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17. 3.

98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 82/145

Answer given by Mr Flynn on behalf of the Commission

(3 October 1997)

On the basis of the powers and responsibilities conferred on it by the Treaties, the Commission currently has no
plans to harmonise the invalidity cards issued in the various Member States.

(98/C 82/232) WRITTEN QUESTION E-2817/97

by Helena Torres Marques (PSE) to the Commission
(1 September 1997)

Subject: Management of the Socrates programme

There have been fairly worrying reports in the media about the future of the Socrates programme, and the
universities belonging to the ‘Coimbra Group’ are apparently also alarmed.

According to my most recent information, this Community programme is teetering on the brink of a ‘credibility
crisis’ because the funds allocated to projects are modest to the point of jeopardizing their implementation.

Programmes of this type are highly important and arouse considerable expectations. The fact that the sums
earmarked for them are so paltry is bound to cause great disappointment and detract from the credibility of EU

Will the Commission increase funding for projects of the type concerned and facilitate and expedite the
payments which it promises to make, thereby encouraging scientific research, one of the EU’s objectives?

Answer given by Mrs Cresson on behalf of the Commission

(3 October 1997)

The Commission is aware of the criticism of the universities and consortia of universities such as the Coimbra
group regarding the levels of funding available for the transnational cooperation activities under the Erasmus
institutional contracts within the Socrates programme.

The budget for this action has in fact increased slightly in overall terms compared with the previous year.
However, in the past the grants were disbursed through the coordinating university of each cooperation activity,
which then had the responsibility of distributing them to the various partners. Consequently, only 300 coordi-
nating establishments received Community aid which was destined for all the partner establishments. In 1997,
for the first time, each of the nearly 1,500 universities participating in Erasmus is receiving an overall grant to
contribute towards funding the whole range of its Erasmus activities. This has rendered the Community support
much more visible for each institution. The institutional approach highlights the responsibility of each partner
university to contribute to the success of the cooperation activities, using the grant it receives from
Socrates-Erasmus to complement its own resources and other sources of funding.

Nevertheless, the average grants are indeed modest. The Commission is acutely aware of the inadequacy of
funding for the Socrates programme as whole, for which it had proposed a budget far in excess of the figure
finally adopted in accordance with the procedures agreed at that time. The Commission has proposed an increase
to the financial framework, for the programme in 1998 and 1999 in order to reinforce the programme’s capacity
to meet its stated objectives. The Commission’s proposal to increase the budget is currently under discussion in
the Parliament and Council.

However, it should be noted that the Socrates programme is a programme for cooperation in education and not
scientific research as suggested by the Honourable Member.