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European Parliament votes on Fifth RTD Framework Programme

The European Parliament adopted its report on the Commission's proposal for the Fifth RTD Framework Programme on 18 December 1997. The full Parliament largely followed the report adopted by the Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy a fortnight before, whi...
The European Parliament adopted its report on the Commission's proposal for the Fifth RTD Framework Programme on 18 December 1997. The full Parliament largely followed the report adopted by the Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy a fortnight before, which introduced a range of amendments to the Commission's proposal, although not any fundamental changes. Parliament's report will now go to the Council, where the Member States will have their chance to shape the Programme.

During the debate, Edith Cresson, Commissioner responsible for research, innovation, education, training and youth, welcomed the Committee's report. Its amendments, she noted, followed the lines of the Commission's proposal. Furthermore, the Commission and Parliament were very close on more or less all the fundamental points. The Commission, she continued, would shortly put forward a revised proposal, incorporating many essential amendments in spirit and content.

As regards the structure of the Programme, the Parliament confirmed the compromises drawn up in the Research Committee. MEPs agreed on four thematic programmes, in place of the three in the proposal, while several new key actions were also agreed. The main change agreed by the Parliament will give greater priority to research in the environment and energy fields, with elements of these collected within one new programme entitled "Energy - Environment - Sustainable Development". Mrs. Cresson said that the Commission had come round to the Parliament's structure of four thematic programmes. The additional "energy-environment" programme was clearly justified, given the closeness of problems in these two fields and the need for integrated solutions. The Commission, however, would prefer not to sub-divide this programme as proposed by the Parliament.

The four thematic programmes and the key actions voted by the Parliament are:

- (a): Life Sciences and Technologies:

. Health, food and environment;
. Fight against transmissible and rare diseases;
. The "cell factory";
. Chemical and molecular biology bases (added by EP);
. Social health systems with particular reference to the ageing society and disabled people (added by EP);

- (b): Information and Communication Technologies:

. Systems and services for the citizen;
. New methods of work and electronic trading;
. Multimedia content;
. Essential technologies and infrastructures;
. Social changes brought about by the introduction of new information and communications technologies (socially responsible use) (added by EP);

- (c): Transport - Mobility - Production:

. Land and marine transport technologies (land transport added by EP);
. Aeronautics and astronautics;
. Mobility and intermodality;
. Products, processes, organization;

- (d): Energy - Environment - Sustainable Development:

. (i): Energy for the future:
. Fossil fuels;
. Renewable energies;

. (ii): Environment, cultural heritage and sustainable development:
. Rural and coastal areas and mountains;
. Urban areas: "the city of tomorrow";
. Global change and climate (added by EP);
. Management of water and related technologies.

Within the thematic programmes, MEPs voted for a range of amendments and additions to the research areas to be addressed by the Programme, both within the key actions and in the generic research activities section. The Parliament also voted for accompanying socio-economic research activities, and research on the ethical and legal aspects of science, as well as technology transfer and mobility of researchers, to be an integral part of each thematic programme.

A number of amendments relating to each of the three horizontal programmes - International Cooperation, Innovation and SMEs, and Human Potential - were adopted, although these would not substantially alter the three programmes. MEPs also addressed the table of criteria set out by the Commission to be used for selecting the themes and objectives of Community research, voting to lay down more specific objectives and conditions for giving Community support.

Within the Euratom Framework Programme, voted on 17 December, Parliament agreed that the Community should support fusion research as a key action. However, MEPs prefer to maintain European capacity in the field without the current explicit goal of beginning construction of the "Next Step" experimental reactor in the next few years.

The overall budget voted by the Parliament is ECU 16,700 million over the five years of the Programme (in comparison to the ECU 16,300 million proposed by the Commission). The Community Framework Programme budget would be increased in relation to the Commission proposal, to ECU 15,400 million, while the Euratom Framework Programme's budget would be reduced, to ECU 1,300 million. Over three-quarters of the total will go to research activities within the thematic programmes. Members agreed that 80% of funding within the thematic programmes should go to the key actions. Parliament also adopted amendments aimed at securing the budget if new Member States join the EU during the period of the Fifth Framework Programme and to take account of the overall financial perspectives for the second half of the Programme which have not yet been adopted.

The budget agreed is as follows (in ECU millions):

- EC Framework Programme:
. Thematic programmes (First activity) - 12,275;
. International cooperation (Second activity) - 550;
. Innovation and SMEs (Third activity) - 410;
. Human potential (Fourth activity) - 1,350;
. Direct actions (JRC) - 815;
. MAXIMUM OVERALL AMOUNT - 15,400;

- Euratom Framework Programme:
. MAXIMUM OVERALL AMOUNT - 1,300;

- Overall maximum budget - ECU 16,700 million.

The breakdown of the budget within the first activity (thematic programmes) is as follows (in ECU millions):

- Life Sciences and Technologies - 3,290;
- Information and Communication Technologies - 3,800;
- Transport - Mobility - Production - 2,695;
- Energy - Environment - Sustainable Development - 2,380, of which:
. Energy for the Future - 1,300;
. Environment, cultural heritage and sustainable development - 1,080;
- Total for first activity: 12,165.

Parliament's report at first reading will now be transmitted to the Council along with a revised proposal from the Commission. It is hoped that the Council will be in a position to agree on a common position at the Research Council on 12 February 1998. Ministers have already achieved a significant measure of broad agreement on key areas following the November Research Council, and with officials continuing detailed preparations since then, the EU's Research Ministers should be in a position to finalize an agreement. Once the Council adopts its common position, a clearer idea of the distance between the two institutions will emerge, giving a clearer picture of the Programme's final shape and the likely timing of its adoption.

Source: European Parliament

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