All details concerning the shape of the future ERA (European Research Area) must be set out in the Commission's Sixth Framework programme (FP6) proposal to be presented to the European Parliament in 2001 states a draft report by MEP Elly Plooij-van Gorsel.
The report, the final version of which will be available early in 2001, assesses the new instruments outlined in the Commission's ERA communication and the priorities and modalities foreseen for FP6.
'Whatever detailed measures are decided for furthering the ERA [...] must be set out in the Sixth Framework programme proposal to be presented to Parliament in February 2001 with a view to adoption by the co-decision procedure. The ERA measures cannot be a parallel set of instruments to the Framework Programme. They can just be defined within it, always bearing in mind that they are the stepping-stones towards a long-term perspective: that of the knowledge-based economy and society.'
As the ERA measures will be defined within the Framework programme, all decisions relating to the ERA will be adopted by the co-decision procedure. The Parliament also intends to use its authority to be 'the political guarantor of the democratic integrity of the European Research Area.'
Mrs Plooij-van Gorsel is critical of the lack of a democratic dimension in documents on the ERA issued by the European Council, the Council of Ministers and the Commission. The Commission does however receive much praise in Mrs Plooij-van Gorsel's report, who recognises the boldness in the Commission's approach to improving European research policy. The report also commends the Commission for recognising the appropriateness of the subsidiarity principle and supports the Commission's proposal to build on the current GÃ©ant programme so as to set up a high-speed trans-European research network, although greater clarity on the proposal is requested.
Mrs Plooij-van Gorsel supports the concept of variable geometry on the condition that the rights and aspirations of smaller countries are not disregarded. As a means to overcome the disadvantages of variable geometry, the report advocates a new formula, the publishing in the Framework programme proposal 'a programme of priority topics which might, in due course, be selected from and proposed to Member States subject to rules - also to be published - concerning the fairness and transparency of the procedures for implementing particular programmes. This might be associated with a financial reserve in the overall budgetary envelope of the Framework programme which could be drawn on in line with the agreed priorities and rules.'
Mrs Plooij-van Gorsel stresses that the Commission should play the role of a facilitator. A further measure suggested in the report is the cooperation between national research councils, facilitated again by the Commission and supported with EC funds.
The report also introduces the idea of 'orphan' programmes: fields of research, which may not have the backing of large lobbies but which promise considerable European added value. Mrs Plooij-van Gorsel suggests that actions could range from coastal mapping for environmental purposes to some forms of targeted social research.
Coordination, Cooperation, Evaluation, Policies, Scientific Research