You are on page 1of 6

C 95/48 EN Official Journal of the European Union 23.4.

2003

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Communication from the
Commission “The European Research Area: Providing New Momentum Strengthening —
Reorienting — Opening up new perspectives”’

(COM(2002) 565 final)

(2003/C 95/13)

On 17 October 2002 the Commission decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee,
under Article 262 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the above-mentioned
communication.

The Section for the Single Market, Production and Consumption, which was responsible for preparing
the Committee’s work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 29 January 2003. The rapporteur was
Mr Wolf.

At its 397th plenary session on 26 and 27 February 2003 (meeting of 26 February) the European
Economic and Committee adopted the following opinion by 72 votes to 7 with 4 abstentions.

1. Summary — In this context, the Committee supports the Commission’s


efforts to create a European scientific infrastructure
— The Committee welcomes the Commission Communi- including the necessary large apparatus.
cation in principle and supports its aims.
— The Committee supports the Commission’s intention to
— The Committee once again emphasises the importance of provide more funding from the Regional Fund, as a matter
a European research area. It appreciates the progress of priority, for promotion of scientific and technological
already made towards this aim and towards an internal cooperation between regions at different stages of techno-
market for research. logical development.

— In general the Committee also endorses the specific — On the important subject of science and society, the
measures proposed. Committee refers readers to its recently issued opinion.

— However, the Committee recommends adapting new — The Committee is drawing up an opinion on the subject
measures on research promotion, coordination, net- of boosting private investment in research.
working or integration, and their timing, to the delicate
operating conditions of top-quality science and research.

— The Committee stresses the fundamental importance of 2. Background


adequate mobility for scientists and researchers in terms
of spreading information and acting as a catalyst for
networks; accordingly it supports the Commission pro- 2.1. The European Research Area initiative and proposed
posals. It recommends that in support measures and rules measures for its implementation were put forward by the
the costs associated with mobility be taken into account Commission in early 2000 ( 1), and were confirmed and
and compensated for, to ensure that no disadvantages endorsed as early as March 2000 by the Lisbon European
arise, and that sufficient incentives are provided. Council. Further developments of this initiative followed in the
Commission’s proposal on the Sixth Framework Pro-
— The Committee strongly supports the creation of a gramme ( 2) and in the proposals (3) on the participation rules.
European Community Patent.
2.2. The Committee issued detailed opinions on these
— As regards the coordination of the Member States’
proposals (4). In them it firmly supported the creation of a
research policies aimed at by the Commission, the
Committee recommends a differentiated approach. It European Research Area and emphasised the fundamental
importance of science, research and development as the basis
supports all measures which encourage coordination by
the research institutes themselves and their participants,
including European-level coordination. Coordination by
(1 ) COM(2000) 6 final.
the Commission itself, bearing in mind the subsidiarity (2 ) COM(2001) 94 final — 2001/0053 (COD) and 2001/0054 (CNS).
principle, should concentrate on and confine itself to (3 ) COM(2001) 500 final as amended by COM(2001) 822 final —
those thematic aims and organisational needs (large 2001/0202 (COD) and COM(2001) 823 final/2 — 2001/0327
apparatus, infrastructure) for which such coordination (CNS).
going beyond the individual Member States is really (4 ) OJ C 204, 18.7.2000; OJ C 260, 17.9.2002; OJ C 241, 7.10.2002;
useful or necessary. OJ C 221, 7.8.2001 and OJ C 94, 18.4.2002.
23.4.2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 95/49

and engine of prosperity and competitiveness. The Committee — boosting private investment in research;
also pointed out that most scientific and technological achieve-
ments up to now have been the product of a common — intellectual property;
European cultural effort, which brings out the historical
importance of the European Research Area and which con-
tributes substantially to European integration. — a trans-European electronic network for research;

— the international dimension of the European Research


Area;
2.3. The Committee also analysed the details of the Com-
mission proposals mentioned above, expressed specific reser-
— the regional dimension of the European Research Area;
vations and issued practical recommendations for changes and
further development. The main aim was to ensure optimal
operational conditions for successful research and develop- — issues relating to science and society;
ment, and balanced support for the three pillars — fundamen-
tal research, applied research, and development — in the — creating the conditions for genuine coordination of
context of their interaction and interdependence. Some of these research policies;
earlier recommendations and comments by the Committee are
also relevant to the present Commission Communication and — making greater use of legal instruments;
are given further consideration below.
— optimising the impact of European cooperation initiat-
ives;

3. The present Commission Communication — fully involving the candidate countries.

3.1. As the starting point of its Communication, the


Commission notes that its earlier initiatives and measures have 4. General comments
contributed to a change in the research policy landscape in
Europe. In the Member States people have become aware of
4.1. The Committee welcomes the present Commission
the European dimension of research; those active in and
Communication in principle and supports its aims. Once again
responsible for research in Europe have come closer together, it stresses the importance of a European Research Area. Except
and new cooperation initiatives have been created; in this
where otherwise stated below, the Committee also endorses
context, it has been possible to give the new research
the individual measures proposed.
framework programme a radically new form and to adopt it.
However, despite the progress in these areas, the Commission
maintains that adequate cooperation with the Member States 4.1.1. The Committee takes the view that the Commission
is still lacking. This restricts the scope of the measures underestimates the remarkable progress already made if it
undertaken and casts doubt upon the creation of an internal regards the creation of an internal market for research as
market for research. generally in doubt. The Committee endorses and strongly
supports the aim of creating an internal market for research
and of encouraging and promoting cutting-edge research
3.2. On the basis of an assessment of the measures taken throughout Europe. However, this aim can be achieved only
so far, the Commission Communication aims to highlight through a longer-term development process on a commensur-
further necessary measures designed to give the project a new ate timescale. This applies both to the clarification of questions
impetus. of responsibility and to interaction and division of labour —
and thus the application and interpretation of the subsidiarity
principle — between the Commission and the governments of
the Member States, as well as to the necessary adaptation
3.3. The following aspects are addressed, and correspond- process to be followed by individual research institutes and
ing proposals are made: their players (see also the Appendix on this question).

— benchmarking of research policies; 4.1.2. There is of course still much to do and to improve;
and the Committee will deal with some of these points under
— mapping of scientific and technological excellence; point 5 below.

— mobility of researchers; 4.1.3. It is particularly important to maintain the necessary


political impetus, in order to develop further and complete the
set of rules for the Community internal market in general. At
— research infrastructures;
the same time the related measures also lay the foundation on
which the European Research Area and the internal market for
— networking of national research programmes; research can be further developed and organised.
C 95/50 EN Official Journal of the European Union 23.4.2003

4.1.4. It must, however, also be borne in mind that to — guaranteeing researcher independence and scientific free-
achieve competence, efficiency or even a leading position in a dom, with respect for ethical concerns and the law;
particular scientific area, the persons and groups involved in
research and development must first undertake a demanding — protecting and strengthening - within the framework of
period of training usually lasting several years. In addition, policy directives - the scientific community’s autonomy
high-quality technical equipment must often first be set up and its right to run its own affairs;
and a stimulating environment - research structures - created.
This is a valuable and expensive investment in human capital — studying the impact, administrative burden and effective-
and in research infrastructure. ness of the various application and approval procedures;

— taking account of the diverse range of social aims and


4.1.4.1. Good and successful research cannot therefore be interests;
switched on and off, redirected or subjected to new support
instruments or rules at the whim of economic cycles or — also fostering and being open to knowledge in which
current political trends, but requires sufficient continuity ‘society’ currently has no interest.
and reliability ( 1). This also applies to the timescale for the
implementation of the new measures and procedures which it 4.2.2. Science and research depend on competition for
is hoped and expected that the Commission will produce. the best ideas, procedures and findings, on independent
Otherwise there is even a risk that essentially sensible measures confirmation (or disproving) — i.e. ‘certification’ — of new
prepared by the Commission with good intentions could findings, and on their dissemination, deepening and extension.
encounter animosity and resistance on the part of the insti- Even duplication of research contributes to scientific knowl-
tutions and players concerned. edge and progress.

4.2.3. Thus it is necessary to facilitate and foster diverse,


4.1.4.2. In this connection the Committee is pleased to interdisciplinary research approaches, assessment procedures
note that the Commission has followed (unfortunately only in and research structures, in order to stimulate and utilise the
part) its earlier recommendation, that the calls for tenders resulting competition for the best ideas and findings.
should offer the instruments proposed by the Commission for
the Sixth Framework Programme together with those already
4.2.4. A key principle of any research policy should
introduced by the Fifth Framework Programme. It would also
therefore be to adopt a ‘bottom-up’ approach as often as
be desirable in a call for tenders for a special research package
possible and a ‘top-down’ approach only as often as necessary.
not to specify the instrument available for it, but to allow
Similarly, there should be as much decentralisation as possible
applicants scope for initiative and freedom of choice, to select
and only as much centralisation as required. In the EESC’s
whichever is the most suitable instrument in their view.
view, this principle does not run counter to the objectives of
the European Research Area, but means that — depending on
the aims in each case — the Commission and its research
4.2. The Committee has already issued a very detailed policy should also delegate responsibilities and the powers of
opinion on the extremely wide-ranging set of questions decision and initiative etc to the greatest possible extent.
relating to science and society ( 1), the points made in which
are still valid, e.g. in relation to the issues addressed here by 4.3. Boosting private investment in research is the subject
the Commission. Some of them are briefly recapitulated below of a Commission Communication ( 2) on which the Committee
with reference to current questions. made its own recommendations, in a separate opinion endors-
ing the Commission proposals in principle. This subject will
therefore not be dealt with further here.
4.2.1. Priority should be given to the economic, political,
social and cultural environment in which creativity and
inventiveness can best develop, and to making it possible to
5. Specific comments
attract the best scientists and engineers to the European
Research Area and keep them there. This should involve
measures to maintain or create optimum operating conditions
for good science, such as: 5.1. Mobility

It is people who are responsible for knowledge transfer,


— strengthening the interplay between fundamental
research and applied research/development in a diverse, contacts and networking. That is why mobility is the key to
the organisation of the European Research Area. In this
multi-polar scientific system;
connection the Committee would also refer to its earlier
opinion ( 3).

(2 ) COM(2002) 499 final.


( 1) OJ C 221, 7.8.2001, point 4.3. (3 ) OJ C 204, 18.7.2000, point 8.
23.4.2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 95/51

5.1.1. The question of mobility for scientists and tech- adequate incentives and instruments to promote the mobility
nicians, however, covers a variety of aspects or categories, of highly-skilled people. This need and the specific set of
such as: problems connected with it have already been fully explained
in the earlier Opinion (1) on the European Research Area.
— reciprocal mobility between the academic world and
industry;

5.2. Intellectual property rights


— mobility between the Member States of the EU;

— mobility between the EU and non-member countries; The Committee supports the Commission in its ongoing
efforts — so far, alas, not particularly successful, because of
resistance from the Member States — to create a European
— promotion of the return to the EU of researchers in non-
Community Patent. It recommends once again that the
member countries;
procedures required to establish and operate a European
Community Patent system be made simpler, shorter and
— promotion of mobility through financial incentives/ cheaper, as this would have an enormous economic impact. It
grants e.g. by the Commission; would refer to its earlier views on this question, particularly
regarding language arrangements, the role of national patent
offices and legal protection for them. A grace period, which
— the obstacles to mobility (for the various categories does not jeopardise the novelty of the patent, should also be
mentioned above) and ways of overcoming them.
introduced (as in the USA), so that findings published in
advance by an inventor are not excluded from patenting from
the start.
Some of these categories are dealt with in the Commission
Communication. In particular, measures to improve incentives
and provide better information for potential candidates are
proposed. The Committee fully supports these proposals.
5.3. Research policy coordination

5.1.2. In addition to the obstacles to mobility mentioned


by the Commission, the Committee would point out the In the Commission’s view, coordination of individual states’
following further problems hindering the desired mobility of research policies is a key task of the European Research Area.
scientists and engineers:

5.3.1. The Committee supports those Commission


— the effects on the cohesion of families or family partner- measures which encourage and promote coordination ( 2) of
ships. This involves finding solutions consistent with the research policy and projects at European level by the Member
career aspirations of family partners and the schooling States themselves and by the institutions and players respon-
needs of children. This is in fact an important aspect of sible for research and development.
family policy;

— the costs involved in moving or buying/selling a house, 5.3.2. Top-down coordination by the Commission itself,
which can be considerable (estate agent, taxes, legal fees, however, should concentrate on and be confined to those
renovation etc.). Here too solutions must be found, so thematic aims and equipment needs (large apparatus, infra-
that those concerned are not disadvantaged, and no structure) for which such coordination, going beyond the
insuperable obstacles to mobility therefore arise; individual Member States, is really useful or necessary.

— the inadequate compatibility and transferability of social 5.3.3. This is therefore a delicate question — one which
security entitlements and insurance at present (eligibility needs to be handled in a flexible way, and one which touches
requirements/qualification periods for pensions, inval- on the key problem of subsidiarity. In this connection the
idity benefits, sickness insurance etc.). Committee refers back to its first Opinion on the European
Research Area ( 3), chapter 9 of which is entitled The European
dimension: subsidiarity, concentration and diversity, compe-
5.1.3. The problems mentioned under 5.1.2, however, have tition and order. Because of the fundamental importance of
implications not only for scientists’ mobility, but also for other this question, an extract from this chapter is appended (up to
occupational groups and hence the entire internal market. This and including point 9.8.5); it supplements this opinion.
makes it all the more urgent to solve them.

5.1.4. However, in order to facilitate and encourage the


participation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in (1 ) OJ C 204, 18.7.2000, points 7.7, 7.8, 8.2.2 and 11.7.5.
the research and development programme, and to overcome (2 ) Also called ‘open coordination’ by the Commission.
the obstacles to this which persist, there is also a need for (3 ) OJ C 204, 18.7.2000.
C 95/52 EN Official Journal of the European Union 23.4.2003

5.4. Infrastructure and large apparatus right to issue a specific opinion on the practical proposals to
be put forward on this matter.

5.4.1. A particularly important, indeed priority, subject in 5.5. The regional dimension of the European Research Area
this connection is the very expensive infrastructure and large
apparatus needed for cutting-edge research, the cost and utility In the development of the European Research Area there are
of which usually exceed the possibilities and also the needs of two approaches, each with its own assessment standard.
individual Member States. Consideration of need, optimal
location, new construction, use, development etc. would 5.5.1. On the one hand there is the networked participation
therefore appear to be a clear case of a common European of the best researchers and research institutes in the various
task, to be promoted and then coordinated by the Commission. thematic, Europe-wide research and development pro-
The large apparatus concerned would include accelerators, grammes: this is carried out in accordance with the rules of
radiation and neutron sources, astronomical observation plat- the Framework Programme.
forms and satellites, energy research testing plant (ITER), and 5.5.2. On the other hand there is the intention to promote
testing plant for aviation and space travel. It follows naturally scientific and technological cooperation between regions
from this that the procedures, scientific work etc. needed for which are at different stages of technological development,
their operation must be influenced, coordinated and supported and to involve more isolated regions in this as well.
by the Commission (e.g. by promoting mobility). Thus the
Committee fully supports the Commission’s efforts in this The Committee welcomes and endorses the Commission’s
field. intention to support both the above objectives, not least
through separate assistance programmes. While the pursuit of
excellence, referred to in point 5.5.1, is the main task of the
5.4.2. The Committee endorses the proposal to set up, in R & D Framework Programme, the regional aspect mentioned
the European infrastructure forum, formal mechanisms for in point 5.5.2 should be covered primarily, and more than
consulting and advising the Member States; it reserves the hitherto, by the Regional Fund.

Brussels, 26 February 2003.

The President
of the European Economic and Social Committee
Roger BRIESCH
23.4.2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 95/53

APPENDIX

to the Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee

The following amendments, which received more than a quarter of the votes cast, were rejected in the course of the
discussions:

Point 5.3.1

Amend to read as follows:

‘The Committee supports those Commission measures which encourage and promote coordination of research
policy and projects at European level by the Member States and by the institutions and players responsible for
research and development.’

Reason

The idea of ‘self-coordination’ is not comprehensible; if it is intended to imply a ‘bottom-up’ process, that is
inappropriate when talking of research policies and too limiting when talking of research programmes.

For the reasons already given in point 5.3.1 of the opinion, the suggested limitation of the Commission’s action is
not acceptable.

The reference to the EESC’s earlier opinion on the European Research Area, already published in the Official Journal,
is sufficient; there is no need to reproduce the opinion as an appendix, particularly as its content is not exactly the
same as the text which it is proposed to delete (in the current points 5.3.2 and 5.3.3).

Results of voting

In favour: 20, against: 25, abstentions: 33.

Point 5.3.2

Amend to read as follows:

‘The Commission should work in particular to achieve the objective of becoming the world’s most competitive
knowledge-based economy by 2010, laying down general objectives and guidelines at EU level, from which would
follow specific objectives and policy measures on the part of each Member State.’

Reason

See the reason given for the point 5.3.1 amendment.

Results of voting

In favour: 26, against: 45, abstentions: 7.