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Breakthrough for Fifth RTD Framework Programme

Meeting late into the night on 12 February 1998, the EU's Research Ministers reached unanimous political agreement on a common position on the Fifth RTD Framework Programme. Chaired by John Battle, the UK's Minister for Science, Energy and Industry, President-in-Office, the Re...
Meeting late into the night on 12 February 1998, the EU's Research Ministers reached unanimous political agreement on a common position on the Fifth RTD Framework Programme. Chaired by John Battle, the UK's Minister for Science, Energy and Industry, President-in-Office, the Research Council was able to settle the main sticking point - the Programme's budget. Having settled the structure of the Programme in the morning session, Ministers finally agreed, after hours of difficult negotiations, on an overall budget of ECU 14,000 million over the five years of the Programme.

The figure agreed by Ministers falls far short of the ECU 16,300 million proposed by the Commission, and is even further from the ECU 16,700 million voted by the European Parliament. Speaking after the Council had reached agreement, Edith Cresson, Commissioner responsible for research, innovation, education training and youth, expressed her dissatisfaction at the low budget figure. In real terms, the budget agreed by the Council would be less than that for the Fourth Framework Programme.

The structure agreed by the Council is close to both the Parliament's first reading and the Commission's modified proposal following that first reading. There would be four thematic programmes, comprising a total of 20 Key Actions as well as generic research activities and support for research infrastructure. The three horizontal programmes remain largely unchanged from the Commission's original proposal, although a specific Key Action on socio-economic research would be added to the "Improving human potential" programme.

The four thematic programmes and Key Actions agreed by the Council are as follows:

- Improving the quality of life and management of living resources:
. Food, nutrition and health;
. Control of infectious diseases;
. The "cell factory";
. Environment and health;
. Sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry, including integrated development of rural areas;
. The ageing population;

- Creating a user-friendly Information Society:
. Systems and services for the citizen;
. New methods of work and electronic commerce;
. Multimedia content and tools;
. Essential technologies and infrastructures;

- Promoting competitive and sustainable growth:
. Innovative products, processes, organization;
. Sustainable mobility and intermodality;
. Land transport and marine technologies;
. New perspectives in aeronautics;

- Energy, environment and sustainable development:

(This programme would be split into two sections with separate budgets)

Environment and sustainable development:
. Sustainable management and quality of water;
. Global change, climate and biodiversity;
. Sustainable marine ecosystems;
. The city of tomorrow and cultural heritage;

Energy:
. Cleaner energy systems;
. Economic and efficient energy for a competitive Europe.

The Council also reached political agreement on the EURATOM Framework Programme. This would comprise two Key Actions, one on controlled thermonuclear fusion and one on nuclear fission. Whilst the Fifth Framework Programme common position will be transmitted to the European Parliament for its second reading, the EURATOM Framework Programme, which follows a different legislative procedure, will be formally adopted by the Council at the same time as the final adoption of the Fifth Framework Programme.

The budget breakdown agreed by the Council is as follows (in ECU million):

Fifth Framework Programme: 12,740
. Thematic programmes: 10,039;
. International cooperation: 458;
. Innovation and SMEs: 350;
. Human potential and socio-economic research: 1,205
. Direct actions (JRC): 688

Euratom Framework Programme: 1,260
. Fusion: 792;
. Fission: 187;
. Direct actions (JRC): 281;

Overall maximum amount: 14,000

The Council's common position will be formally adopted in the next few weeks, following finalization of the text in all Community languages. Once transmitted to the Parliament, under the co-decision procedure, time limits will apply for the remaining stages of the legislative process. This means that the Programme ought to be finally adopted by the end of 1998. However, with such wide differences between Parliament, Commission and Council on the budget, it is clear that the remaining stages of the process will be difficult, and the Conciliation Committee will undoubtedly face tough negotiations before the final budget figure is settled.

Source: Council of the European Union

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