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Janez Potočnik

European Commissioner for Science and Research

A new research programme for Europe

EP plenary debate on the Seventh Framework Research Programme
Bruxelles, 29 November 2006

Mr. President,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Minister Lehtomäki,

Ladies and gentlemen,

This evening and tomorrow mid day are important hours for Europe and European science. With your vote tomorrow you, members of this Parliament will demonstrate that the Europe of research is alive and kicking.

We have worked hard together over the past year so that Europe's researchers can start working and making the best of the opportunities that the new Framework Programme will offer them.

Together, we have succeeded in delivering a Framework Programme that meets the objectives we set out from the beginning: ambition and excellence, a good balance between continuity and novelty, and a strong basis for simplified rules and procedures.

And on top of this, we are delivering FP7 on time.

We succeed in doing this despite some difficult circumstances, such as a late agreement on the Financial Perspectives and a rich debate on delicate ethical issues, for example.

But we succeed because we all share the strong conviction that cooperation in research lies at the heart of the successful knowledge society that we want Europe to be – a Europe that delivers growth and jobs and where it is good to live.

The timely adoption of the ambitious FP7 will send a strong message to the scientific community, to industry and to the public at large.

The message is: Let's not lose time. Let's get to work together. Let's realise Europe's potential for excellence.

I would like to pay tribute to the Members of Parliament who have made all this possible:

  • The rapporteur for FP7, Mr. Buzek.
  • The rapporteurs for the FP7 Rules of Participation, Mr. Busquin, and Mrs. Laperrouze for the EURATOM part.
  • The rapporteurs for the seven Specific Programmes: Mrs. Riera Madurell, for Cooperation, Mrs. Niebler and Mr. Ehler for Ideas, Mr. Pirilli for People, Mr. Prodi for Capacities, Mr. Guidoni for Euratom, Mr. Hammerstein on the EC direct actions of the Joint Research Centre, Mr. Caspary on the Euratom direct actions of the Joint Research Centre.
  • And the long list of shadow rapporteurs and other Members who have been strongly engaged.

Our cooperation has been greatly facilitated by the skilful chairmanship of Mr. Chichester. Mr. Chichester, I learned a lot from you. Thank you.

I would also like to acknowledge the hard work and good company of all the presidencies involved in the adoption of the programmes. I would specially like to thank the Finnish presidency for their constructive role in the final phase of the process.

Our negotiations have shown a solid and broad consensus of the three institutions on the main aspects of the FP7 package. We have moved forward considering every single act as part of the same package, ensuring full political coherence within the overall package.

You are more than familiar with FP7 and its content. I will limit my intervention to some key features.

The Buzek report

First, the report of Mr. Buzek on the FP7 second reading. A lot of work has gone into reaching a balanced agreement, which the three institutions can agree on. I would like to express a heartfelt "thank you" to our rapporteur for his openness and constant collaboration.

The Commission accepts all the elements of the agreement reached, following the tripartite meetings.

In particular, I would like to mention some of the most important issues where we finally reached a proper balance:

  1. The mid-term review and future decisions on the European Research Council, the appointment of its members and its administrative costs. The Commission has also put forward a declaration on this.
  2. The strengthened focus on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency, to which more than half of the energy priority budget will be devoted. I am particularly satisfied with the level of attention to be devoted to energy efficiency in all thematic priorities. The Commission has also made a declaration on this.
  3. The redistribution of the budget in favour of the Cooperation, Ideas and the People programmes and, inside the Cooperation budget, in favour of the themes on Health, Energy, Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities as well as Security.

The approach for the release in two steps of the budget destined for the Risk Sharing Finance Facility.

On the issue of EU funding for human embryonic stem cell research, I believe we have agreed a very responsible ethical framework for a research programme covering so many different countries. It continues the ethical framework of FP6, which has been tested successfully in practice.

The Commission has made an extensive declaration on this ethical framework, which will be published in the Official Journal as part of the FP7 package. The Commission will fully respect and strictly implement this declaration, which it considers an integral part of the agreement on FP7.

Accordingly, the Commission will not fund projects which include research activities which destroy human embryos, including for the procurement of stem cells. The exclusion of funding of this step of research will not prevent Community funding of subsequent steps involving human embryonic stem cells. Even if article 6, paragraph 3 of the FP7 decision refers to derivation, the Commission will not fund the activity of derivation which involves destroying a human embryo.

The agreement on ethics reflects a careful and responsible balance. The Commission calls on the European Parliament not to put this balance into question by any further amendment.

The seven Specific Programmes

I now come to the seven Specific Programmes, which detail the two framework programmes for research.

To a large extent, the modifications of the Commission's proposals were related to transposing the provisions of the agreed Framework Programme into the Specific Programme texts. Following these changes, the final draft presidency texts on the Specific Programmes include a welcome mixture of Parliament's requests and the Council's own reflections, making these texts perfectly compatible with the Commission's position.

For the Cooperation Specific Programme, Parliament's amendments to be voted are, generally speaking, coherent with the FP text and largely acceptable and this also thanks to the excellent work of the rapporteur, Mrs. Riera Madurell. It was not an easy task to deal with such a broad range of fields with important research challenges. Let me only mention as a good example of our strong cooperation, the good agreement reached on renewables and energy efficiency.

For the Ideas programme, the main concerns of the EP, as reflected in the amendments and discussed intensively during the tripartite meetings, have been taken into account. In particular, due consideration has been given to the ceiling of the administrative costs of the total budget; the questions related to the management staff of the ERC; a clearly defined approach to the process of selection, term of office and renewal of the members of the Scientific Council; the reference to the review of ERC structures and mechanism and the possibility for the Scientific Council to appoint a Secretary general. Once more, thanks to the rapporteur Mrs. Niebler and to Mr. Ehler for their constructive work.

For the People Specific programme, the current Presidency text has taken on board a number of Parliament amendments, which are fully acceptable to the Commission. I would highlight in particular those that refer to the importance of stimulating youngsters to enter into the research profession, of helping them with a more stable career path, and of fully using the potential of women. Here all my thanks for the support received by the rapporteur Mr. Pirilli.

On the Capacities Specific Programme, let me highlight some of those amendments that really improved the Commission's original proposal. I am referring in particular to those clarifying the role of RTD performers for activities under Research for the benefit of SMEs and the introduction of mechanisms for co-operation with national and regional R&D support programs. Concerning the activities on the Research potential, the addition of the reference to the associated countries clarifies and emphasizes the eligibility of entities from these countries to participate in the actions supported under this Specific programme. The constant and useful support received by the rapporteur Mr. Prodi has been really appreciated.

On the EC Joint Research Centre Specific Programme, I am glad to see that the Parliament supports the priorities of the JRC as indicated in this SP. I agree with the majority of the amendments which have been tabled, which are aimed at better defining the JRC mission in relation to its different activities. In particular, I agree to the request regarding the role that JRC could play in providing a sustainable energy reference system and information on reliability of energy supply for Europe, as well as on the availability of renewable energy resources. Thanks for your excellent work Mr. Hammerstein.

On the Euratom Specific Programme let me say that the text is broadly acceptable with some minor exceptions. Thanks to the rapporteur Mr. Guidoni, and for his strong support to the Commission's proposal.

Let me here open a parenthesis just to say that the ITER project has been of paramount importance and I must say that I feel fortunate to have been involved directly. Last week, I had the honour of taking part in the ceremony in Paris and as I said there, I am confident that "hard winds grow strong trees".

On the Euratom Joint Research Centre Specific Programme, I am pleased to see that the EP and the Council support the Commission approach and the proposed amendments are improving the Commission proposal. And I share the request expressed by the Parliament that JRC "in view of the threat to preventing the possible loss of knowledge and a lack of new scientists and engineers in the area of nuclear technology, will aim at retaining knowledge ensuring that this knowledge is readily available, properly organised and well documented". Once more, thanks for the support received by the rapporteur Mr. Caspary.

EC and Euratom Rules for Participation

Let me now turn to the reports of Mr. Busquin and Mrs. Laperrouze on the EC and Euratom Rules for Participation respectively.

The Commission is very grateful to the European Parliament and, in particular, to the rapporteurs, shadow rapporteurs and other Member of the ITRE committee for their constructive attitude and strong commitment to reaching a good compromise with the Council, allowing for the adoption of the EC FP7 Rules for participation in first reading.

This follows the welcome precedent established under FP6 and I am confident that this cooperation will continue in the future.

The Euratom Rules will follow the same principles as those agreed for the EC Rules, taking into account the necessary adjustments due to the specificities of the FP7 Euratom Framework Programme.

Concerning the Busquin and Laperrouze reports, the Commission can accept all the elements of the agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council.

There is no doubt that the final text provides for significant improvements to the original Commission proposal.

I would like to highlight the following elements of the agreement on the rules of participation:

  • First of all, the coverage and calculation of indirect costs, in particular on the flat rate introduced for non-profit public bodies, universities, research organisations and SMEs. This flat-rate is now fixed at 60% during the first three years (2007-2009) and thereafter the Commission shall establish a new flat-rate reflecting an approximation of the real indirect costs of participants, but not lower than 40%. Let me say here, that you have been very persuasive in convincing both the Council and the Commission.
  • Secondly, the Participants' Guarantee Fund, which replaces collective financial responsibility as it was known under FP6. This Fund will be established by the Commission and will serve as a basis for an exoneration of verification of participants (except the project coordinators) requesting less than 500.000 EUR in a project. Moreover, no additional guarantee or security may be requested from participants or imposed on them.
  • Thirdly, the evaluation criteria will be clearly established in the FP7 Rules.
  • Fourthly, the certification on the financial statements where the compromise agreed reflects common goal of Parliament and Council to simplify and limit the number of certificates.
  • Fifthly, the 75% as upper funding limit for security related research, in the case of the development of highly reliable capabilities having an impact on the security of the European citizens and targeted to a limited number of public users. The EP's wish has been fully satisfied!
  • Finally, access rights for "European" affiliates established in a Member State or associated country will enjoy access rights if they are needed to use their own foreground under the same conditions as the participant to which they are affiliated.

I reiterate my warmest thanks for your excellent work, Mr. Busquin and Mrs. Laperrouze.

Before concluding, I would like to come to a topic of concern to at least some of you, as indicated by amendments put forward for vote tomorrow.

This concerns the participation of entities established in territories which are not internationally recognised. I understand that this aims to exclude legal entities operating in the territories occupied by Israel.

Since August 1996, Israel has been fully associated to the Framework Programme for Research and Development. Israel's research entities are today valued and active partners in the implementation of the Framework Programme.

The Commission has therefore recommended to the Council to renew the association agreement for the lifetime of FP 7.

The association agreements in combination with the Rules for Participation give legal entities established in Israel the same rights and obligations concerning participation and funding as a legal entity established in a Member State.

Only legal entities which are established within the internationally recognised territory of Israel can be considered as such legal entities under the text of the rules for participation which is before you.

Legal entities established in the occupied territories cannot be considered as Israeli legal entities in the meaning of the FP6 rules for participation and in meaning of the association agreement. The Commission services will be very vigilant in this regard.

Concluding remarks

Let me conclude now by saying that I have really appreciated these 19 months of intense work and friendly collaboration.

Many amendments have a special meaning for me as they remind me each one of you, from Mr. Liese's interest for children disease, to Mrs. Riera Madurell's and Mrs. Gutiérrez Cortines' strong support to cultural heritage, from Mr. Prodi's strong defence of the European Technology Platforms to Mr. Hammerstein's and Mr. Turmes' attention to renewable energy sources, and Mr. Busquin's strong support to the guarantee fund, just to mention a few....

I believe our cooperation bodes well for the implementation of the Seventh Framework Programme and for the continued development of ambitious research and innovation policies that Europe needs and deserves.

The debate today and the vote tomorrow herald the start of a new journey. A journey that I hope will see Europe cross frontiers and reach new horizons.

Researchers will know that the European institutions are there to support them on this journey.

Yes, this evening and tomorrow mid day are truly important hours for Europe and European science. We (you) can truly be proud of the way which is behind us, proud of the direction of the scientific journey we designed together. For better life of all of us here in Europe and for better life of the whole humanity.

Thank you.

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