Select Committee on European Scrutiny Seventh Report


EUROPEAN RESEARCH AREA


(22481)
9858/01
COM(01) 279






(22857)
13008/01
COM(01) 594

(a)
(i) Draft Council decision on the specific programme 2002-2006 for research,
technology development and demonstration aimed at integrating and strengthening the European research area; and

(ii) Draft Council decision on the specific programme 2002-2006 of the
European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) for research and
training activities.

(b)
(i) Amended draft Council decision on the specific programme 2002
2006 for research, technology development and demonstration aimed at
integrating and strengthening the European research area; and

(ii) Amended proposal for a Council decision on the specific
programme 2002-2006 of the European Atomic Energy Community
(EURATOM) for research and training activities.


Legal base: (a(i) and b(i)) Article 166 EC; consultation; qualified majority voting
(a(ii) and b(ii)) Article 7 EURATOM; unanimity
Document originated: (a) 30 May 2001
(b) 17 October 2001
Forwarded to the Council: (a) 1 June 2001
(b) 19 October 2001
Deposited in Parliament: (a) 25 June 2001
(b) 13 November 2001
Department: Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration: (a) EM of 6 July 2001
(b) EM 16 November 2001
Previous Committee Report: None; but see (22236) 6921/01: HC 152-ii (2001-02), paragraph 21 (17 October 2001); and (21013) 5643/00: HC 23-xiii (1999-2000), paragraph 12 (5 April 2000) and HC 23-xix (1999-2000), paragraph 4 (24 May 2000)
To be discussed in Council: November 2001
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: (Both) Cleared

Background

22.1  The fifth Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities covers a period from 1998 to 2002 and is due to be superseded by the sixth Framework Programme (2002-2006). Similarly, the current Framework Programme for research by the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) is also due to be replaced by a new Framework Programme.

22.2  Our predecessors reported on a number of occasions on a series of initiatives by the Commission that sought to define the Framework Programmes for the EC and EURATOM with the aim of creating a European research area (ERA).[64] In May they reported in detail and cleared the proposals for new Framework Programmes for the EC and EURATOM covering the period 2002-2006.

22.3  The aim of the proposal for the Framework Programme 2002-06 is to make a reality of the ERA. The Commission is proposing a more decentralised and flexible system of control of research activities than exists under the current framework. As noted by our predecessors, the Commission has proposed a number of priority areas for research, such as genomics and biotechnology for health and information society technologies. The Commission has also proposed that the management of certain research activities be contracted out.

The documents

22.4  Document (a) describes in more detail the objectives in these priority research areas, although the precise subjects of research to be carried out will only be determined when work programmes are drawn up and the programmes of activities for the networks of excellence and integrated projects are formulated. The activities programme will be carried out by means of calls for proposals. The proposals will then be selected by the Commission following evaluation by independent experts. According to the Commission, the detailed rules for implementing the programme proposals will be set out in its publication, "Rules of Participation and Dissemination."

22.5  Document (b) sets out an amended proposal for the specific programmes. The amendments relate to the priority area entitled "Anticipating the EU's scientific and technological needs". In his Explanatory Memorandum of 14 November 2001, the Minister for Science and Innovation at the Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury) tells us that:

    "This priority area addresses (i) scientific and technological support for the development and implementation of EU policies; (ii) research into new and emerging areas; (iii) measures to increase participation by small and medium enterprises and (iv) international co­operation.

    "The amendments to the original text provide greater detail of the Commission's proposals for the first two sections of this priority area (as regards the types of activities to be carried out) and of the budget proposed for these activities.

— EU policy-oriented research

    "Activities to be funded under this heading would be intended to meet the research needs of Community policies that are not satisfied by other parts of the next Framework Programme. It is anticipated that the programme of work would be developed on a multi­annual basis taking into account the opinions of the relevant Scientific Committees associated with the Community policies concerned. The first attempt at defining such policy­oriented research priorities is included in the amended proposal:

    (1)Sustainable management of Europe's natural resources, which will focus on policy requirements related to the modernisation and sustainability of the common agricultural policy and common fisheries policy and the promotion of rural development;

    (2)Providing health, security and opportunity to the people of Europe, which will focus on policy requirements related to the implementation of the European Social Agenda, public health and consumer protection and the creation of an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice.

    (3)Underpinning the economic potential and cohesion of a larger and more integrated European Union, which will focus on the policy requirements of a series of policies concerned with the competitiveness, dynamism and integration of the European economy in the context of enlargement, globalisation and Europe's commercial relations with the rest of the world.

— Research to explore new and emerging scientific and technological problems and opportunities

    "Activities to be funded under this heading will respond to research needs at the leading edge of knowledge as well as to unexpected major developments. Again, it is anticipated that the programme of work would be developed on a multi­annual basis taking into account the results of independent scientific and industrial consultation. The first attempt at defining such new and emerging research priorities is included in the amended proposal:

    (4)research to rapidly respond to issues that may indicate emerging risks or problems of high importance to European society, and to identify appropriate responses to them;

    (5)research in emerging areas of knowledge and on future technologies which is highly innovative and involves correspondingly high (technical) risks.

— Budget

    "The amended text proposes an equal separation of the proposed budget for the two areas above _880 million (£545 million) between those activities already identified and those that are to be identified during the course of the programme.

22.6  As regards anti­fraud measures, these are outlined in section 9 of document (a) and include financial audits and other checks on the contracts.

The Government's view

22.7  As noted by our predecessors, the Government broadly welcomed the simplified structure proposed for the sixth Framework Programme and sympathised with Commission efforts to organise activities in a way which should allow for better overall strategic oversight of activities and more co­ordinated implementation. As regards the budget allocation between priority areas,[65] the Government considered that there appeared to be a strong case for increasing the budget allocation in two areas, namely non­nuclear energies (including renewable energies) and aeronautics.

22.8  Under the original proposal, the Government was concerned about the lack of detail in "Anticipating the EU's scientific and technological needs". According to the Minister the specific programme proposal lacked a clear strategy for determining priorities and allocating the funds. The Commission has now set out more detail in its amended proposal, which the Government broadly welcomes. The Minister says:

    "The Government recognises that certain aspects of the policy-related research priorities identified could be reallocated to a thematic priority area of the Framework Programme (for example to the proposed Sustainable Development and Global Change priority or to the Food Safety and Health Risks priority) and maintains a flexible position on this point."

22.9  According to the Minister, the Government hopes that the Commission's "Rules of Participation and Dissemination", will clarify how the Commission proposes to ensure it meets its fundamental principles, such as transparency in the evaluation of proposals, inclusion of smaller players, and protection of the Community's financial interests.

22.10  As regards the EURATOM Framework Programme, the Minister told us:

    "The Government is generally content with the proposals for fission research, both in terms of coverage and budget. It is, however, concerned about the lack of provision in the proposals for research into existing reactor safety as European R&D funding in this area supports important networking arrangements between Member States and provides underpinning support to those candidate countries with nuclear power stations. It will seek to rectify this in negotiations."

Conclusion

22.11  The principles underlying these documents were reported on in some detail by our predecessors. Like them, we broadly support the focussing of resources in the new Framework Programme on a limited number of thematic priority areas and welcome the more decentralised and flexible manner in which research will be promoted.

22.12  As regards anti-fraud measures, we note that the Commission will, where appropriate, carry out financial audits and other checks on the contracts where external contractors or third parties are used in the implementation of the research programme, and we welcome this.

22.13   We clear both documents.


64  (21013) 5643/00; see headnote to this paragraph, and (21698) 12214/00 (21696) - ; see HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 40 (15 November 2000). Back

65   See table 1. Back


 
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