination can best be ensured. The Council called for additional information, in particular on management aspects and the decision-making process, including the role of programme committees and the relationship with other Community instruments.

Ministers further stressed the importance of international cooperation in the field of RTD, in particular with the associated Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs), the New Independent States (NIS), the Mediterranean countries and developing countries.

As regards the EURATOM Programme, the Council invited the Scientific and Technical Committee to make its opinion available to the Commission as soon as possible. It also invited the Commission to elaborate, by 1 October 1997, different scenarios for the FUSION programme.

In conclusion, the Council agreed to make every effort to enable the effective implementation of the Fifth Framework Programme from the beginning of 1999 so as to avoid an interruption of activities between the Fourth and Fifth Framework Programmes. The budgetary aspects of the Fifth Framework Programme will be debated fully once the Council has received the Commission's overall budget proposal in July 1997.

Source: Council of the European Union, General Secretariat

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