Select Committee on European Scrutiny Ninth Report


EUROPEAN RESEARCH AREA


(22928)

COM(01) 709

(a)

Modified Draft Decision on the Sixth Multi-annual Framework Programme 2002-2006 of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities, aimed at contributing towards the creation of the European Research Area; and

(b)

Modified Draft Decision on the Sixth Multi-annual Framework Programme 2002-2006 of the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) for research and training activities aimed at contributing towards the creation of the European Research Area.

Legal base: (a) Article 166 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting

(b) Article 7 EURATOM; unanimity

Document originated: 22 November 2001
Department: Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration: EM of 28 November 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (22236) 6921/01: HC 152­ii (2001­02), paragraph 21 (17 October 2001)
To be discussed in Council: 10 December 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

Background

  25.1  The aim of the Sixth Framework Programmes (2002­2006) of the European Community and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) is to help make a reality of the European Research Area, by increasing the impact of the European research effort and strengthening the coherence of research activities and policies in Europe.

  25.2  The budget for the EC's framework programme is _16,270 million and is aimed at supporting:

      —   a selected number of priority research areas in which EU action can add the greatest possible value;

—   the research infrastructure at a national, regional and European level; and

    

      —   simplifying and streamlining the implementation arrangements.

  25.3  The Commission's original proposal identified seven thematic priorities:

  • genomics and biotechnology for health;

  • information society technologies;

  • nanotechnologies, intelligent materials and new production methods;

  • aeronautics and space;

  • food safety and health risks;

  • sustainable development and global change; and

  • citizens and governance in European society.

  25.4  The Commission also included an '8th Priority' — anticipating the EU's scientific and technological needs.

  25.5  The proposed budget for the research activities of EURATOM is _1,230 million, covering the following priority themes:

      —   treatment and storage of waste;

      —   controlled thermonuclear fusion;

      —   other activities in the field of nuclear safety and safeguards; and

      —   the Joint Research Centre's EURATOM activities.

  25.6  The previous Committee cleared the Commission's original proposals on 2 May 2001, and reported on further information from the Minister on 17 October.

The document

  25.7  The current document is amended proposals for the Sixth Multi-annual Framework Programme 2002-2006 of the European Community and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), incorporating a number of the European Parliament's amendments into the Commission's original proposal. The main issues raised by the European Parliament related to the EC Framework Programme, but it also made amendments concerning EURATOM.

  25.8  The Minister for Science and Innovation in the Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury) sets out the key issues of the amended proposal in his Explanatory Memorandum of 29 November 2001. He says:

"On the structure of the seven thematic priority areas, the Commission have proposed to introduce: (1) the organisation of Priority 1 into two sections, one centred on genomics and its applications for health, the other on combating the major diseases; and (2) the organisation of priority 6 in three sections, covering respectively, sustainable energy systems, sustainable surface transport and global change and ecosystems.

"In terms of the scope of the priority areas, and their scientific and technical content, the Commission have proposed a number of clarifications, and some additions where they remain consistent with maintaining the overall focus of each priority. The headings within the priority areas have been adjusted in some cases in order to reflect better their content. On other topics, where greater synergies can be promoted among the significant research efforts carried out at national level, clearer references are made in the section 'Co­ordination of Research Activities' within the chapter on 'Strengthening the Foundations of the European Research Area'.

"The Commission have amended the '8th Priority' — Anticipating the EU's scientific and technological needs in line with their amended specific proposal (EM 13008/01). In order to clarify both the research content and the operational modalities applying to the actions on research in support of Community policies and responding to emerging needs, the Commission has modified the presentation of these activities, including substantial further details.

"With a view to ensuring a smooth transition from the Fifth Framework Programme to the Sixth Framework Programme, the Commission propose to introduce a fourth financial instrument, which would be in two forms, already allowed for in other parts of the proposal: 'specific targeted projects' and 'networking of research activities' which would be applicable to all types of participants.

"Within the same overall budgetary envelope set out in its original proposal, the Commission proposes several adjustments on specific budget lines (in the direction suggested by the European Parliament). These reflect the amendments made to the content of the programme.

"The amended proposal also introduces a new Article indicating that implementation of the sixth framework programme may give rise, where necessary, to supplementary programmes or action respectively within the meaning of Article 168, 169 or 171 or cooperation with third countries or international organisations within the meaning of Article 170 of the EC Treaty."

The Government's view

  25.9  The Minister says:

"The Government can broadly accept the Commission's amended proposals for the next Framework Programme. In particular it strongly supports the stance the Commission continues to take on concentrating funding on European research on the seven thematic priorities, where the scale of research requires co­operation at European level. The government can agree with the reordering of the first thematic priority and the splitting into three categories of the sixth priority.

"In terms of the amended '8th Priority' the Government broadly welcomes the more explicit description of the specific programme provided in the amended proposal. The Government recognises that certain aspects of the policy­related research priorities identified could be reallocated to a thematic priority area of the Framework Programme.

"In relation to the new funding instruments, the Government supports the Commission's proposal to move gradually from project to programme­scale management. However, in recognition of the concern to ensure an orderly transition between the familiar instruments and the new ones, the Government can accept the introduction of the fourth instrument, designed to facilitate in particular, the participation of SMEs and candidate countries (subject to the overriding criterion of scientific excellence).

"On the distribution of funding, the Government seeks higher allocations for non­nuclear energies, aeronautics, fusion, plant biotechnology by making corresponding savings elsewhere, notably in the budget lines for infrastructures and co­ordination of national programmes."

Conclusion

  25.10  We are content to clear these amended proposals.


 
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