President. – The next item is the joint debate on:
1. the report by Jerzy Buzek (A6-0202/2006), on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the seventh framework programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities (2007 to 2013) (COM(2005)0119 – C6-0099/2005 – 2005/0043(COD)), and
2. the report by Jerzy Buzek (A6-0203/2006), on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the seventh framework programme of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for nuclear research and training activities (2007 to 2011) (COM(2005)0119 – C6-0112/2005 – 2005/0044(CNS)).
Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. Mr President, today is an important day for science. With your support, we can look ahead to a EUR 54.5 billion research programme to be launched by the end of this year. EUR 54.5 billion in current prices is less than we had proposed, but it is a substantial increase on the current programme and we also have to thank Parliament for that. Together, we are making the Seventh Framework Programme a programme for boosting growth and jobs, for promoting a sustainable and healthy Europe.
It is also a programme for a stronger Europe: research unites in diversity. For that to happen, we need cooperation, ideas, people and capacities and those are the titles of the four main axes in the Framework Programme.
The cooperation programme will bring together our best talents from across Europe to research and develop and find answers on economic opportunities and societal challenges, for example in the areas of health and energy. The ideas programme will introduce a new mindset in supporting and conducting research in Europe. The people programme will attract and motivate the best scientists to work across Europe or beyond, for the benefit of European research. The capacities programme will ensure that Europe can rely on excellent capacities for conducting research in all parts of Europe.
Our continuous efforts towards simplification will ensure that we attract the best participants, irrespective of size or origin, and that we get the best value for our investment.
I am impressed by the consensus that has emerged in Parliament on Framework Programme that delivers on the ambition. I wholeheartedly thank Mr Chichester, chairman of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, the rapporteur, Mr Buzek, the shadow rapporteurs and all other Members of Parliament who made this possible.
Your objective is to further improve the Seventh Framework Programme. I am pleased to say that the Commission will be able to accept no less than two thirds of your amendments, either as a whole or in principle. Some other amendments are, in our assessment, too detailed for the Framework Programme, or they go beyond the remit of research and development. We will quickly come to an agreement on those. Some amendments create difficulties for the Commission. They concern topics for which we have a shared understanding of their importance and priority, but not yet on how to realise them. I do not think that they should become stumbling blocks. They relate, for example, to keeping space and security together as one priority, avoiding the definition of a quantitative target for SME participation, preventing the introduction of support in the people programme for interregional mobility within the same country and ensuring that technology platforms remain flexible, bottom-up and industry-driven in defining strategic research agendas and guiding their implementation.
Let me spend a little time on two issues which have been the subject of your intense debate.
I should like to start with the European Research Council. This is probably the most exciting new development in the European research landscape. Parliament’s strong support will help to make it a reality. We have to get the structure right, so that independence is guaranteed in support of scientific excellence and administrative capacity is available in support of efficiency. The Community method can guarantee this and it is for this reason that we have proposed to set up the ERC within the remit of the Community institutions. I am sure that we will be able to accommodate much of the substance of Parliament’s amendments in a way that will also help to create common ground with the Council. However, I am afraid that a review in 2008, after only one year of operation, will not be very meaningful. Much as I understand Parliament’s wish to be associated with the European Research Council’s success, I do not think we have the appropriate legal basis to decide on the follow-up to the review in codecision.
I am most concerned, however, about proposals to predetermine the future structure of the European Research Council even at this stage. What message would we give out with such an automatic change of structure? That we got it wrong in the first place? That the ERC we set up will not be independent? I simply cannot accept that logic. It would not help us in our joint aim to create a European Research Council of which we can all be proud. I believe that we are enabling the ERC to be independent and efficient. I have heard Professor Kafatos, chairman of the ERC Scientific Council, say on several occasions that the structure proposed by the Commission, as well as the stance taken by the Commission, ensures precisely that.
We propose that an independent review should be carried out, with the full involvement of various parties, not least the Scientific Council, in time for the future structure of the ERC to be considered not later than 2010. The review should look explicitly at the advantages and the disadvantages of a structure based on an executive agency and a structure based on Article 171 of the Treaty. The ERC’s structures and mechanisms should be modified in accordance with its findings. This should be done in consultation with Parliament, but always with a view to maintaining the total independence of the ERC from any political influence.
As regards the administrative and staffing costs of the ERC: yes, we want a lean and cost-effective implementation structure, but, no, at this stage we do not know enough to impose strict and specific limits for administrative costs that might risk undermining the functioning of the ERC at its outset.
Let me turn to the issue of stem cell research. I know that this has been a matter of intense discussion amongst many of you and I should like to say at the outset that I have profound respect for each personal opinion. The Commission learned from the intense debate on this issue during the negotiations on the Sixth Framework Programme. We are convinced that, in view of the diversity of approaches existing in Europe, we can only propose a responsible, cautious and practical approach, evaluating and selecting this type of research on a case-by-case basis and excluding certain specific research areas.
The procedure established for the Sixth Framework Programme ensures that some major health challenges and the hopes of the patients concerned are addressed through this research. At the same time, it guarantees respect for fundamental ethical principles in a way that it is unique for a research programme covering 25 countries or more. This procedure has proved to work and to be acceptable to Member States and to the scientists. What we propose is nothing less and nothing more than that the procedure be continued for the Seventh Framework Programme.
The Commission acknowledges very positively the outcome of the vote on this issue by the ITRE Committee, which is entirely in line with the Commission’s proposal and provides even more useful clarification. It would be misleading to present a deviation from this approach as a true compromise between proponents and opponents of embryonic stem cell research. For example, introducing a so-called cut-off date that would make human embryonic stem cell lines eligible or not eligible for Community funds would have far-reaching consequences. Such a cut-off date has no scientific or objective basis. It might prevent the European researchers from using the lines they have created and force them to work with lines produced outside Europe. In addition, it might severely compromise access to the best quality lines which, in this very new field of research, are generally considered to be those most recently produced. It might unduly limit access to the specific stem cell lines which are indispensable for patients.
In other words, it has to be clear that any date will compromise the label of scientific excellence in this sector which I am personally eager to attach to this Seventh Framework Programme, as long as ethical concerns are taken fully into consideration, which I believe is entirely the case with our proposal.
One last word on subsidiarity: the current strict procedures and limitations on embryonic stem cell research entirely respect the subsidiarity principle. Relying on the ethical standards of either the most restrictive or the most liberal countries would simply be against the basic principles of the European Union.
I cannot end this introduction without mentioning the very broad agreement on the Euratom programme, which includes the important international scientific project on ITER, and the Joint Research Centre, whose mission you considered very important.
I am very curious to listen to the debate now and hope that it will be possible to add some short concluding remarks afterwards. This Parliament has truly made excellent progress. I hope we can maintain this momentum. Getting FP7 started in time will require an increased effort from all of us. Time matters! FP7 is a central part of the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs. It is on that count that Europe can and should deliver on time. This will be an important signal to our partners in the world, to the whole of Europe and to our scientific community.
I think that our three institutions have never been so close to each other in deciding a Framework Programme. With your support, we will be able to reach our current goals on time and mobilise our researchers to start participating, as from the end of this year, in the Seventh Framework Programme and in the realisation of the European research area that turns knowledge into true growth and true jobs. Together we can prove that Lisbon is back again.
Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (PL) Mr President, after over a year of intensive debate, the European Parliament will vote the day after tomorrow on the first reading of the Seventh Framework Programme.
The report is the result of the efforts of many people. I would like to express my warm thanks to these people today, namely the Luxembourg, UK and Finnish Presidencies and, above all, the Austrian Presidency, the European Commission, and Commissioner Potočnik in particular, the members of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and its chairmen, and in particular the shadow rapporteurs who are here today, who drafted the opinions of eight parliamentary committees. I would like to thank the coordinators of and advisors to the political groups and the advisors and officials of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.
The debate in the European Parliament has been open and transparent. During certain periods, the working groups met every day for a number of hours. Everyone had the time and the opportunity to express their opinions and comments. I believe that our joint work has borne fruit in the form of a good report.
I also took part in a large number of conferences, seminars and meetings outside the European Parliament, organised by the European Commission, the Member States, universities, regions and non-governmental organisations. A high level of interest in research and learning at European level was evident everywhere. We should take advantage of this enthusiasm and potential, as well as fulfilling expectations related to the Seventh Framework Programme.
The debate was not easy, especially due to the absence of a financial perspective. The cooperation with Commissioner Potočnik and the Commission was a great help, however.
The negotiated budget is not an ideal budget, but the earmarking of more than EUR 50 billion for research, learning and innovation is a step in the right direction for the European Union. It is the direction set by the Lisbon Strategy and a knowledge-based economy.
The European Parliament strongly supports the structure and the main principles of the Seventh Framework Programme. This programme takes into account the guidelines featured in the Kok and Marimon reports and especially the Locatelli report, which was presented by the European Parliament at the start of 2005. The Seventh Framework Programme therefore contains completely new ideas and instruments, such as the European Research Council, which will be concerned with fundamental research, joint technology initiatives aimed at fostering cooperation between science and industry and at innovation, or initiatives such as investment in research infrastructure.
We also have new thematic priorities, namely security and space, and also socio-economic research. The Seventh Framework Programme also ensures an appropriate continuation of the Sixth Programme with regard to the building of a European Research Area, begun by the previous Commissioner, Mr Busquin. The continuity of the programme affects current thematic priorities, and excellent experience is being built on with regard to the mobility and training of scientists, and especially the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Programme.
The European Parliament has its own priorities within the Seventh Framework Programme. I will name the four most important ones. The first priority is excellence as a criterion for all projects and decisions within the scope of the programme. In order to achieve this, we also have to exploit the potential of each project in terms of experience, research infrastructure, recruiting the best scientists, achievements in various European Union countries and regions and the effective use of financial resources. The second priority is the chapter ‘People’ and all initiatives related to the full development of research personnel in Europe and preventing brain drain. Parliament’s third priority is fundamental research, described in the chapter on ‘Ideas’, and linked with the European Research Council. Scientists in the European Union have been waiting for such an initiative for many years. The fourth European Parliament priority is an emphasis on innovation, and overcoming the European paradox of good research but relatively weak innovation. We need to bring science closer to technology and universities closer to industry, and so we need to focus on small and medium-sized enterprises and their role in research. We strongly support European technology platforms.
Preparations for the Seventh Framework Programme in the European Parliament were linked with the ‘Competitiveness and Innovation’ programme. I would like to thank the rapporteur working on that programme, Mr Chatzimarkakis, for a particularly fruitful collaboration.
Around 1 700 amendments were tabled, which reflects the enormous amount of interest in the programme. Each amendment was the result of talks and meetings in sometimes distant parts of Europe. Thanks to compromises we eventually managed to reduce the number of amendments to 315, and these will not affect either the structure or the basic principles of the programme.
As far as the content of the amendments is concerned, I would like to highlight a few of the most important issues. Firstly, in Parliament’s view, the compromise amendments play a key role, and the greatest emphasis will be placed on these amendments during our negotiations with the Council and Commission. Secondly, the budget amendment is particularly important as it reflects the priorities of the European Parliament, namely people, the European Research Council, fundamental research, small and medium-sized enterprises, energy and health. Thirdly, there is no doubt as to the need to ensure the full independence and autonomy of the European Research Council. Fourthly, it is important to simplify procedures and to facilitate the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in the Framework Programme. Fifthly, emphasis needs to be placed on scientists in the development phase, as it is often the scientists who show the greatest creativity and inventiveness. We therefore must ensure the development of their scientific careers in Europe. In sixth place, the division of the thematic priorities security and space seems indispensable. Finally, as rapporteur I tried to reach as broad a compromise as possible concerning embryonic stem cell research. It has not been easy, and I hope that on Thursday we will be able to find a solution that a clear majority in Parliament will support.
As far as EURATOM is concerned, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy was happy to adopt the proposal of the European Commission by a significant majority. At this point, I would like to express my admiration for the work of the Joint European Research Centre. The research carried out by this centre forms part of the framework programmes and yields extremely valuable results.
Finally, I would like to state that in its work on the Seventh Framework Programme, the European Parliament has acted quickly, effectively and decisively. It has shown great maturity and political responsibility. I hope that the momentum will be maintained and the Seventh Framework Programme will be launched on 1 January 2007.
The European scientific community and industry are waiting for a favourable start to the Seventh Framework Programme. Everyone in the European Union awaits the success of the Lisbon Strategy.
Marilisa Xenogiannakopoulou (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. – (EL) Mr President, I should like to start by congratulating our rapporteur, Mr Buzek, on his excellent work.
Our debate today on the Seventh Framework Programme is particularly important. It relates to the potential for Europe to implement an effective strategy of sustainable development, by investing in knowledge and the future, a policy which will allow it to stand up to international competition not by reducing employment standards and abolishing the social state, but by investing in education, research, innovation and excellence.
In this direction, we as the European Parliament support in principle the need for a significant increase in the appropriations for the seventh framework programme. Unfortunately, at the European Council in December the restrictive, accounting mentality prevailed, for the financial perspective as a whole and for research and technology in particular. It is, of course, a question of the governments' credibility, when they blithely set important objectives for the development and competitiveness of the European economy and then fail to express the political will to finance research and technology policies adequately.
With persistent negotiation on the part of Parliament, we achieved a compromise of EUR 50 521 000, which marginally improves the programme's prospects but is a far cry from the real requirements that need to be covered. It is certainly positive that an additional EUR 100 000 000 has been secured for access for small and medium-sized businesses to innovation technologies, as we all recognise their contribution to development and employment. It is also important that the energy sector has received a further EUR 150 000 000, because the further spread of renewable sources of energy and the rational use of energy are of vital importance.
I should also like to emphasise that it is important to safeguard the potential for all regions of the European Union to access and apply the programmes under the framework programme as a basic policy of long-term development, convergence and social cohesion, with the core objective of combating the digital divide, the research and innovation divide within Europe.
Alyn Smith (Verts/ALE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. – Mr President, research and the upscaling of Europe’s economy is Europe’s new narrative. Europe used to be about coal and steel, then it was about agriculture and fisheries. For the future, Europe is going to be about research and development, and where Europe adds value in coordinating the two.
From a development perspective I would say that it should be regional development. There is a clear complementarity between the research and regional development agendas. The key partners in actually delivering the grand research agenda that we set at European level are the cities and the regions and the businesses within those cities and regions. That complementarity is vital for the coordination of the policies, in order to make sure that one part of the Commission is not setting one set of agendas while another part of the Commission is setting a different set, and that the complementarity is not necessarily what it could be.
I think it is also worth stating that I and others want to see a lot more synergy in FP7 – and, indeed, FP8 – between structural funds and research funding. While the budget for FP7 is far from what we wanted, it is even more important that we maximise the benefit between the synergies of the two funding streams. That debate will continue into FP8, though for now I would add my own congratulations to our rapporteur for his Herculean efforts. We support this compromise.
Thijs Berman (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. – (NL) Mr President, I should like to congratulate Mr Buzek on the hard work he has put in over a long period of time, and, of course, the committee as well. The Seventh Framework Programme is an enormous step forward for science in the European Union, with a vastly increased budget. For bio-economy, as it is termed in the report, or agronomic research to you and me, this represents a much bigger step, because this research will from now on be dealt with under a separate heading, which is essential for all agronomic research. This is an enormous improvement.
This is just as well in view of the rapid change that agriculture is undergoing, not only technologically, from food to food combined with bio-energy and the replacement of fossil fuels and plastics, but also in terms of organisational structures. Room is needed for that type of research too, and that room is now being created.
I have one negative comment to make. One amendment that was tabled by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, and that was approved, insists on us sharing our expertise with the world’s poor countries where agriculture is so important. I should like to have the Commission’s word that this will actually be done, including in the Seventh Framework Programme. This expertise must be shared, because only then will the Framework Programme help fulfil the EU’s function in the world, namely that of social and sustainable globalisation.
Rosa Miguélez Ramos (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Fisheries. – (ES) Mr President, the way the fisheries sector is treated in the Seventh Framework Programme clearly contradicts the statements of the Community’s highest authorities and of the Member States on the priorities for the implementation of the new CFP. It also contradicts the policy that has just been presented by the European Commission – and that is President Barroso's great priority: an integrated maritime policy, or common policy that takes a holistic view of the seas.
In this regard, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries, I would like to point out that we need greater investment in scientific research in order to provide us with knowledge of all of the potentialities of the marine environment and ecosystems, not just – and I would emphasise this – in relation to fisheries, but also in relation to other extremely important issues such as pollution, climate change, progress on health and pharmacology, human and animal food and coastal planning.
I would like to say therefore, ladies and gentlemen, that we are going to support all of the amendments that advocate this integration of the fisheries policy into the Seventh Framework Programme.
Aloyzas Sakalas (PSE), rapporteur of the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs. – (LT) The Committee on Legal Affairs has considered the ethical questions surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells differ from ordinary stem cells in that they are not yet differentiated, and therefore, any component of the human organism can be grown from them. In compiling the opinion of the committee, I have given two ethical positions:
1) to use embryonic stem cells to treat such incurable diseases as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, infarcted myocardium, etc. This would help prevent premature death in adults, but the embryo itself would die,
2) to protect the embryo, but take away last hope from people suffering from incurable diseases.
A majority of the Committee voted in favour of the second position.
I am personally pleased that the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy has found a compromise and has submitted appropriate amendments, which I propose that we approve.
Hiltrud Breyer (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, I should like to make it clear once more that Mr Sakalas is expressing a personal opinion here. The Committee on Legal Affairs does not have two positions. It has a clear, unambiguous position rejecting this funding of embryonic stem cells. I should ...
(The President cut off the speaker)
President. – Mrs Breyer, I must point out that we cannot reopen the debate of the Committee on Legal Affairs. Mr Sakalas clearly speaks on his own behalf.
Britta Thomsen (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. – (DA) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, inequality between men and women is very prevalent in the research world. It prevents the Lisbon objectives from being achieved, and it is a barrier to European competitiveness. The very fact that European women are still underrepresented in the research world shows that Europe has huge potential that is not being exploited. It is a fact that women find it difficult to obtain research posts, simply because they are women. Even though the number of female candidates is now larger than the number of male candidates in almost all European countries, women come up against major obstacles in the male-dominated market for jobs in science. That is a state of affairs we must do something about. It is therefore important that, in implementing the Seventh Framework Programme, the Commission take account of the gender issue and help bring about a situation in which young female candidates have the same opportunities as men in competing for research funds.
The composition of the new European Research Council is quite simply nothing less than a scandal. Of the 22 researchers that have been appointed, only four are women. The EU has a list of general rules governing equality, and these should, of course, also apply to the European Research Council. We in the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality have proposed that there be a balance of genders in the Research Council, which should always consist of no less than 40% of each gender. Commissioner, I do hope you will consider what kind of a signal we are sending out to the European research world by having so unequal a representation of women and men. It does not, in any case, help put an end to the gender-divided labour market in the research world.
Paul Rübig, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner Potočnik, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to start by congratulating our rapporteur on his excellent handling of an extremely difficult task. We can see that representatives of new Member States, too – in this case Poland, of which the rapporteur was of course prime minister – are excellently placed to get to the heart of such difficult subjects. I am pleased that, having been a researcher in the course of his career, he has demonstrated here in Parliament how important it is, when getting to the heart of the issues, to take a professional, objective, political approach.
We can all welcome the piece of work in front of us and be proud that Parliament and the people have tabled so many amendments. The objective is crystal clear: we all want to live long, healthy lives. We need to carry out a great deal more research in this regard and see what can be done in the way of prevention.
We want to improve employment as part of the Lisbon objectives. Mr Pühringer, the Head of the Government of Upper Austria, hit the nail on the head when he said that if we want to live healthy lives we have to execute policy accordingly, and that research is the basis for a sound social policy. We must always bear this in mind if we wish to achieve our growth objectives with the research programme, particularly in the field of exports. I believe that the European export sector is also capable of affording protection against globalisation in this regard. We need the world markets, we need the opening-up of the markets, and to this end we need excellent products and services.
For this reason, it would make sense to endeavour to ensure that this programme does indeed start on 1 January 2007. I would be in favour of our attempting to begin a trialogue following Thursday’s vote, and then we may really be able to launch this programme on 1 January 2007. That would be a good thing for research, a good thing for our 2009 elections, and a good thing for Europe.
Philippe Busquin, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I should like to start by thanking Mr Buzek for his excellent cooperation and for the spirit with which he presided over the preparation of this framework programme, and, like him, I would say that the compromise amendments are supported by all the groups and therefore demonstrate Parliament's desire to clarify certain points.
With particular regard to the European Research Council, Commissioner, I should like to tell you that it is clear that this new institution is vital for the scientific community. We, like you, are therefore very keen to ensure that it works as well as possible as part of an autonomous scientific community. That is the direction taken by our amendments on the matter, even though, legally, we will need to discuss it during the trialogue. That said, we should like to assure you that we are very interested in the European Research Council and that we consider it to be very important.
Turning to the framework programme in general, we are, like you, rather disappointed by the reduction in funding, because we are aware how important it is as an instrument for the Lisbon policy. We also know that it could have a considerable multiplier effect. In this regard, the joint technology platforms and technology initiatives will play a vital role, and it will not necessarily be a question of money, but rather of setting up an effective public/private partnership at European level on certain major subjects.
Be that as it may, all of these programmes must be based on excellence. It is a key aspect in the selection of projects, be it within the framework of collaborative research or under the headings 'capacities', 'ideas' and, above all, 'people', in other words researchers, because the most important thing is to have researchers who feel happy. However, in Europe today, we do not always give researchers the social and moral status they deserve. That is why the European Union must give a good example, by awarding high-quality Marie Curie fellowships, which build bridges between countries and help to slow down the brain drain.
On the issue of embryonic stem cells, to which you referred, Commissioner, it is true that this branch of research represents a tiny fraction of the budget – barely one thousandth. Like you, I think that the projects undertaken under the aegis of the Sixth Framework Programme offer every guarantee of ethical quality and of the will to create European-scale projects that are beacons of excellence. That is why the compromise amendment adopted in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy at the initiative of Mrs Gutiérrez, an amendment that I cosigned and that you support, recommends that we carry on with what has been done with the Sixth Framework Programme, in other words a case-by-case analysis that is vital if we are to achieve a level of excellence in a field of research that shows great promise for the future.
With regard to the budget, we are, as we have said, all a little disappointed. I personally will watch closely to ensure that, over the first few years, you make the effort to increase the relative portion a little. It is true that an increase is planned, but it will not really make its presence felt until after 2009. For the 2007 and 2008 budgets, therefore, I think that, within the Commission, you should be able, on the basis of the very good implementation rates, to increase the relative portion, at any rate the portion obtained by Parliament following the discussions on the financial perspective. Even though this portion is somewhat symbolic, as it amounts to only EUR 340 million, we want it to be allocated to priorities such as the European Research Council and Marie Curie fellowships, without forgetting the thematic priorities. Parliament is very concerned about the environment and energy, and those are therefore the thematic priorities to which we want to provide more support.
In addition, allow me to draw your attention – I think you are already aware of this, but I was surprised to find that the Council is less so – to the interaction between science and society. It is absolutely vital for us to develop a positive relationship between society and science in Europe, and for us to ensure that young people do not lose the taste for science and research. In this regard, the 'science and society' element sets an example throughout Europe, and we will therefore pay close attention to ensure that its budget is not reduced as the Council intends.
Finally, I should also like to add my voice to those who have said that the Joint Research Centre plays a vital role and that its activities in the nuclear sector help to harmonise, at European level, the security issues that we all need to address.
To conclude, we must make rapid progress regarding the participation rules. The simplification of programmes is an essential point in achieving the best possible participation. On that subject, we will have to keep a close eye on the calendar, because, as you have stressed, 1 January 2007 is approaching rapidly. Parliament will make a positive contribution to finding solutions regarding the participation rules, as it is doing in connection with the Seventh Framework Programme that we are going to adopt. That said, the two other partners, the Commission – though I have no doubts as to your own goodwill, Commissioner – and the Council must take matters in hand to ensure that the scientific community is given every reassurance regarding the Seventh Framework Programme. Once again, my congratulations on your work.
Vittorio Prodi, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to welcome Commissioner Potočnik and thank Mr Buzek for the work carried out with the working group of shadow rapporteurs, which I think achieved some important consensual results.
First of all, I should like to highlight the political aspect of the seventh framework programme, which represents a search for excellence at a European level. This is an important aspect because, in the wake of the change in scale that globalisation has forced us to make, it is crucial that research too should be done on a European scale so that it does not run the risk of being erased from the world political and scientific map.
The seventh framework programme contains important innovations, such as the European Research Council, which has already been mentioned. I should like also to refer to the technological platforms, which we wanted in committee so that our small, medium-sized and large industries could be fully involved in research, development and innovation efforts. If they all work together, companies should be able to create a favourable climate for development and consequently for their overall competitiveness.
Technological platforms are also extremely important because local institutions, universities and research centres take part in them. They are also an appropriate incentive for small and medium-sized enterprises, subject to the participation rules. They may thus provide SMEs with the ability to make and to influence decisions in this context as well.
Lastly, I should like to emphasise the importance of science and society. I believe that risk analysis and risk management are examples of the kind of education that we should give people, so that they can develop the ability to make decisions in an informed way.
I too am disappointed at the available resources, which are in fact inadequate for the role that research and development ought to play in Europe.
David Hammerstein Mintz, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (ES) Mr President, rapporteur, Mr Buzek, it has been a pleasure to work with you and also with the shadow rapporteurs. I believe that there has been good feeling, a positive relationship and a spirit of consensus, which we in my group thank you for.
The Seventh Framework Programme reflects all of the European Union’s opportunities and weaknesses. These same contradictions and opportunities reflect the European Union’s current crisis: the crisis of a Europe that wants to do certain things, but is unable to do them.
A Europe that has goals and objectives in terms of innovation, technology and the economy, which wants to be a world leader, but which has great problems providing the money and getting States to commit themselves beyond their own narrow national interests.
The Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance believes that the Seventh Framework Programme offers a great opportunity to promote innovation, to promote a new Europe, based on clean technologies and the knowledge of thousands and thousands of small companies, laboratories and young people, and to promote a future that, at one and the same time, creates employment, social cohesion and sustainability.
That is where the future lies. I do not know whether we will be able to achieve it. I do not know whether we will be able to leave behind a past dominated by a heavy and dirty industry, based on big interests and monopolies of big companies. It remains to be seen whether this Seventh Framework Programme responds to these challenges.
The first challenge: basic and fundamental science. We have created the European Research Council, made up of twenty-two people of high prestige. We are delighted; that is an important challenge. We believe that fundamental and basic science must be one of the great priorities.
Another priority is to open up the doors of research and science to small and medium-sized businesses throughout Europe. The situation in this area has been poor, since the participation in the current programmes by small and medium-sized businesses and small laboratories is less that 10%. We have proposed an amendment aimed at achieving a minimum participation of 15% in all programmes. Parliament has the opportunity to open up the programme to everybody.
We have the challenge of innovation. Technological innovation means promoting the flow of information and sharing information. Important European and US daily newspapers recently said that, in Europe, new investments were being made in computer and technology companies, precisely because there was more flexibility in that field. More flexibility and fewer obstacles to the flow of information, fewer intellectual property barriers. We are going to promote this exchange of information. We are going to promote this flow of information. We are going to create thousands and thousands of clusters of small businesses and we are going to be up to the challenge of creating this social cohesion and fabric based on knowledge.
One of the challenges has been to increase the participation of small businesses and to create this cohesion. Another challenge has been the environmental crisis. This also stems from our current energy crisis. We profoundly regret the current rejection and marginalisation of renewable energies and efficiency within the current programmes.
We doubly regret not having been able to achieve a separate budget line for renewable sources of energy. There is currently no way for the European citizens to know how much money is spent on solar energy or wind power. We do know, however, that far more is spent on nuclear energy. That is a political problem, it is a real problem, because, in the short and medium term, in a few years’ time, we will have to deal with the energy crisis precisely by means of renewable energy and efficiency.
It is also a transparency problem. There has been a serious transparency problem, because we have not been able to find out how the money has been spent, not just in the case of energy, but also in many other areas of the Sixth Framework Programme. That has very much restricted the political debate in this House.
I hope that people will be able to know how much money is spent on preventive and public health and how much money is spent on many other sectors. That information has not been available so far. I hope that this can be sorted out in the future.
(The President cut the speaker off)
Umberto Guidoni, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, while acknowledging the efforts made by the Commissioner to double the funding for the seventh framework programme, we have to accept that, with the miserly agreement on the financial perspective, Europe has wasted an historic opportunity to further the knowledge-based society that is all too often evoked in the Lisbon Strategy and which, if starved of cultural growth and social cohesion, runs the risk of becoming a purely mercantile objective. We have failed to meet Europe’s expectations for such growth.
Once again, I welcome the Commission’s decision to revitalise basic research in Europe after years in which priority was almost exclusively given to supporting applied research for industry. To that end a special programme of funding has been introduced with new participation rules, and a new, independent body has been set up to evaluate scientific excellence.
Among the positive points in the seventh framework programme is the measure to support and train European researchers. Research is one of the fields in which human potential perhaps counts for more than economic instruments and infrastructure. The conditions have to be created to encourage the movement of scientists within Europe, to reverse the brain drain out of Europe and to attract new researchers from non-European countries instead. Concerns remain about possible delays in implementing the seventh framework programme in January next year, given that we still have to go through the approval phase for the specific programmes and the participation rules.
I should like to focus on the individual areas for intervention, starting with medical research. Greater attention needs to be given to this kind of research, prioritising prevention above all, for instance in the fields of occupational diseases and safety at work. I tried to do that with the amendment that I tabled, which I shall re-table in this House on behalf of my group.
With regard to ethical issues in medical research, I believe that the text approved by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy is well-balanced, as the Commissioner noted, in that it establishes that no funding shall be given to research aimed at human cloning, that induces heritable mutations in the human genome, or that serves to create human embryos.
However, it recognises the need for public medical research in the field of stem cells, not aiming at profit but rather at advancing medical knowledge. I think this is a valuable area on which we should find agreement within Parliament.
It is also important to give open-source software a further boost and to address the energy issue, since the programme does not pay sufficient attention to renewables. I personally believe that Europe’s efforts in fusion research are important to counterbalance nuclear energy from fission.
To conclude, although the seventh framework programme has missed making a quality leap, it does represent a step forwards on the way to creating a genuinely European research area, and I therefore thank Mr Buzek and all the shadow rapporteurs for the work they have accomplished.
Umberto Pirilli, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as shadow rapporteur for the seventh framework programme and rapporteur for the ‘People’ specific programme, it is my duty first of all to thank Mr Buzek and all the Members with whom we undertook this difficult work in the knowledge that it had to be done quickly and well, even without any prospect of agreement on the financial perspective.
I should also like to thank my colleagues in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, and its chairman, Mr Chichester, who timetabled the work wisely and with foresight in such a way that the delay by the Council would not harm the outcome. Last but not least, I have to thank the staff and assistants who surpassed themselves in the long, tiring job of preparing the work and in researching and analysing the points that might lead – as in fact they did – to significant and honourable compromises.
Having said that, and before I address some significant points in the framework programme and particularly in the ‘People’ specific programme, I should like to focus on the philosophy of the legislative structure and on the political aspect. The philosophy was to create a European research area that was autonomous and at the same time able to attract new talent and to prevent talent born and bred in Europe from emigrating. The philosophy was also to involve industries and SMEs and to broaden the horizons for research funding and innovative technologies. The objective was achieved in terms of structure, but not at all in terms of resources.
The political aspect is linked in practice to the financial aspect, and both are linked to the much abused and hackneyed Lisbon Strategy. At Lisbon, Europe set itself the target of becoming a world leader again by 2010. A rational, pessimistic view is that this target cannot be reached, since other experienced and powerful players are operating on the world stage, with a wealth of means and resources that make our efforts fade into insignificance. In terms of financial resources, our efforts have not been and are still not equal to the task. In that respect it has to be recognised that the Member States have been short-sighted, as they have sacrificed our general interests to the interests of their own national budgets.
Nevertheless, while we may have regrets about what might have been done better or about what else could have been done, it is only fair to acknowledge the fact, with hopeful optimism, that much significant progress has been made. I refer to the creation of the European research area, the fact that implementation of the European Charter for Researchers is mandatory for the Member States, the inclusion of small and medium-sized enterprises among those that can compete for and benefit from research projects – in that respect Amendment 334 is significant; it has been signed by several groups and I recommend that it be approved – the introduction of funding for research into renewable and alternative energies, the funding of projects for the preservation of our cultural heritage, and funding through a specific programme for original ideas.
As for the ‘People’ specific programme, thanks to a shrewd synergy between the Commission’s competent directorate-general and the shadow rapporteurs, the researcher has become a recognised figure with his or her own dignity and principal attributes; research has become a genuine profession and, as such, it enjoys protection and safeguards. Researchers and women researchers, whose right to have children and a family is recognised, without it being a further hindrance to their careers, are the most important element in research. No researchers means no research, few researchers means little research, and many researchers means a great deal of research. The presence of researchers with economic protection and social assistance, who are mobile and have their own charter implemented at last by all the Member States, means a wealth of talent for Europe and consequently a leading position in the field of innovation, which is an essential step in building a knowledge-based society.
I should like to make a final remark on the additional budget that has been granted to the ‘People’ programme at the request of Mr Prodi and by the unanimous decision of the shadow rapporteurs, to whom I am grateful. That is a clear sign that the philosophy whereby people are the driving force behind research is both correct and successful.
Gerard Batten, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, I should like to comment on Mr Buzek’s proposals on nuclear research.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution Britain was able to rely predominantly on its own indigenous energy resources: coal and then natural gas. But Britain, like many European countries, now faces an impending energy crisis. Coal still meets 35% of our energy needs but it is environmentally unfriendly. North Sea gas, which met 37.5% of our needs, is rapidly running out and since 2003 we have been forced to import gas. We have already passed from a surplus to a shortage and we are heading for an ever-widening shortfall.
Nuclear energy provides about 22.5% of our needs but that nuclear capability is now rapidly coming to the end of its life cycle and our nuclear power stations will have to be decommissioned, so that by 2014 we will have lost about 70% of our capacity. Britain faces losing a very large proportion of its energy supplies relatively quickly. Unless other provisions can be made, very soon we will be forced to rely on foreign, unreliable and not necessarily friendly suppliers, for example, the Russian Federation.
Energy conservation measures are necessary and desirable, but cannot make the necessary impact. With the best will in the world, renewable sources of energy, such as wind and waves, simply will not supply the amounts of energy required for major industrialised societies. Wind turbines will only work when the wind blows, which is 30% of the time, and require conventional power stations to back them up when the wind does not blow. They are worse than useless. Wave power only works in specific geographic locations. Other alternative methods are equally ineffective. France has already tackled the problem and installed the latest range of modern nuclear reactors, to the extent that they now supply about 70% to 80% of its electricity needs.
Therefore I found much to agree with in Mr Buzek’s report. He is quite right to think in terms of a 50-year plan for sustainable and secure nuclear energy supplies that are safe and environmentally friendly. The first stage of that plan is to build sufficient new-generation nuclear power stations for the next 30 to 50 years. Stage two of the plan must, as he rightly says, consist of the development of nuclear fusion to deliver viable fusion plants within two generations.
Where I have to part company with him is on the notion that this project should be done under the auspices of the European Union. Britain could build ten new nuclear power stations for the equivalent of less than two years’ contributions to the European budget. That would be money much better spent.
The development of nuclear fusion is precisely the kind of international cooperative project that could be undertaken by independent sovereign governments, without any need for the institutions of the European Union intended to promote political integration by economic means, as indeed Euratom has done since its creation.
IN THE CHAIR: MR TRAKATELLIS Vice-President
Lydia Schenardi (NI). – (FR) Mr President, we are in favour of the research programme proposed, because it puts the emphasis on research into fusion energy and on the safety and management of waste. Nevertheless, we still have some concerns.
We do not think that the 'fourth generation' power stations completely solve the current safety and environmental problems, and they also pose the problem of the large-scale transport of radioactive materials. Firstly, the designs set out, such as sodium-cooled fast reactors, seem to respond primarily to industrial interests. Secondly, with regard to informing the general public, 'the benefits from a safe use of nuclear power', to quote, must not, in view of the interests in play, result in the public being misinformed or even brainwashed. Finally, our enthusiasm for the international scientific cooperation that is coming into place, both for the fourth generation and for ITER, must not result in us losing sight of the fact that this cooperation is not synonymous with a lack of competition, and that the latter is based not on the principles of freedom of competition but on a strategic battle.
We must prepare for this by defining clear strategies and by allocating the necessary resources to ensure that we do not simply replace our dependence on oil with dependence on something else.
Pilar del Castillo Vera (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, I would like firstly to thank the rapporteur for the tireless work he has done over the last year and which we are now about to conclude.
I would describe the Seventh Framework Programme as a great opportunity. What we really have once again is a great opportunity to demonstrate that the Lisbon Agenda was correct, that it was rigorous and that, furthermore, it is alive.
The Seventh Framework Programme is a great opportunity in a key area: with regard to one of the fundamental elements of the Lisbon Strategy, which is research and the resulting innovation. In this regard, the Seventh Framework Programme will not just improve the way in which research is carried out. It also has a significant symbolic dimension and value as a reference point.
In reality it is a flagship programme. It is a European Union programme that acts as a reference for third countries, in terms of what Europe wants where research is concerned, and it also has an impact and serves as a reference within the European Union, in terms of what we want in our joint action on research, and it is also going to serve as a reference for national research programmes.
Some of the elements of the Seventh Framework Programme offer continuity, while others are innovative. Despite the obvious limitations in terms, for example, of budget, it has all of the instruments for creating competitiveness, which is essential in terms of growth and, therefore, of employment.
The Seventh Framework Programme has led to a new instrument, the European Research Council, which is going to provide a more complete framework for the European Research Area, and the Seventh Framework Programme also adopts a new approach to small and medium-sized businesses.
It is entirely our responsibility to ensure that the Seventh Framework Programme is a success. The instruments are there, and whether or not the Seventh Framework Programme becomes a motor for competitiveness, development and growth in Europe depends entirely on us.
Robert Goebbels (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the need to increase investment in research is widely accepted throughout the European political classes.
However, the Seventh Framework Programme is a perfect illustration of the current gulf between our ambitions and the reality in Europe. The Commission proposed appropriations amounting to EUR 72 billion, then the governments reduced the European effort to EUR 50 billion. Even though Parliament managed to release an additional EUR 340 million or so, it has to be said that national egos have got the upper hand over the ambitious strategy that aimed to make Europe the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world. But the glass is only half empty – for the next seven years, the appropriations allocated to research will nonetheless constitute the EU's third budget. The Socialist Group in the European Parliament generally supports the proposals set out in Mr Buzek's report, and we particularly support the compromises negotiated by Mr Busquin, our expert on this subject. My group attaches considerable importance to freedom of research.
In this regard, the creation of the European Research Council represents a major step forward. We must trust the real scientists to evaluate the research programmes and assess the priorities. In this context, we must be wary of so-called 'ethical' discussions. Ethics has never been an exact science: it has always evolved with the level of human knowledge. That is also true for embryonic and adult stem cells. Why do Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and adherents of other religions not have the same concerns as some Catholics regarding embryonic stem cell research? It is because the Catholic ethical view dates from the First Vatican Council of 1869, which promulgated that all embryos had a soul. Whilst all religious beliefs deserve respect, science must not be ruled by religious interdictions. The vast majority of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament is in favour of basic research, including research using adult and embryonic stem cells.
Europe owes it to itself to support all serious research in this field, even if it remains illegal in some countries. The EU also supports nuclear research, even though certain countries no longer want civilian nuclear power. Our only interdiction is against human cloning.
Consequently, Mr President, my group encourages Commissioner Potočnik to forge ahead with his defence of the Europe of research in all its aspects, in the same frame of mind that he showed just now.
Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, I am much obliged to the Commissioner for his presentation, but I am particularly obliged, of course, to our rapporteur, Mr Buzek, with whom not only the shadow rapporteurs, but also the rapporteurs for the innovation framework programme enjoyed very close cooperation of an excellent standard.
This cooperation will also be important if it becomes apparent not only that Europe is still an inventive continent – a great many things in the world have originated here – but also that FP7 represents the correct response to global changes. Let us make one thing clear: power and powerlessness in the face of globalisation have less and less to do with military aspects and arms, and more and more to do with knowledge, with dominance in and the ability to control certain production processes. That is what we have to address, and for that FP7 is a very important building block. Yet it can bring Europe forward only if we manage to turn invention into innovation – and of course Mr Buzek has cooperated very closely with us in this regard, on ensuring that our research and innovation framework programmes overlap, and on ensuring that more products, more services and more licences originate in Europe. I am obliged to him for this.
I should also like to address a direct question to the Commissioner, however, on behalf of myself and my colleague Mr Manders. As we know, there is a Eurobarometer survey that examines the ethical issue that Mr Goebbels has just mentioned, and ascertains the views of Europeans on embryonic stem cell research. We know that the survey has been completed, but we do not know the results, as it appears that the survey has not yet been published. Can you tell us why it has not been published, and what it reveals? Since we are to vote on this sensitive issue this week, it would be very good – a helpful pointer – for us MEPs if we knew the thoughts of the citizens of this continent.
Rebecca Harms (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, fellow rapporteurs, Mr Buzek, I should like to comment in particular on the energy research on which Europe is now to decide for many years hence. Of course, this Parliament is not permitted to exert any real influence on the majority of the energy-research funds spent under the Euratom Treaty and may in fact influence only a minority of the funds spent under the Seventh Research Framework Programme. Since Mr Chatzimarkakis has mentioned public opinion on research, I must say that the imbalance being decided on is inexcusable particularly as regards the question of what the public thinks.
It is certainly no longer in keeping with the times to spend the majority of energy-research funding on nuclear fusion, under Euratom, without democratic control. Nuclear fusion will make no contribution to the Lisbon objectives. I see Lisbon as our resolving to fight climate change efficiently and secure employment in the coming years. How is it possible to combat climate change using a technology that even leading scientists say will make no contribution to energy supply in the next 40–50 years? Climate-protection objectives must be achieved by 2020 or we can forget Kyoto. Nor will employment benefit from a technology that is restricted to a few very large research centres. It is true that we are attempting to secure some of the funds under the Seventh Research Framework Programme for efficiency and renewable energy sources – there are some interesting amendments on this. Nevertheless, even this amendment on the bundling of funds for efficiency and renewable energy will do nothing to redress the irresponsible imbalance in favour of nuclear research.
Esko Seppänen (GUE/NGL). – (FI) Mr President, Commissioner, a common research policy for the European Union should produce the sort of scientific and economic added value that is not achievable through the efforts and actions of individual Member States and private companies. An example of a good joint project is the financing of fusion energy research associated with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). My view is therefore different from that of Mrs Harms before me. This is a project which individual Member States should not try and implement alone. It is one whose success will be by no means guaranteed within the next 50 years. The research needed, however, should be completed. Energy-guzzling humanity can ill afford not to examine this possibility.
The research is also bound to mean making the sort of discoveries that in English is known as ‘serendipity’. Something will be discovered which one did not know one was looking for, but which was discovered as a by-product of fusion energy research proper. In that respect, money for research will not be wasted, even if we never succeed in taming the actual fusion process so that more energy is produced using it than is needed to get the process started.
Third countries are also involved in ITER: the United States of America, Russia, Japan, and even China. It is quite right to use the funds in the EU’s Research Framework Programme for this truly international project. At the same time we need to do more research into renewable energy sources and make more use of them, and in this respect I am of the same opinion as the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance.
Roberta Angelilli (UEN). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I congratulate the rapporteurs, because we welcome the seventh framework programme. At last, we have the first practical and effective instrument for revitalising European competitiveness at a global level and an important stimulus for investment in innovation to support European businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.
This is a first step on the way to achieving the Lisbon objectives, about which there has been a lot of talk so far, but very little has been accomplished. Indeed, for the sake of Europe’s growth and development, it is crucial to finance programmes directed at technological development and scientific research. That is also why it is essential that the programme should aim at enhancing human resources and especially at encouraging young people to take up a career in research, thus preventing the brain drain.
It must be made clear, however, that the seventh framework programme must under no circumstances fund research into human cloning, genetic mutations or the use of embryonic stem cells. We have therefore signed some amendments that clarify how the funds are to be spent, in accordance with national legislations.
Research must certainly move ahead, but that must not occur at just any price. We have to take a clear, uncompromising stand against any funding of research involving manipulation of genetic or embryonic material, which not only goes against ethical values and respect for human life and dignity, but is also a threat to public health.
Bastiaan Belder (IND/DEM). – (NL) The Seventh Framework Programme for research 2007-2013 contains a controversial component, that being research involving the use of stem cells from embryos. This type of research, in which human embryos are killed, is ethically and constitutionally problematic, and the text from the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on which we are about to vote, does not take sufficient account of this.
I urge the House to vote in favour of the amendments tabled by – among others – Mr Gargani, Mrs Záborská and myself, and also the amendments tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. These amendments force the framework programme to move away from embryo stem cell research and look for alternatives, which are certainly available in the form of research on adult stem cells and on stem cells from blood extracted from the umbilical cord. These offer excellent prospects for the development of new therapies against diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Moreover, embryo stem cell research is liable to punishment in certain Member States, which would then, through Community funds, be helping to subsidise research that is illegal in their own country. That is in contravention of the subsidiarity principle and does not do much in the way of promoting confidence in the European institutions among EU citizens. The funding of this research is a clear example of an area that should fall within the remit of the Member States.
It is important that politicians do not, through the policies they make, acquiesce passively in the killing of embryos. Research of that kind should certainly not be promoted by the European Union. It is, in that respect, important to recognise that more and more efforts are being made to create no more embryos than are needed for each fertility treatment. This is something that new IVF technology makes easier.
Finally, apart from funding embryo stem cell research, there is another unwanted aspect to the proposal by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, and that is the review clause. The Committee on Industry would like to review the exclusions from the Commission proposal at the halfway stage of the framework programme’s term. Things that spring to mind are what are referred to as reproductive cloning and creating human embryos only for research purposes, which are not, at present, eligible for European funding. A review of such exclusions, as advocated by the Committee on Industry, would also call into question the otherwise minimal exclusions.
We have to make the right choice now, though, the choice in favour of committing to alternative forms of research without any ethical problems, since the latter does not involve the killing of embryos. We must not compromise the truth that life is worthy of protection, for life is entrusted to us by God and we must not take it into our own hands.
Maciej Marian Giertych (NI). – (PL) Mr President, it is highly immoral to force Member States to provide funding for what they consider to be unethical. This includes the proposal for the funding of research into embryonic stem cells.
So far, research into stem cells from adult tissue has yielded positive results. These results are useful for therapeutic purposes. However, research into embryonic stem cells has not yet yielded positive results. Meanwhile, at least 80% of funding for stem cell research is earmarked for embryonic stem cells. Why is that the case? The reason is that the results of research into embryonic stem cells can be used to produce cell lines and therefore guarantee a profit for pharmaceutical companies. The results of research into adult stem cells deliver technology which uses the patient’s own tissue for therapeutic purposes after it is processed. This will not generate profits for pharmaceutical companies. The European Union should not fund research which raises moral questions, such as research into embryonic stem cells.
We must support Mr Gargani’s amendments.
Satu Hassi (Verts/ALE), Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. – (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, I would like to mention health and energy. The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety wishes to increase the share of the research budget relating to health. EU-funded research into health needs to emphasise those areas which the pharmaceutical industry ignores; for example, cures for neglected diseases. These are the diseases which the world’s poor suffer from, though these people are of no interest to the pharmaceutical firms. EU funding for research needs to stress the importance of the prevention of disease and the impact of the environment impact on health, something which is of no interest to the pharmaceutical business either, but which is crucial to our health and well-being.
The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety would also like to increase the share relating to energy. Financing for energy must match our commitments to climate, because otherwise there is a danger that we will lag behind the United States of America and Japan in the development of new technologies. Research funding in this area should be on a massive scale. Money for research into energy should first and foremost go to technologies that will result in reduced emissions fast; in other words, energy efficiency and renewable energy. It is foolish for us to continue with the distorted policy that has gone on for decades whereby we allocate more funds to research into nuclear energy via Euratom than the total for EU funds for other areas of energy research. The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety wants Euratom just to focus on nuclear safety and research into the treatment of nuclear waste.
Renato Brunetta (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the seventh framework programme is the creation of a Europe unfortunately in decline, despite its provision of EUR 50 524 million over seven years. If we do the sums, that amount corresponds to an average of EUR 7 217 million per year, which in my country is the equivalent of half a percentage point of GDP, in France an even smaller percentage, in the United Kingdom even less, and in Germany a quarter of a percentage point of GDP.
Europe is weak. The only compromise that it has been possible to reach on the financial perspective for 2007-2013 is too little for the European Parliament, for the European Commission, and also for European research.
Left over from a Europe still disoriented by the failure to ratify the Constitutional Treaty, the multiannual budget agreement reflects the difficulties of an uninspiring economic cycle, and it has therefore not allowed us to double our financial commitment for the immediate future of European research, as we had hoped, pace the Lisbon agenda.
This framework programme, the first one in the Europe of 25, reflects a decision to maintain substantial continuity with the previous one. It recognises the importance that the last one accorded to research cooperation, which is a sign of European added value; it shows consideration for small and medium-sized enterprises, for which it facilitates the transfer of research content through technological platforms; and it is careful to budget for administrative costs.
The programme, however, also intends to innovate by setting up the European Research Council, a new instrument that should distinguish itself through its ability to bring European research together, acting as a focus for excellence. A number of doubts have arisen as to the need to create this new body, and they should certainly not be ignored. These doubts still persist after the debate on its independence and autonomy, but they may vanish in view of the performance and results that the European Research Council will be able to achieve.
I therefore wish them all every success in their work. We shall take the greatest care to ensure that the European Research Council does not become yet another European bureaucratic shambles. Our children would not forgive us if it did.
There is just one matter that remains unsettled, and more than any other it stirs our conscience in a variety of ways: the question of ethics. It is not written down that the European Union wants to fund human cloning. Instead, it has the freedom to fund projects that successfully pass through a two-tier appraisal of the content of each individual project, based on the national laws currently in force. I think it is a good compromise that everyone can accept.
Pia Elda Locatelli (PSE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to greet Commissioner Potočnik, Mr Buzek and all the shadow rapporteurs and thank them for the climate of cooperation that they succeeded in creating while drawing up this seventh framework programme.
Europe has to make considerable improvements to produce new knowledge through basic research, in disseminating it through education and training, and in applying it through innovation, not least in small and medium-sized enterprises. These are the conditions for achieving the Lisbon objectives. The seventh framework programme is a step in this direction.
In relation to this new knowledge, the European Research Council has been set up to boost basic research. I welcome this revitalisation of basic research: research at the frontiers of knowledge, promoting dynamism, competitiveness and creativity at the highest level. This new body, which is a response to the pressing demands of the European scientific community, must feature independent scientific judgment, fast procedures and rapid decision-making. Parliament has clearly emphasised and again reiterates that excellence must be the sole criterion to guide selection.
As for the legal structure of the European Research Council, I hope that it will be possible during the trialogue to eventually converge on a more widely accepted solution.
It is appropriate to emphasise the great importance of human resources. Researchers are a vital link between new knowledge and its application in innovative technologies and processes. This link does not work very well in Europe, and a sign of this poor connection is that, although Europe produces twice as many PhDs as the United States, the United States has twice as many PhDs in industry as Europe has. It is no coincidence that a good 400 000 researchers who received their doctorates in science and technology in Europe are now in the United States.
We need new researchers in order to reach the target of eight researchers for every 1 000 employees, both men and women. At this time, a large proportion will have to be women, since they make up only 29% of the scientific community, and measures need to be identified that can make it easier for them to enter this career, such as measures to reconcile work and family life for both men and women.
The new Constitutional Treaty provided for the creation of the European research area. I reiterate the idea by talking about a ‘European area of researchers’, in other words a single job market that could be organised partly through the creation of a European researchers’ association or an umbrella organisation of researchers’ associations, which could be a useful body for enhancing their role in the European context.
A final recommendation concerns embryonic stem cells. We should affirm the principle of research freedom, which must have scientific rigour as its basic tenet. Moreover, research must be given the opportunity to exercise control publicly in particularly sensitive areas of research. I therefore call for confirmation of the position adopted by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, which accommodates the opinions of those for and against embryonic stem cell research.
Frédérique Ries (ALDE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I should like to start by joining with those who have thanked and congratulated our rapporteur, Mr Buzek, and by saying how disappointed I am at this budget of EUR 54 billion or so over seven years, which we had hoped would be more ambitious, much more ambitious, in the interests of the Europe of excellence of which we are all dreaming. In this regard, the creation of the European Research Council is absolutely essential. As others have dwelt upon it at length before me, including Mr Brunetta, I will not go into the details now.
Another sensitive area for Europe is energy, and the various schemes thought up for moving on from the petroleum era, with a package of EUR 2 385 000 000, the budget retained by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, which gives priority to renewable energy. Biofuels and biomass form part of the solution, which also needs to involve education to reduce consumption.
In the opinion of the majority of my group, this European desire to look beyond the long term and to go down the path of scientific freedom to help those who most need it goes through the continuity of European funding for embryonic stem cell research. This research must be funded in the same way as research on stem cells from adults or from umbilical cord blood. That is what Amendment 66 proposes.
The only real compromise from the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, which is supported by Mr Busquin, Mrs Gutiérrez, Mrs Locatelli and a whole series of speakers before me, as well as by myself and a large proportion of my group, relates to the danger of a deadline for the eligibility of lines, because it would be – as the Commissioner reminded us – a real bombshell for European researchers.
It is this freedom of choice that I am defending, the choice of healing in the face of death, of the hope provided by research on embryos for patients suffering from one of 6 000 rare diseases. From time to time we need to dot the i's and cross the t's. What we are talking about here, what we care about, is research and compassion, not fantasies of cloning out of Brave New World, which is the impression one gets sometimes.
More than 70% of European citizens are asking us – are asking you, Commissioner – not to hinder such a promising area of research. That figure comes from the Eurobarometer of 2005, and I agree with Mr Chatzimarkakis regarding the failure to publish the figures from 2006, which I know is not down to you. What is the Presidency waiting for before it authorises the publication of these figures?
Hiltrud Breyer (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, this vote is also a litmus test of whether the EU is a community of values or whether human dignity and human rights are under threat. Regarding embryos as exploitable material risks opening the ethical floodgates. We have some very successful alternatives such as adult stem cells and research on umbilical-cord blood cells. It is incomprehensible why the EU is unnecessarily risking dividing the EU on this.
The cloning scandal in South Korea has made it clear that a principle, too, is at stake, namely the ban on commercialising the human body – the female body in particular. Women are degraded to the level of suppliers of egg cells as raw materials. The proposal by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy even entails the risk of setting in motion human cloning, because the revision clause envisages exactly that. I would plead, therefore, that we not be responsible for opening the door to the acceptance of embryonic stem cell research in Member States in which this is prohibited – that would be questionable from the point of view of democratic politics – and certainly not be responsible for paving the way for human cloning.
Jacky Henin (GUE/NGL). – (FR) Mr President, if we think that access to safe and cheap energy is an inalienable right and if we want everyone to be able to consume the energy necessary to his or her development, we cannot but concur with the objectives stated in the report by our fellow MEP, Mr Buzek. We must give our full backing to ITER and to nuclear fusion. It is a solution for the future that will guarantee the independence of our energy supply, access for all to electricity and the development of skilled jobs in industry.
Let us at the same time acknowledge that alternative sources of energy will not allow us to respond to demand and that fossil-based sources of energy just make pollution worse. Faced with this reality, I am, however, surprised that it is being proposed to us that we reduce the funds allocated to Euratom. We should, emphatically, be doing the opposite. Moreover, only public control, as distinct from the single energy market, will enable us in complete safety to achieve the objectives set by Euratom. If France has one of the least expensive energy supplies and is a developed nation, this is because of nuclear power and because the production and distribution of electricity has been a public monopoly.
Angelika Niebler (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I, too, wish to start by giving my sincere thanks to our rapporteur, Mr Buzek, for his months of work and his efforts to arrive at workable compromises.
I wish to take up two points in this debate. Firstly, I should like to speak about the European Research Council. As has been mentioned several times already, the establishment of this Council is the novelty in the Seventh Research Framework Programme. As the rapporteur for this Research Council, its success, which is also particularly dependent on its structure, is of course especially important to me. We need this Research Council. It will make Europe more attractive to top researchers. It is intended to strengthen basic research, a field that has been too long neglected in Europe in recent years, even though this field, in particular, has seen pioneering developments. I need only remind the House of inventions such as laser technology or X-rays or the MP3 player. All of these discoveries were made through basic research, of which we need to make much greater, more targeted use.
Another important point with regard to the Research Council is that its work must be transparent. The Research Council has been given substantial resources – we are talking about an annual budget of approximately EUR 1 billion – and, in view of this, I believe that we need to set up a body to ensure transparency. The European Research Council must not be a closed shop. I should like to make it clear that it is not my intention that this Research Council be under any control. It goes without saying that it and its work must be independent, but its work must be comprehensible to the research community, politicians, decision-makers and the public alike.
My second point concerns the issue of what is to benefit from European funds; after all, the budget is relatively small. That is why we must focus European research money on top-level research alone, and thus excellence should be the sole criterion for the selection of projects.
In conclusion, we must not permit any research on embryos. We must not permit embryos to be produced for research. I have drawn up a compromise amendment for this field – Amendment 319 – which I do not have time to explain, but I would ask my fellow Members to support this amendment.
Teresa Riera Madurell (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, I would like to begin by congratulating Mr Buzek and Mr Busquin and thanking them, as well as the Commissioner, for the important work they have done, because the issue we are dealing with today, ladies and gentlemen, is key to the strategy being drawn up for the coming years.
If, since Lisbon, our objective has been to achieve a dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy, research, development and innovation are undoubtedly the main tools for promoting growth, employment and competitiveness, and the Seventh Framework Programme is going to determine the main elements of our scientific policy for the next seven years.
Our main objective has been to respond to the great challenges faced by our science, technology and innovation in order to reduce the gap separating us from our competitors. These challenges were identified, studied and analysed exhaustively in the Locatelli report.
Our work has not been without difficulties, particularly following the agreement on the financial perspective which reduced our initial economic horizon. Our work is not finished, but it is clear that everybody has the will to reach the best possible final agreement, and I believe that today, on the whole, we can feel satisfied with how far we have come.
In its Cooperation programme, the Seventh Framework Programme includes powerful tools for stimulating private investment in research. The People programme provides for important measures to increase the human resources dedicated to research, in terms of both quantity and quality, in order to make Europe more attractive to researchers and in order to slow down their exodus and to promote the incorporation of women. Support for high-quality basic research also appears to be guaranteed with the creation of the European Research Council, which is still to be given its full shape. The objective of improving the links between the world of research and the business world – and I mean small and medium-sized businesses in particular – can also be achieved by means of the measures included in the Cooperation programme and the Capacities programme.
Furthermore, through this work, our Parliament is confirming its commitment to the Lisbon Strategy, and important steps are being taken towards the achievement of the two great objectives set for 2010 to create the European Research Area and to achieve an overall spending on R+D of 3% of GDP, with just a third coming from the public sector and the remaining two-thirds from the private sector.
Ladies and gentlemen, through the Seventh Framework Programme we can state that the Union's scientific programme has undoubtedly been strengthened and, as shadow rapporteur for the Seventh Framework Programme Euratom and in view of what happened at the last Council, I would like to emphasise the great importance of having the ITER programme in Europe – it means strengthening our leadership in fusion energy as an important way to achieve a mass, sustainable and safe energy supply – and how much it can promote the future of European industry.
With regard to fission, I would like to re-state our commitment to renewable energy, although I accept that nuclear fission energy is now inevitable, given the high demand for energy and given that we still have few mass sources of energy available to us. I would emphasise the need to continue research into safety, the management of waste and …
We shall carry on working. Congratulations, Mr Potočnik.
Anne Laperrouze (ALDE). – (FR) Mr President, my contribution to the debate on this Seventh Framework Programme on Research and Development will relate to two subjects: the stem cells issue and the budget.
Research in the field of embryonic stem cells has enabled medicine to make a great leap forward. A lot of hope is pinned on this research, particularly in connection with the treatment not only of cancer but also of genetic diseases hitherto regarded as incurable, as well as in connection with the perfecting of medicines.
The European Union needs to make cautious but definite progress in this area. That is why it has put in place the world’s most advanced monitoring and evaluation system, involving the agreement of the programming committee, analyses by independent experts and by national and European committees on ethics and, not least, the obligation to respect the legal frameworks of the Member States in which the research is carried out.
It is vital to fund research on embryonic stem cells for a number of reasons: to monitor activities in this area, to ensure that our ethical values are respected, to facilitate and protect scientific advances made by European researchers and to enable us to go on competing with third countries. That is why it is the amendment adopted by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy that should be voted in favour of next Thursday.
With regard to the budget, I can only join the previous speakers in deploring how little it amounts to. I would nonetheless warn against the temptation to draw on funds from areas such as agriculture and energy, which are in need of money while other sectors appear to have been funded too generously. In this connection, I think it imperative to hold a debate on the funding of the Joint Research Centre.
At the same time as commending our rapporteur for his excellent work, I very much wish, in conclusion, to emphasise how crucially important this programme is. By putting in place a European Research Area, we reduce the risk of those who develop innovative projects going and looking for their sources of funding elsewhere. It is a way of giving a dramatic boost to growth and competitiveness.
The Seventh FPRD is one of the means that will enable Europe to move forward and our people to benefit in everyday life from the fruits of European research.
Vladimír Remek (GUE/NGL). – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to express my appreciation for the work of the rapporteur, Mr Buzek, all the more because we are facing a difficult decision on a report which I consider to be of key importance in the controversial discussions over continuing nuclear research and especially nuclear fusion research.
I am wholly in favour of developing what is the greatest scientific partnership project in the world. I say that as someone who has had personal experience of cutting-edge science and technology, and also as an MEP with personal knowledge of the excellent results from the European nuclear fusion research centre in the United Kingdom. Yes, money is lacking in many areas and it is no easy matter to decide on such a costly research project as ITER. Yet we have to take vital steps for the future if we want to retain the unique position of European science in this area. I am in favour of maintaining the budget for thermonuclear fusion research without including the costs of ITER. We are taking a decision for the future energy independence of Europe.
Finally, I would like to express my satisfaction over the fact that the Czech Republic has made and will continue to make a major contribution both to nuclear fusion research and to the ITER project.
Peter Baco (NI). – (SK) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that the proposals for the Seventh Framework Programme that we are debating have been well formulated. Being a farmer, I am pleased to observe that, compared to the Sixth Framework Programme, far more attention is now being paid in the draft to the broader implications of agriculture for society as a whole. However, I would like to point out some deficiencies regarding the participation of the new Member States in the Fifth and Sixth Framework Programmes. When we look at the map of excellence network participants in the Sixth Framework Programme, we find only blank spaces in the east. This is not, after all, how we have envisaged our common Europe. Ongoing studies also suggest that, relative to their size, the new Member States should have been awarded three times more projects and perhaps allocated as much as tenfold the amount of financial support. The Commission and relevant governments are therefore facing the pressing task of applying specific instruments in the work plans of the technical areas and challenges of the Framework Programme to promote greater involvement of the new Member States.
Nikolaos Vakalis (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, I consider that Parliament has done a very good job. My warmest congratulations to our rapporteur, Mr Buzek.
I wish to comment on two amendments already approved by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy:
Amendment 273: this amendment refers to the chapter entitled 'Research infrastructures' and seeks to support excellence in the convergence regions and outermost regions. It quite simply suggests that, in the event of two equally excellent proposals for new research infrastructures, we need to consider which option will contribute more to the strengthening and expansion of the excellence of European research agencies. The fact that, over the period from 2000 to 2006, 50% of public and private money in research went to just 30 of the 254 regions of the European Union bears witness to the fact that excellence is trapped.
Amendment 66 on embryonic stem cells. I consider that this amendment is correct both from a philosophical point of view and from the point of view of protecting human rights and respect for human life. In addition, I consider that it is the most correct of the four views on the table, because we cannot set restrictive dates. This is to the detriment of research itself, in that it restricts it to stem cells either of inferior quality or of limited potential and will force our researchers to go to other countries outside the European Union which have stocks of stem cells of these specific dates. We cannot cite subsidiarity and exclude the financing of leading edge research sectors on the grounds that one or some of the Member States prohibit it because, if we take that to its logical conclusion, I would say that it is unfair for countries which prohibit stem cell research to make use of the results from countries which allow it because, in the final analysis, it is certain that adult stem cell research does not suffice for all applications.
Catherine Trautmann (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, our Assembly is getting ready to vote in favour of the Seventh Framework Programme on Research and Development, which will thus be operational no later than by 1 January 2007.
We wish to avoid the risk of a lost year for research, so strategically important is this area if we are to compete effectively with the United States, India and China. The gamble has almost paid off, and I warmly congratulate our Commissioner, Mr Potočnik, and our rapporteur, Mr Buzek.
Research must help strengthen our unity, thanks to people and territories being integrated into the European Research Area, and at the same time favour an intelligent and lasting development model while also demanding excellence and efficiency. Shall we achieve this, however?
Where financial resources are concerned, these are inadequate, even if the budgetary agreement adopted by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and proposed in plenary is satisfactory inasmuch as it seeks as best as possible to counter the weakness of the budget obtained within the framework of the Financial Perspective. I should like to reiterate my regrets on this matter and tell the Member States that they absolutely must recognise how important research is for growth and employment and, when the Financial Perspective is revised, prepare to supplement the financial resources allocated to this sector. Where content is concerned, the wording voted in favour of by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy presents a satisfactory balance, even if I regret that more support was not given to the international cooperation designed to enable development to take place and to stem the brain drain.
It is a good thing that the emphasis has been placed on health, sustainable development and energy, as well as on ICTs, to which 40% of our growth is attributable.
With regard to structures and the future, I am particularly pleased that the European Research Council will soon be in operation. The ERC, with its 22-member scientific committee, meets the expectations of the research community. It will thus be possible to fund vital basic research in a simple way via this body operated by and for the scientific community. Moreover, individual grants are to be awarded in recognition of excellence and on the basis of criteria defined by the scientists.
The Council, which will give the European Union a genuine angle on the future and secure for it the trust of the world of research, will be characterised by independence and transparency. We hope that it will help attract our young generation of graduates to the research professions. The decision not to determine the final form to be taken by the ERC was taken out of a concern to bring the Council into operation no later than by 1 January 2007 and to seek to make it as effective as it possibly can be. That is why our Parliament wishes, within the framework of the codecision process, to be fully involved in taking the decision on the definitive form to be taken by the Council.
Patrizia Toia (ALDE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Europe needs to achieve a faster rate of growth and, to that end, it has set its sights on knowledge, which means research, training, information, development of ICT, and so forth.
Perhaps the most ambitious objective that we have set ourselves is the seventh framework programme, which today represents the European added value that is essential if we are to achieve that result. I shall confine myself to addressing two aspects of it.
In this impressive programme we have endeavoured to ensure broad access, which is not the opposite of selectivity but is, rather, a precondition for it. We want all components of the research world to be in a position to take part, and I am referring not least to women scientists.
What I have just said also applies to the production components, starting with small and medium-sized enterprises, which have a vital need for innovation but require particular attention. I refer to the procedures issue: in that respect let us call on the Commission to ensure that the efforts to simplify, to facilitate and to support SMEs are not lost during the implementation phase, but rather increased.
The second aspect concerns research, which has clear and unavoidable ethical facets. It would take crass cynicism or a purely scientistic outlook for anyone to ignore these aspects. It is therefore quite right to acknowledge them and, if possible, to find solutions that take account of these facets, which relate to human beings and their dignity.
There is one important issue in particular on which we are split within the various groups. Within my own group as well, there is a position on embryonic stem cells, albeit a minority one like the one that I represent. None of us wants to stop science, but many of us believe that respect for life should be a guideline anyway, although it is not intended as a restriction, and that, where there is scientific doubt, it is appropriate to adopt the precautionary principle.
The Community resources allocated for that purpose, which are already very limited, could be more usefully concentrated in those sectors where research has already been developed and which therefore now promise benefits for human health in the near future, such as the use of adult stem cells and other alternatives, leaving all other fields of research development to individual Member States. These are cross-cutting positions that also require an ability to listen to and to respect others.
When subjects that affect people and human life so intimately are addressed in these Chambers, which are more used to debates on the economy or other more tangible subjects, I believe we need a little more wisdom and perhaps a little more listening and dialogue.
Roberto Musacchio (GUE/NGL). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Europe is still held back by archaic and dangerous technologies such as nuclear, which it would be good to get rid of, so it would be somewhat strange if it imposed a kind of veto on researching and applying new technologies that may prove fundamental in saving the lives of many people through the use of stem cells.
It is not a question of not having an important ethical position on these subjects. In fact I am against human cloning. It is a different thing to try to impose ideological and preconceived viewpoints that compromise not only research and science but above all everyone’s right to their own life.
The European Parliament has a right but also a duty to meet these expectations in full. Therefore, a project for Europe is also taking shape around this research programme.
Luca Romagnoli (NI). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this Parliament has supported the adoption of the seventh framework programme in the knowledge that the challenge to improve the competitiveness and development of nations throughout the continent depends on the revitalisation of research opportunities. I believe, however, that the financial effort should be increased. If 3% of investment in the European Union is channelled into research and development by 2010, it will perhaps be possible to reduce the shortfall of about 700 000 researchers that the Union currently suffers.
Public funding for research remains necessary in sensitive sectors such as health, energy and the environment, and I believe there is considerable agreement on that in Parliament. Such funding cannot come solely from the European institutions, however. On the contrary, they must press the national governments to increase the financial appropriation for research in their budgets and thus improve working conditions in the area, as regards both the possible development of human resources in the public sector and the promotion of private investment and public-private partnerships.
The problems of research and development are not the same across Europe. Working conditions vary, as do the prospects for young researchers and for their transition from academic studies to the job market. In Italy, for instance, the relationship between universities and businesses does not provide proper training and apprenticeship opportunities. There is not even a basic exchange of information. The low rates of pay and limited funding for research drive researchers to emigrate or, more often, to abandon public research in order to try more rewarding paths to personal fulfilment. That is a further reason why I hope that creating the European Research Council can fill the gaps in the national systems.
The very large number of amendments tabled on this already excellent report by Mr Buzek attests to the interest and importance that Parliament attributes to research for the development of our continent.
John Purvis (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I too would like to pay tribute to our rapporteur, Mr Buzek, who has been very fair and inclusive in the way he has steered this difficult proposal through Parliament.
I accept that the ethical issues are a very difficult area: embryonic stem cell research, somatic nuclear cell transfer technology and genetic therapies for hereditary diseases. I respect the differing views and deeply-held beliefs concerning these issues. It is clearly an issue of personal conscience and belief, for which the only acceptable procedure is a free vote is this Parliament, which represents all Europe citizens.
I should like to explain why a Christian can accept EU funding of this research. Jesus Christ related the parable of the Good Samaritan. It was the despised Samaritan who did not pass by on the other side as others had. He stopped to aid a fellow man who was in difficulty. God endowed humans with the intelligence and skills to improve our human lot, and over the centuries, often in the face of resistance from church hierarchies and doctrines, mankind has challenged the frontiers of science and thereby improved our wellbeing. The research in this area, which is funded by the European Union, is in that tradition. However, it is restricted by rules, recognises human dignity, and is closely monitored and regulated.
In my view, and that of many Christians, including the Christian church to which I belong, it is wholly appropriate that we continue to fund this research, just as we did under the Sixth Framework Programme for Research.
IN THE CHAIR: MR FRIEDRICH Vice-President
Britta Thomsen (PSE). – (DA) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, research and development are a crucial prerequisite for our prosperity, since we in Europe now have to live off producing knowledge and ideas. The Framework Programme for Research is therefore an important tool for enabling the EU to cope successfully with international competition in the future. No EU country can by itself mobilise the critical mass needed for competing with China or the United States but, together, the EU countries can mobilise the resources for entering into competition with them. Moreover, it is precisely in the diversity we have in Europe that we shall find an important key to greater creativity.
I am pleased that higher priority is being given to the international dimension of the Framework Programme than it was in the case of the Sixth Framework Programme. International cooperation is no longer a separate part of the programme but, rather, is integrated horizontally into the individual themes and special programmes. We are thus adapting research to what is actually happening globally. I hope that this prioritisation will also be reflected in the number of international projects.
Europe’s peripheral areas are currently undergoing depopulation, and it is imperative for us to maintain research in the outermost regions by creating attractive working conditions for researchers. I am therefore pleased, too, that it is now possible to coordinate efforts made under the Seventh Framework Programme and in the context of the Regional Fund. This makes it possible to build regional partnerships between research institutions, the public authorities and enterprises, so giving a powerful shot in the arm to regional development.
The time is past when researchers could sit in their ivory towers. It is more important than ever before that the dissemination aspect be integrated into research. If society is to reap as many of the benefits of European research as possible, we must ensure that the results of research make a difference to individuals, authorities and trade and industry. High-quality research dissemination helps people see society’s investment in research as something legitimate.
Energy research has become a thematic priority of its own within ‘cooperation’. There is a great need for research in energy technologies, which can help Europe achieve its objectives in terms of energy policy within ...
(The President cut off the speaker)
Lena Ek (ALDE). – (SV) Mr President, it is a very important decision that Parliament has to take this week in order to realise the Lisbon goals and reconcile welfare and environmental responsibility with global competitiveness. The basis for this is a truly excellent proposal from Commissioner Potočnik and an excellent report by rapporteur Buzek. Unfortunately, the Council has made it harder for us, in terms of budgeting, to live up to the expectations and ambitions that we in the larger political groups share.
I welcome the setting up of Excellence Networks and the simplification of bureaucracy. I believe that there is a problem with the uncertainty that still remains in respect of the European Research Council. The review of all of the material which is to take place in order to finally clarify the position of the European Research Council should be fixed to take place in 2008.
It is also important that we have tabled amendments relating to small and medium-sized enterprises and to participants from and participation by various groups around Europe. Where women are concerned, we know that discrimination still occurs in every Member State in the field of research and development, both in relation to content and to participation.
I am also of the belief that the technology platforms will be of enormous benefit to European industry.
The issue that has generated the greatest number of problems is stem cell research. I can verify that the system we currently have in place functions excellently. The research that is taking place on the basis of this technique is extremely important for the work of coming to grips with the big endemic diseases, diabetes, rheumatism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, these being diseases that affect a large number of Europeans. It is our duty to make use of all the available tools in an ethical and responsible manner. If we are now in a position to help people, we must seize the opportunity. I and the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe support the proposal that has been adopted by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. Thank you.
Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE-DE). – (SL) I would like to begin by welcoming Commissioner Potočnik and thanking rapporteur Buzek for his tireless cooperation and the information that he has given us. I would also like to congratulate the rapporteur for the work that he has done.
The Seventh Research and Development Framework Programme is closely linked with the debate on the future of the European Union. This fact is set to become increasingly significant in the light of current global influences. In the coming decades the areas of demography and energy will be of exceptional importance for Europe, yet will also become the areas most ridden with problems. We have to define our objectives clearly, so that we can secure economic and social stability and preserve public welfare. However, we will only be able to do so if we can achieve a higher degree of interdependence between knowledge and development on the one hand and innovation on the other, and if we can make successful use of this correlation in the economy. Demography and energy must constitute the core of our future research in the European Union.
Let me now return to the issue of energy, an area in which we face ever greater challenges in terms of secure supplies, energy dependency and the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. All these areas call upon us to lay down a clear set of objectives, particularly medium and long–term, as it is here that Europe increasingly finds itself faced with a growing number of difficulties.
With long–term planning in mind, fusion research and the construction of the ITER nuclear reactor project must take precedence, as this will open up new dimensions in the research of nuclear energy on a global scale. However, research into renewable energy sources and nuclear fission can offer an adequate response to our medium–term demands for secure, clean and competitive energy. Europe is currently a frontrunner in the energy sector, but we must bear one thing in mind nonetheless: if we wish to remain at the cutting edge of this sector in global terms, we have to view energy as a single, unified area, despite the fact that energy supplies have already been regulated in a number of European treaties.
Of course, unified and clear objectives are not enough. They have to be followed up with adequate measures and it is here that I wish to stress the importance of staying ahead of the game. Our programme has to be ready in time so that we can establish a link in the crossover from the sixth to the seventh framework programme.
Reino Paasilinna (PSE). – (FI) Mr President, I wish to thank Mr Buzek for his excellent work. We have said what we would like to see regarding the Seventh Framework Programme. We tabled as many as 1 700 amendments, so this would have been enough for an Eighth Framework Programme. The Scientific Council is one of the most significant new additions to the Framework Programme, and it will be the first genuine pan-European research funding institution. Its objective is top quality research and keeping scientists in work in the EU.
There is a real need for support for top-quality research. There are 500 top-quality universities in the world, of which 200 are in Europe and another 200 in the United States, but only two European universities are in the top 20. If we here in Europe can afford to spend time on trivialities, we should also be able to afford top-quality research. We should also ensure that good use is made of the fruits of research. The gulf between research, innovation and the launching of new products is too wide.
The Union’s research programme should also be used to remove obstacles to cooperation between Member States. Article 169 of the Framework Programme also provides a tool for strategic cooperation between the Member States, and that is what we need. It is intolerable that the research budget should have been cut by EUR 20 billion now that we are moving towards an information economy, for which we need research. We will not become the world’s leading information economy in this way. Our investment programme is lagging behind both the United States and Japan.
In the information and communications sector we have succeeded in creating a good number of commercial applications. Information and communications account for 8% of European GDP and 6% of employment. We have, however, put up obstacles such as intricate patent legislation, which is eroding our competitiveness. A civilised Europe must boost its position with the help of research and product development and, for example, information and communications technology.
Peter Liese (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to join in thanking Mr Buzek and start with a very positive anecdote about the European Research Framework Programme. At the beginning of the debate in committee, I brought together representatives of all the universities and of the business community in my region, in order to discuss the framework programme with them. This discussion naturally also brought to light criticism relating to bureaucracy and to SMEs having insufficient access to the framework programme. After a great deal of criticism had been expressed, a professor who had been involved in the framework programme for years spoke up, saying that we should not look at only the negative points: the Americans envied us this instrument.
Although things are by no means perfect now, we should not run the framework programme down. The report by Mr Buzek addresses many of the criticisms. Good proposals have been made in the fields of SMEs and bureaucracy, which we should support in plenary. I consider this a good report on the whole, but there is one point with which I am not in agreement – and this will not surprise you. I do not support Amendment 66 to Article 6. This Amendment calls for EU funding for research that includes destructive research with human embryos. This has been banned at national level in ten countries, in some cases following very intensive discussions, in some cases following a referendum.
The amendment also includes a revision clause. If this revision clause takes effect, cloning for research purposes could also be possible in the course of the framework programme – yet this is permitted in only three countries of the EU. After all, it is not the case that there is too much money within the framework programme – many good, uncontroversial projects are being rejected.
Since the subject of Alzheimer’s disease has been mentioned, I can say that, a few weeks ago, a meeting was held with the leading European researcher in the field of Alzheimer’s. He said that he had many innovative approaches to combating Alzheimer’s – but did not mention embryonic stem cell research as being one of them. For this reason, we should support the alternatives, but supporting Amendment 66 would mean that certain alternatives could not be promoted. For this reason, I ask you to reject Amendment 66.
Hannes Swoboda (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, I, too, wish to start by thanking Mr Buzek for his excellent work, and also the shadow rapporteurs, particularly Mr Busquin, who has brought a great deal of know-how and experience to bear.
As regards the question of priorities, health policy and health research undoubtedly fall into this category. I disagree with Mr Liese here, as stem cell research, including embryonic stem cell research, is also potentially important as regards health, particularly in the fields in which adult stem cell research is not yet able to offer anything of equivalent value. I therefore consider this course of action to be of benefit, and it has my full support.
A second field that has also been given higher priority, particularly by Parliament, is that of energy. We all know how important it is to make progress in the energy field, and I would emphasise once more how important it is for the large energy companies, whose large profits are chiefly a result of increases in oil and gas prices, to invest more in research. I hope that the Commissioner also ensures that more such private resources are brought in.
It is important that the EU’s contribution to the field of energy, in particular, be made within the framework of the Research Framework Programme, or of nuclear research. The issue of nuclear research is very controversial, of course, as the issue of nuclear energy itself is controversial. If, however, there is one important field to which we must give absolute priority, it is the field of safety and security: safety with regard to plants, and security in the sense of creating all the technical and other possibilities for preventing proliferation for non-civil purposes – military or even terrorist.
I would ask the Commissioner to take this very seriously, and to do more in this field, in particular. Mr Buzek has taken up some of my proposals – he could have taken up more – opinions differ on this – but I believe that absolute priority must be given to safety and security in the field of nuclear and energy research.
Françoise Grossetête (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I shall begin by thanking the rapporteur for his work and for the agreement that we have reached with a view to creating in this programme a specific line in favour of research into paediatric medicines.
A lot of things have been said in the context of putting this programme in place. That is why I shall emphasise only three points. Firstly, and on the subject of ease of access, I recently met a number of SME managers who told me that research grants would have to be requested for the purpose of understanding precisely how Europe tackles the subjects it has to deal with. Behind the humour, there is a great truth: yes to rigour in responding to requests, but no to the host of indecipherable formulas.
With regard, secondly, to the monitoring aspect, it is indeed necessary to strengthen this with a view to ensuring that the aid granted is effective and the funds properly used. We must act in accordance with these considerations.
Finally, the third point concerns the priority that it is absolutely vital to give to sustainable development, health research and innovation. Where health research and, more specifically, embryonic stem cell research is concerned, I would emphasise that we have to move with the times. Yes, I am in favour of this research. Yes, I want us to be able to help researchers work in good conditions and, above all, with no date restrictions when it comes to selecting the cells concerned. Indeed, date restrictions would amount to hindering cutting-edge research.
When voting, do not forget, ladies and gentlemen, that such research offers the possibility of identifying specific stem cell lines in order to find effective treatments. To reject these new lines of research would be to deprive those suffering from currently incurable diseases of the opportunity of a cure. By what right and under what law can we say to someone who is seriously ill: ‘No, Europe does not want anything to do with this research. If you had wanted to be treated, you should have been born in America.’ That, in point of fact, is where our problem lies. If we do not make up our minds and take action now, it will be the Americans and the Japanese who will do so in our place.
Andres Tarand (PSE). – (ET) Mr President, I would above all like to note the great importance of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP 7) for a small Member State, and especially for its young scientists. Taking into consideration the very poor condition of the scientific infrastructure in the new Member States, the funds of FP 7 will not be sufficient to liquidate this, but governments will have to significantly increase the budget allocated for science, at least in Estonia.
A second issue I would like to raise is energy. I hope that the Council will support Parliament’s recommendation to spend, in the framework of FP 7, EUR 150 million more on energy-related research and development activities than the figure offered by the country currently holding the presidency. Of course, even this amount is minuscule considering the challenges of the energy sector. The majority of this amount, however, goes to nuclear energy and not to new sustainable technologies.
I agree with the previous speakers who have already expressed their dissatisfaction about this matter. A disproportionate share goes to energy technologies based on fossil fuels. The same goes for Estonia, where oil shale research holds first place in terms of state funding. It is time to change these proportions!
Ján Hudacký (PPE-DE). – (SK) First allow me to thank Mr Buzek for the truly excellent work he has done in drafting this report. I for one believe that, notwithstanding the budget cuts, the Seventh Framework Programme is set to substantially strengthen the research potential of all EU Member States without undermining the excellence principle. The economy of the European Union cannot afford to neglect this potential, which is not concentrated exclusively in large centres of research but nevertheless has the critical mass to attain excellence. Numerous regional universities, corporate research units and technology centres all generate substantial research potential in the form of young research workers who often look for opportunities outside the European Union.
The largest obstacle to promoting this potential is the inadequate R [amp] D infrastructure which is a prerequisite for shaping and retaining scholars and researchers in remote regions. Conversely, not all major research centres are synonymous with excellence. We should not confuse the excellence principle with the centralising of research in large centres exclusively. Better exploitation of the research potential within the entire European space may, on the one hand, strengthen cooperation and, on the other, establish the necessary conditions for badly needed internal competition, which may significantly contribute to boosting the competitiveness of European research to global levels. I therefore believe that a financial contribution aimed at improving research infrastructure by tapping the budget of the Seventh Framework Programme and of structural funds in ‘cohesion regions’ that have fine research potential will become a meaningful investment and will generate the required synergy necessary to attain the Lisbon goals. In conclusion, permit me to make one very clear point. The European Union should not be funding embryonic stem cell research. During this debate, we have already heard quite a few sensible arguments in support of this higher principle.
Erika Mann (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, I should like to discuss a point to which the Commissioner referred: he expressed the hope that the Research Framework Programme would bring the Lisbon Agenda to the fore once again.
I think he is absolutely right. Indeed, the advantage of the European Research Framework Programme and of the European research area is firstly that we can define our research identity in the European Union, and secondly that we can be part of international developments. Overall, these programmes are of course promoting the competitiveness of the European Union.
There are currently quite a lot of difficulties regarding the issue of stem cell research. Some Members are attempting, in effect, to renationalise this area, whenever it is a matter of critical research. I think that is highly problematic. This kind of renationalisation would affect many areas of research in future, such as nuclear research, security research and many other areas where certain nation states have ethical or other concerns. I do not think we should do that. This kind of renationalisation would be highly damaging not only to the Lisbon Agenda but also to the European Union as a whole in future. I therefore hope that we will reach broad consensus on the Research Framework Programme. Congratulations to Mr Buzek, to our shadow rapporteurs and to Mr Busquin.
Carlo Casini (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I shall confine myself to talking about the ethical issues. In order to comprehend these kinds of issues, we first of all need to understand what we are talking about.
First, we must consider that it is not a question of deciding whether or not to authorise experimentation on embryos, but of deciding whether projects involving unavoidably destructive research can be financed by the European Union, in other words with money that comes partly from Member States that consider the destruction of embryos for experimental purposes to be a serious violation of fundamental rights.
Secondly, we have to consider the foreseeable effects of the research. So far, embryonic stem cells have not been demonstrated to be therapeutically effective in any way. On the contrary, their carcinogenic effects on mice have been demonstrated. So far, not a single publication in the world has demonstrated the therapeutic effects of embryonic stem cells. On the other hand, so-called adult stem cells already cure numerous diseases and the prospects are extremely promising. That means that, if we really want to save people’s health, we must concentrate the little funding we have in areas where it is easier and quicker to achieve our purpose than elsewhere.
Lastly, the principle of subsidiarity needs to be invoked. There are countries for which experimentation on embryos calls into question the very concept of human dignity and, therefore, the basis of human rights. Allowing experimentation on a human being means, in other words, regarding that human being as an object and not as a human being.
Thus it is not a question of talking about labelling, tourism or town planning, but of the very basis of human rights as conceived, perhaps wrongly, by one country rather than another. I therefore do not believe it is right that the Member States that allow experimentation on embryos should be able to force the Member States that do not allow it to help pay for experimentation in the other countries.
Edite Estrela (PSE). – (PT) I should like to highlight a few points. The first is the importance of research to the success of the Lisbon Strategy. Secondly, it is necessary to carry out and extend research into climate change and its impact on natural disasters. Research must also be carried out into solving the energy problem.
In spite of all the controversy, embryonic stem cell research is a highly promising area of research that has yielded very encouraging results in terms of treating diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, which would not have been possible simply with adult stem cells or those from the umbilical cord. I therefore welcome the consensus proposal tabled by Mrs Gutiérrez and Mr Busquin and call on the Members of this House to support it.
Daniel Caspary (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the Seventh Research Framework Programme will contribute to making the European Union somewhat more competitive in our globalised world, but unfortunately only somewhat more. We have not reached many of the original targets, and we will not do so. To avoid any misunderstandings: under the given conditions, Mr Buzek and his colleagues have made the best of the programme, but research spending certainly has not been doubled.
The clear increase in the budget in comparison with the Sixth Framework Programme is a step in the right direction, but we are still miles away from the doubling of the budget that was originally planned and is still urgently required. Other economic areas in the world show considerably higher rates of increase in research spending, which means that we are going to fall still further behind in comparison with those areas. The consequences of that will hit us hard and have long-term effects on prosperity, the labour market and social peace.
We must concentrate the limited resources in a few key areas. We have set strategic targets to which everything else must be secondary, and we must regularly monitor whether we are achieving those targets. We must ensure that the research results do not end up gathering dust in cupboards or laboratories, but rather that our businesses can use those results to generate added value and therefore new jobs in Europe. I have the impression that we really have not been good enough in this area in the past few years.
In conclusion, I call on the Member States to invest money from the Structural Funds in building research and development capabilities in their countries. That will enable the Seventh Research Framework Programme to concentrate properly on excellence in research. At the same time, the Member States can invest additional money in building research and development capabilities.
If we want to maintain prosperity, jobs and social peace in Europe in the future, the Seventh Research Framework Programme and the CIP are the first step, but we still have a long journey ahead of us, and we absolutely must do better.
Edit Herczog (PSE). – (HU) Mr President, I congratulate Mr Buzek and the co-rapporteur for their persistent work. I welcome the fact that the Programme prioritises sectors such as frontier research, the production of carbon dioxide-free energy, nanotechnologies and social sciences.
The latter will have particular significance in monitoring social changes arising from the digital lifestyle, which has itself been caused by the development of science. However, we must call attention to the fact that in spite of the increase in the total research budget, the annual research budget per capita in the European Union has not increased. This is another reason why it is important that an agreement has been reached about the creation of the European Research Area, which will be able to help bridge the gap in numerous fields.
At this point it must be mentioned that for new Member States, who have considerable expertise, but meagre resources, it is very important that beyond the Framework Programme for Research, research infrastructures can also be funded from structural and cohesion funds. With reference to the debate, I would like to add that where stem cell research is concerned, I am in favour of progress.
Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, the programme for research and technology is a real step forward. It is one of the most important building blocks that will allow us to compete at world level and it is an answer to globalisation. This European scale and the focus on excellence are what give this European endeavour intrinsic added value.
Although we desperately need top research at European level, we also require a major and steady effort from the Member States and the regions. As shadow rapporteur for capacities – which falls within the research infrastructure – along with Mr Buzek, I have carefully examined a possible synergy with structural funds, which would enable high-quality structures and research infrastructure to be developed, and innovation and production to be supported.
I am pleased that during the vote on structural funds 2007-2013 next month, this focal point will be given extra prominence. In a nutshell, we need to invest less in asphalt, concrete and roads, and more in research infrastructure and training our people. That is what Europe must set its sights on in the next couple of years. In that way, more specific research infrastructure can be created and developed. In actual fact, with limited resources, compared with big research projects that use up vast amounts of structural funds, we can double the budget. That is a different tune. It can be done.
I have a question for Commissioner Potočnik. Will we during the halfway review be assessing both structural fund policy and its results, as well as this policy? I have not many early indications as yet. I particularly have the 2013-2020 period in mind when I say this.
Finally, I am pleased that a number of my amendments, including those with regard to medical examinations, healthy food, aviation and logistics, have been adopted. As for stem cell research, I take a reserved and conscientious line. I will be backing the amendment that was tabled jointly with Mrs Niebler.
Dorette Corbey (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, I should first of all like to congratulate Mr Buzek and all shadow rapporteurs. Innovation is not one of the EU’s strong points. Despite the Lisbon agenda and the knowledge economy, it is not easy to demonstrate decisiveness, but there is one redeeming feature, namely the Seventh Framework Programme for research, which offers a great deal of scope for innovation, not least for SMEs. I have high expectations of the research programme in the area of energy, where it opens the door to efficiency and sustainability.
Not only research, but demonstration projects are what matter. Geothermal energy, for example, is a possibility, as I have only just last week seen in Dutch horticulture, but it appears impossible to galvanise sponsors and users into action. The health programme is also important. Health is too important to leave to researchers from the private sector alone. In that respect, I believe that the ethical boundaries are defined very well.
If we consider European industry as a whole, our focus may be weighted too much in favour of competition. Cooperation is at least equally important. We must move towards a fresh approach, open innovation, sharing knowledge and using knowledge together. I hope that the Seventh Framework Programme can contribute to this.
Etelka Barsi-Pataky (PPE-DE). – (HU) Mr President, the new Member States had not been involved when the regulation of the principles contained in the Sixth Framework Programme was prepared. However, we did have the opportunity to participate in the Programme itself, which allowed us to gain considerable experience. We have tried to include the experiences of new Member States in the interesting and important debate for the preparation of the FP7 by the Commission. In this respect, I would like to emphasise two topics in our plenary session today.
The first topic is deciding what the basis for the provision of assistance should be. I believe that it should be excellence, for it is excellence that makes Europe really competitive. I believe that we need three conditions here. The first condition is to provide access and network building, because this is the key to sustainable research quality. The second condition is to involve structural funds to a larger extent into building the research and development infrastructure. Parliament has actually voted in favour of my proposal in this respect, during the regulation of the funds. The third condition is to develop extensive consortia, in order to actually create the European Research Area, and to ensure that our researchers are not working in the United States or elsewhere. I would mention, for instance, the Galileo project, where a new European infrastructure could only be developed by using an extensive base.
The second topic, briefly, is the necessity of supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. I can only welcome the proposal to channel at least 15% of the cooperation programme funds to small and medium-sized enterprises. I have personally added a further proposal to this, which has been accepted by our committee, and which ensures easier access for small and medium-sized enterprises to European Union funds, especially for pre-financing. I ask Parliament, too, to support my proposal, because it is based on the experiences of the Sixth Framework Programme.
We still have a lot of work to do, such as the VAT refund and other issues related to the regulation of utilisation, but I trust that the Seventh Framework Programme will bring us closer to the implementation of the single European Research Area.
Jan Christian Ehler (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I, too, should like to start by thanking Mr Buzek. He has the European patience – at which younger people can only wonder – to bring this work together. I should like to return to the aspect brought up by Mr van Nistelrooij. I think we have a big problem: in the Research Framework Programme, we have defined the European research area, and that presupposes the need for the accession countries to catch up. However, we are all in agreement that, in the global context, a programme like the Research Framework Programme must focus on excellence, because it will represent the competitiveness that we need in order to keep up and to be able to afford to build up Europe. The inclusion of the Structural Funds is therefore particularly important, and we will need to discuss it.
A second subject that has been brought up is SMEs. In connection with this discussion, it is worth emphasising once again that 70% of all patents and utility patents in Europe are registered by small and medium-sized enterprises. We must support that, and we must find a way of giving these businesses more support. In this connection, we repeatedly come up against the problem of defining the term ‘small and medium-sized enterprises’. In the dimension currently taken by the European economy, the definition of small and medium-size enterprises as set out by the European Union is simply wrong: it includes too few businesses. Effectively, we are no longer supporting medium-sized industrial businesses – we are excluding them too much from the programmes.
A third aspect that I see as important is the new security research programme. In this programme, we have implemented something that is really atypical for research. I think we can all agree that it is one of the central projects for the future in Europe, not just against the background of terrorism, but also because it offers development opportunities in many areas. We should therefore examine in the trialogue the Competitiveness Council's decision to make massive, if not the most massive, cuts in this area, of all places. These cuts are extremely problematic.
Carmen Fraga Estévez (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, for the common fisheries policy, the Seventh Framework Programme is not just disappointing, but it should be openly described as hypocritical.
We must not forget that one of the Union’s great objectives is to lead a policy of economic efficiency and competitiveness within a framework of sustainable development. When we talk about sustainable development, it immediately brings to mind the marine environment and hence the consequences of fishing activity. Any fisheries management regulation must end with the usual proviso that decisions will be taken in accordance with the best available scientific advice.
When Commissioner Borg presented the Green Paper on the European Union’s future maritime policy last week, he once again emphasised the essential need to know how the oceans work and he insisted that new fisheries management measures cannot be implemented without knowing how ecosystems work and how different economic activities affect them. Nevertheless, we have moved on from specific chapters for fisheries research, provided with EUR 150 million in the Fifth Framework Programme, to EUR 60 million in the Sixth Programme, where for the first time the focus on the issue of fisheries disappears.
Those engaged in fishing activity need to know the size of populations of species and the way in which they are developing, to investigate new, more selective fishing techniques and to look into cultivating new species in order to respond to the rapidly increasing internal consumption of fish and tackle the dependency on imports. Without this kind of specific research, any regulation applied to fishermen will lack solid scientific bases and will have no credibility. We will not become a leader in the field of sustainable development policies by taking this kind of step backwards.
We would therefore call upon everybody – the rapporteur in particular – to support the amendments that several political groups and several Members have presented and that provide for this focus on fisheries.
Nina Škottová (PPE-DE). – (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this cover page from Newsweek bears yesterday’s date of 12 June 2006. Unfortunately, it states that European education systems, including higher education, are failing.
The Seventh Framework Programme for Research is based on three elements which are closely interdependent – education, research and innovation. If, however, the starting point of the three, in other words education, has already become an Achilles’ Heel, we can plan and support research and innovation as much as we like but the desired results will not materialise. Let us therefore support those institutions which rank among the most important from the perspective of education and its links to research, in other words universities. They constitute a natural source of enormous human potential that has so far not been effectively exploited. Let us promote a revival in research at universities and let us nurture the younger generation of scientists being educated there. Let us give them the sort of opportunities and motivation that will make them want to stay in Europe. Let us also give the opportunity to universities to fulfil the criteria of scientific excellence and let us support them in this effort, especially in the new Member States of the European Union. This could be – and I firmly believe that it will be – among the best of the investments within the context of the Seventh Framework Programme for Research.
I would like to end by thanking Mr Buzek and congratulating him on his report on this research.
Jerzy Buzek (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (PL) Mr President, I would like to thank everyone for their contributions to the debate. The entire European Parliament has worked on the Seventh Framework Programme. The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy received opinions from eight different committees.
I briefly wanted to comment on the most important responses. The Framework Programme does have a shortcoming: insufficient funds. It is the only part of the Union budget which is growing. The growth rate has been approximately 30% per year on average in comparison with the Sixth Framework Programme. However, we had expected the growth rate to be twice that amount. That is why we are not satisfied and why we feel that an opportunity has been missed. Now, the important thing is to use what we have as best we can. The Seventh Framework Programme is meant to be the fly wheel of the Lisbon Strategy. We have to unlock the potential of the 25 EU Member States. We have to achieve synergy between national programmes and regional activities. The most important slogan is ‘excellence in each project’. The second slogan is ‘science closer to industry, with an emphasis on innovation’. The third issue is fundamental research and the independence of the scientists conducting this research. Finally, the fourth issue is ‘people’ – ensuring the development of talent and making sure that the most talented have good conditions for implementing ideas. Otherwise, we will never succeed with the development and employment strategy for the EU.
Two thematic priorities are health, about which there can be no doubt, and energy for Europe, or in other words clean, safe and secure supplies. We have too little crude oil and gas. We definitely need to turn our attention to renewable energy, clean coal technologies and nuclear energy. We cannot reject any of these.
Finally, the most important thing is to implement the Seventh Framework Programme on schedule. The European Parliament voted on the financial perspective barely a month ago and is voting on the Framework Programme in two days’ time. This is a fantastic rate, so let us keep it up. I appeal to the Council to adopt a common position as soon as possible.
Thank you to Commissioner Potočnik for his excellent collaboration. I am convinced that the European Parliament and all those present here are prepared to continue this cooperation, and we must do so on time.
Philippe Busquin (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, I should like even so – hard on the heels of what Mr Buzek has just said about the trialogue we are going to have – to condemn the Council’s absence from this debate. The budget we are debating is the third European Union budget. Research is a vital tool of the Lisbon Strategy, and, by putting forward the objective of 1 January, Parliament is committing itself to ensuring that the scientific and industrial community is respected. The absence of the Council is a discouraging sign just when we are initiating a trialogue, which will have to take place quickly.
President. Mr Busquin, the criticism has been received and will be addressed.
Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I should like to answer succinctly as many as possible of the concerns and issues raised. Firstly, on behalf of the Commission and personally, I should like to thank all the Members for their cooperation and support, for which I am very grateful. The number of speeches made this morning clearly proves that much attention has been devoted to the issues concerned and sends a clear signal as to the importance of European research to the future of Europe and to our lives and economies.
I shall start with the budget and budgetary structure. The difference between the budgets that Parliament and the Council are proposing is now 2%, which is a very minor difference. I believe that we have a common understanding and that agreement on this point should be relatively easy.
I would like to point out that one must be careful when comparing the Sixth and Seventh Framework Programmes, as these are structured differently and are sometimes difficult to compare. For example, in current prices, there is a 60% increase for actions under FP7, against one of 30% for the old continuity actions. Therefore, an increase of over 30% for certain continuity actions means that we are actually making these clear priorities.
Twenty-five per cent of the actions are new, and approximately 75% of the actions are continuity actions. As regards thematic priorities, we must understand that these will also be addressed by the European Research Council, either now or in the future, but of course we do not know in advance what the structure of those thematic areas will be.
Turning to small and medium-sized enterprises, I honestly have nothing against 15%, but believe that this must come about through political change. That is why I advocate simplification and why I believe that the 15% or 25% additional funding we are offering to small and medium-sized enterprises should result in changes. That is why we must pay attention to their needs, particularly in the work programmes.
Concerning energy, it is clear – as a number of you quite rightly pointed out – that this is one of the major challenges we must address in the future. We all agree on this. However, the Commission’s opinion is that the challenge is simply too serious for us to leave any potential area out of the research – from renewables to hydrogen fuel cells, clean coal, nuclear energy, smart networks and more efficient use of energy, etc.
This a truly important issue, and on the subject of environmental challenges such as climate change, I would say that these are more serious than we are sometimes ready to admit. Practically all our efforts in the field of research should move in a direction that makes our lives easier in the future. If we continue in the current direction we will be faced with some very serious challenges.
I would like to make a few remarks regarding embryonic stem cell research and the European Research Council, which I talked about in my introduction. As regards embryonic stem cell research, if you ask any top scientist about this – as I have done recently – they will tell you that the right approach to addressing major health issues is through a combination of efforts from different sources and origins. That is their clear answer.
I was asked a question on the Eurobarometer on biotechnology. As you know, the Commission regularly conducts Eurobarometer public opinion surveys on issues relating to biotechnology. The 2006 version is currently being finalised and should be available in the next ten days. However, since the question put was a clear one, I can tell you that, as regards the views on embryonic stem cell research across Europe, 55% of the population surveyed approved of this provided there was the usual government regulation or tighter regulation. Seventeen percent did not approve, except under very special circumstances. Only 9% did not approve under any circumstances, and 15% did not know. So, if one were to draw a line, 50% would approve this with tighter regulation, 25% would oppose it, some would allow it under very special circumstances, and 15% do not know. By the way, this is in line with the study published last year on social values as regards science and technology. This study found that over 90% of European citizens believe that medicines and new medical technologies will have a positive effect on our way of life over the next 20 years.
I should say that we are aware of the differences that exist between different countries as regards what we are discussing today. This is not really a discussion about moral issues, but on whether we can establish a system at European level that strikes a balance between the very different national practices, bearing in mind ethical considerations. I truly believe that the Commission’s proposal is going in the right direction.
The European Research Council represents a major change of mindset in Europe. That is why we should all be proud of what we are delivering. I want to try to convey to you how seriously I am taking this. Last weekend Professor Kafatos and I were in the United States and met the presidents of the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health. I wanted him to be clearly visible on stage and for him to be seen as someone with whom they should correspond and cooperate in the future.
I fully agree that the Cohesion Fund and the Framework Programme on Competitiveness and Innovation should be used hand in hand. Therefore, I fully agree with the inclusion of the concerns of the less-developed regions. We have to improve capacities there. We have to do everything in terms of infrastructure so that they can compete as regards excellence, and we need this excellence because we are in a global race. It is crucial that we understand that.
Fisheries will be a cross-cutting issue on which special attention should be focused, and the Commission has clearly underlined that.
Women are genuinely under-represented and we are trying to do our best to change that.
Technology platforms have vast potential. They have developed from research actions but have already outgrown that purpose and have a role to play as regards lead markets and the European Institute of Technology, etc. They will be a crucial factor.
As regards simplification, this was one of the most difficult tasks I have ever undertaken, but we are pushing ahead as hard as possible on this.
In reply to the question from Mr van Nistelrooij about the mid-term review of the structural funds, I cannot commit myself because this is not in my area. However, it is a proposal in which I have an interest and I see it as a logical proposal which is going in the right direction.
As regards the point on education, we are trying to pay special attention to universities because we believe that they could do more than they are doing now and that sometimes we are not too benevolent towards them.
In conclusion, time truly matters, as some of you have underlined. It is crucial that we deliver the programme on time, so that the implementation rates in 2007 are as high as in the past. That is very important because it is a political affirmation of research and development that would strengthen our hand in future debates, which also link into budgetary issues. We want to go beyond the framework programme and into the European research area. There has been a switch of direction in Europe since the Second World War to a knowledge-based economy. Also, the rules for participation should be addressed very carefully because they are part of this timing issue and we should consider them carefully.
The Commission is willing to be flexible and constructive in this trialogue, and wants to make a success of our common endeavours.
Finally, I agree with those of you who feel that the budget should be higher, but at this moment the best thing is to focus on the delivery. If we focus on delivery we can prove that we need more financing in the future and that we can change European reality.
President. The debate is closed.
The vote will take place on Thursday.
Written statements (Rule 142)
Alessandro Battilocchio (NI). – (IT) Those who side against the use of human embryos for research purposes declare that they stand for life and the dignity of the human being, because they defend the existence of an embryo that biologically wants to live, but which in the specific cases referred to would not actually have this chance because it is doomed to destruction. Those who side with research are also fighting for life, to offer the prospect of a dignified, normal life to tens of millions of women and men in Europe – real, live, breathing people – who suffer from diseases of the cardiovascular or nervous systems, diabetes or other diseases. It is important to give research a green light, for the sake of every person’s right to enjoy the best possible state of physical and mental health and to benefit from the extraordinary progress that science can offer. It is right, however, to limit indiscriminate research (reproductive cloning, chimeras, the creation of embryos specifically for research purposes, etc.) and to examine the morality of it, just as it is also right to respect the wishes of the people in those Member States where ethical issues prevail over progress. For all the rest, limiting our possibilities means depriving many people of the hope of a better future.
Gábor Harangozó (PSE). – Within the context of the revival of the growth and employment Lisbon objectives, the Seventh Framework Programme plays a role of the utmost importance. As a matter of fact, the Seventh Framework Programme aims clearly at contributing to the targets of the Lisbon Strategy as a whole, which in itself bears broad challenges. The development of a genuinely knowledge-based society is indeed a cornerstone for achieving the growth and employment objectives. It is now therefore one of the top priorities for the Union as a whole through the development of research and innovation, the development of the Union’s attractiveness and the promotion of new technologies.
To achieve such objectives the current levels of funding of the Sixth Framework Programme must at least be preserved. Any budgetary cuts are therefore to be avoided. If the Union wants to boost research and innovation within the framework of the growth and employment objectives, optimal use of available resources is required. Efficient use of resources should of course go along with the simplification of the funding schemes to encourage the participation of SMEs in the Framework Programme. In this respect, I strongly welcome Mr Buzek’s report.
Véronique Mathieu (PPE-DE). – (FR) Medical progress, and scientific progress in general, give rise to many debates and controversies. The crisis when it comes to determining ethical bases for medical research is, indeed, partly linked to the apparently uncontrolled, and worrying, expansion in what human beings are capable of doing.
The links between science and ethics directly affect human life, and we are therefore led to make some major political choices. Our long-term responsibility is huge.
Cloning for research purposes deserves to be encouraged through appropriate funding of research within the Seventh Framework Programme for Research. Researchers must be able to use stem cells in the context of fundamental and applied research. Research for therapeutic purposes is, indeed, vital if chronic or degenerative diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and neglected diseases are to be conquered.
The European research programme must, therefore, fund only rigorously controlled research for therapeutic purposes. It must in no circumstances permit either reproductive cloning or research aimed at modifying the human genetic inheritance. Where the use of human embryonic stem cells is concerned, institutions, organisations and researchers need to be licensed and to be subject to controls in accordance with the rules of the Member State concerned.
Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) To begin with, I would like to congratulate Mr Buzek for his excellent work, which will be instrumental in attaining the Lisbon Strategy goals. I agree with the rapporteur that research and development are multipliers of growth; therefore, it is necessary to ensure greater involvement of the business sector in the research effort.
I welcome the Commission’s proposal to more than double the EU research budget in the coming budget period and to improve the regulatory and administrative environment, particularly by emphasising the transparency of the evaluation process and by minimising project preparation costs.
We need new technologies for the environmental, transport and energy sectors. Research must also be advanced in the healthcare sector, targeting in particular cardiovascular and infectious diseases, transplantation and novel drugs. However, I disagree with the original proposal for financing those types of research that are prohibited in some Member States and that contravene the principles of protecting human life and dignity from conception to natural death. I have in mind the invasive research of live human embryos and the harvesting for research purposes of oocytes from women.
I firmly believe that the Seventh Framework Programme can secure better conditions for researchers and university students, and broaden their cooperation with top expert teams. This will speed up research into many scientific problems that impact the quality of life enjoyed by EU citizens.
(The sitting was suspended at 11.55 a.m and resumed at 12.05 p.m.)