European Academies of Sciences declare themselves to Central and Southeast Europe

The Central- and Eastern European Network (CEN) of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts has issued a declaration on the importance of adequate research funding for reaping the rewards of scientific potential in Central and Southeast Europe.

The declaration was presented to EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik on 21 October, who appeared to be of the same opinion, stating that a doubling of the EU research budget is 'crucial' to many aspects of his Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) proposals.
The CEN declaration makes three compelling claims:
- only with adequate funding will FP7 become a cornerstone of the Lisbon Agenda;
- the scientific potential of Central and Southeast Europe can offer a significant contribution to FP7;
- investment is needed to reap the rewards of Central and Southeast Europe's potential.

The proposed budget for FP7 of 72.73 billion euro 'must be considered as an absolute minimum', states CEN. This was a point echoed by the Commissioner, who suggested which aspects of the proposals would have to be revised if the proposed budget is not secured.

'As you are all aware, top of the list of initiatives begun by my predecessor Philippe Busquin that I would like to see through to delivery is the doubling of the EU budget for research. Such an outcome is indeed crucial to the success of the European Research Council, the Technology Platforms and research infrastructure initiatives that I firmly believe the EU should pursue,' said Mr Potocnik.

The outcome of discussions within the Council on the budget do not look promising however. 'Money remains the sinew of war,' said the Commissioner, underlining the irony of the situation - 'All governments agree that knowledge is the key to Europe's competitiveness. All agree that we cannot afford to delay.' And yet calls for a substantially increased budget for FP7 have received little support from ministers.

The Commissioner also responded to CEN's concerns on making the most of the scientific potential available in Central and Eastern Europe. This potential is under-utilised, according to CEN, but a number of actions can be undertaken to redress imbalances. The distribution of funding should be equitable - the network believes that the Western Balkan region requires particular attention in this respect, the region should benefit from large-scale infrastructure projects of European interest (as well as smaller infrastructure projects), and transnational research activities based on the existing ERA-NET concepts should be supported.

In his speech, Mr Potocnik expressed his satisfaction with the content of a recent report that cited the more active involvement of scientists from Estonia and Slovenia in EU collaborative research as one of the concrete benefits of enlargement that are visible within just one year.

He emphasised that candidate countries have for several years been treated on a virtually equal footing in terms of participation in the framework programmes. 'If some new Member States have not seen a real change in European participation since May last year, it is because they are already participating,' he said.

The Commissioner also used his speech in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to call for more action from Member States to address the stagnation of research intensity in Europe. The latest figures on science, technology and innovation show 'worrying trends', said the Commissioner, and Europe is currently on track to miss the objective of increasing research investment to three per cent of GDP by 2010. Even more worrying is that 'Europe is becoming a less attractive place to carry out research,' he continued.

'I am convinced that Europe needs a wake-up call,' said Mr Potocnik. He referred to the increasing competition from emerging economies to emphasise this point. If we consider countries such as China and India to be competing on low wages and manufacturing, 'then we are kidding ourselves', he said. These countries are also competitive in hi-tech, high skilled sectors because they are investing increasing amounts in research and development (R&D). 'And yet as they catch us up, we are still lagging behind our traditional competitors such as the US and Japan,' the Commissioner warned.

Information Source: European Commission; Central- and Eastern European Network (CEN)

inserted by Peter MAYR on 2005-11-08 11:17:38