The European Parliament adopted two reports by Jerzy Buzek (EPP-ED, PL). The first report on the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7) comes under the codecision procedure (1st reading), while the report on Euratom research comes under the consultation procedure.
7th Framework programme for Research and Development:
The European Parliament broadly threw its weight behind the Commission's proposals on the future of European research and development for the period 2007-2013. MEPs endorsed the overall structure of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), which will consist of four specific programmes (Cooperation, Ideas, People, Capacities) covering a number of thematic areas.
The Parliament passed an amendment to bring the budget of the programme into line with the agreement on the Financial Perspective: the seven-year programme will have a budget of €50 521 million compared to the €72 726 million originally proposed by the Commission. This is a substantial increase compared to the 6th Framework programme (running from 2002-2006), which had a budget of €16 279 million.
In further amendments to the first-reading report by Jerzy Buzek (EPP-ED, PL), Members modified the allocation of these funds among the different parts of the programme in line with their preferences.
Turning to ethical issues, which have been lively discussed during the debate, the Parliament followed the line of the ITRE committee, saying that the research on the use of human stem cells, both adult and embryonic, may be financed, depending both on the contents of the scientific proposal and the legal framework of the Member state(s) involved. (amendment 66 adopted with 284 votes in favour 249 against and 32 abstentions) As regards the use of human embryonic stem cells, institutions, organisations and researchers must be subject to strict licensing and control in accordance with the legal framework of the Member State(s) involved.
An amendment demanding that financing of research should be limited to embryonic stem cell lines created before 31 December 2003 was rejected by Parliament (amendment 319, rejected with 255 in favour, 274 against with 35 abstentions) Another amendment calling for a ban of a financing via the FP7 of the use of embryos and embryonic stem cells for purposes of scientific research was rejected (amendment 354 rejected with 238 votes in favour 287 against with 40 abstentions)
But Parliament argues, that FP7 must not finance research aimed at human cloning for reproductive purposes, research intended to modify the genetic heritage of human beings which could make such changes inheritable or research intended to create human embryos solely for the purpose of research or the purpose of stem cell procurement, including by means of somatic cell nuclear transfer.
Support for SMEs, young researchers and women
MEPs are keen to encourage participation in FP7 of small and medium-sized firms (SMEs), and to boost the position of young researchers and women in science.
MEPs want that at least 15 % of the cooperation programme budget will be allocated to SMEs. They also want to ensure that SMEs gain better access to pre-funding. If SME-specific instruments should become oversubscribed, MEPs want the financing of the various FP instruments to be reviewed with the aim of directing funds towards the instruments that are in demand. Members also introduce the new mechanism of "knowledge vouchers" for SMEs, to support the dissemination of knowledge.
Other amendments were adopted to encourage young researchers and support the early stages of their scientific careers, and to introduce measures to reduce the "brain drain" such as reintegration grants. MEPs also want to see efforts to bring more women researchers into the programmes.
Real autonomy for European Research Council
Members welcome the proposed creation of a European Research Council - a new instrument to support investigator-driven “frontier research” - but want to be sure it enjoys real autonomy. They suggest it should initially be set up as an Executive Agency and - after a brief transition phase - become an independent structure. The Commission is therefore asked to present a proposal to Parliament and Council, under the codecision procedure, to "implement the ERC as a permanent, legally independent structure ". By 2008, says the Parliament, an independent review must be carried out of the ERC's structures and mechanisms, following which the structures and mechanisms of the ERC could be modified.
To avoid top-heavy administration, MEPs adopted an amendment calling for administrative and staffing costs for the ERC to account for not more than 3 % of the annual ERC budget.
Priorities for financing under FP7
A wide range of amendments deal with the nine thematic areas which are broadly defined in the Commission's proposal. MEPs support the selection of these nine thematic areas but wish to broaden and clarify the Commission's definitions. They also add for each of the areas a number of activities which they feel merit Community support. The thematic areas of health and energy are priorities for the Parliament. Regarding the energy part (with Parliament wants to allocate with a budget of 2415 million Euro), members want that approximately two thirds of the budget go towards research conducted under the three renewable energy activities and energy efficiency and savings.
Lastly, MEPs want to split the area "security and space" into two separate headings. Thus the following ten areas would be funded via FP7:
-Food, Agriculture and Biotechnology
-Information and Communication Technologies
-Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials and new Production Technologies
-Environment (including Climate Change)
-Transport (including Aeronautics)
-Socio-economic Sciences and the Humanities
Parliament wants the Framework Programme to be continuously and systematically reviewed. It says the Commission should not carry out just one evaluation - in 2010 - but at least two interim assessments (in 2009 and 2011). Specifically on ethical questions, MEPs say the research fields must be reviewed in the second phase of FP7 in the light of scientific progress.
Euratom Framework Programme
The Parliament adopted a second report by Mr Buzek on the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for nuclear research and training activities (2007-2011) with 457:97:22 votes). The overall budget of this programme will be €2751 million, compared to the original Commissions proposal of €3092 million.