Internal Policies and EU Institutions

Marie Curie Actions for an Innovative Europe

Brussels -
Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dear President Barroso,
Dear Commissioner Vassiliou
Dear Director-General,
Dear Friends,

I am delighted to be here this morning. As many of you may know, I have always seen myself as first a scientist and an academic and only second as a politician. Being here this morning and addressing you on this topic is therefore the perfect way to start the day!

Dear Colleagues,
There are many reasons why I am a convinced European, but one of them comes from my own past. For over forty years, Poland and the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe were cut off from the main stream of academic research. Our universities were underfunded and our scientists did not have access to the latest publications, and scientific data. I experienced this frustration when I was working in my University.

When we returned to democratic Europe, it was programmes such as Erasmus, Comenius and Leonardo Da Vinci which had an enormous impact on our societies. They helped make our young people come closer together and helped to re-integrate our scientific and research community into the EU.

But the corner stone of the European Research Area has been the Marie Curie programme. It has helped to promote research and excellence in Europe, and has shown what EU added value is by allowing mobility of researchers. This is exactly the kind of programmes we need, not only to support, but to develop, to give impetus to our economy.

Dear Friends,
There are 23 million people currently unemployed across the EU, which is 10% of the active population. At the same time, some employers are reporting difficulties in recruiting, especially for high-skill jobs. We are starting to experience a shortage in the so-called STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).

Marie Curie is the kind of instrumental programme which will help Europe's economy grow through the emergence of knowledge based society and help up-grade our work force. It will also help us achieve the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. Today we not only need growth, we also need smart growth.

One aspect of this smart growth is how to use the research done in the EU more effectively. The strength of America's Silicon Valley and the research corridors on the West Coast is their links to the business community. Research in itself is not sufficient, to create innovation we need to have the ability to apply this research, here is the role for business and a public-private partnership.
Perhaps we should also think about following the Erasmus Mundi example and strengthening third country participation in the Marie Curie programme? This would be a tremendous boost to our neighbourhood policy in both the Mediterranean and on our Eastern borders. Knowledge should not know any borders and the free exchange of ideas will only benefit us in the long run.

If the EU wishes to continue being a success story in this century, we need to put as the highest priority this freedom. Because only through long term sustained investments and support of education and research will we be able to remain competitive, but we will remain competitive also by remaining open to people bringing their skills and knowledge to the European Union. I am convinced that through the Marie Curie programme we have the instruments to make a difference for Europe's growth.

Thank you.