Brussels, 20 Jul 2004
The Council adopted the following conclusions:
"THE COUNCIL, having considered the Court of Auditors' Special Report N° 1/2004 and the Commission's response to it7:
1. WELCOMES the report which examined the organisational, administrative and financial aspects of the implementation of the Fifth Framework Programme and the rigour of its analysis;
2. ACKNOWLEDGES the overall conclusions of the report which pointed to the complexity of the rules applicable to the Fifth Framework Programme intervention mechanisms, as well as to shortcomings in the Commission's organisational, coordinating and management structures across five Directorates General, and insufficient human resources and support tools;
3. WELCOMES, in the context of the preparation and implementation of the Sixth Framework Programme, the Commission's achievements in following up and implementing the Court of Auditors' recommendations in such areas as internal co-ordination and management instruments, ex-post control of projects, staffing and the use of information technology;
EN 4. RECALLS with satisfaction the expeditious manner in which the legislative Decisions on the Sixth Framework Programme8 were taken, in codecision with the European Parliament, which contributed to the effective launch of the programme;
5. ACKNOWLEDGES that work is necessary to further streamline the management and the procedures applied to project proposers and promoters in the Sixth Framework Programme in order to achieve high quality participation in Community RTD programmes and to avoid unnecessary administrative burdens, while ensuring that the financial interests of the Community are safeguarded in accordance with the Financial Regulation;
6. NOTES that:
- the choice of cost systems offered to the participants should take into account the various accounting approaches in the Member States and the RTD organisations concerned, so as to allow for the widest possible participation;
- there is an ongoing need to build on best practice to reduce considerably the average time in approving and funding of projects, whilst ensuring the transparency of the procedures;
- the quality of the scientific assessment and of the selection procedures of the proposals for funding should be ensured, including through the full involvement of the programme committees;
- it is in the nature of ambitious and innovative RTD projects that they carry a certain risk as to the results achieved;
7. CALLS ON the Commission to continue its efforts, in response to the Special Report, to improve its organisational and management approaches to the implementation of the Sixth Framework Programme and to report on this before the end of 2004, based wherever possible on quantitative indicators and on the practical input of participants. This should be carried out in the context of the assessments and reports foreseen under Articles 4 and 6 of the Sixth Framework Programme Decision before the Commission submits its proposal for the next framework programme which should aim at simplifying the implementation process to make it more user friendly, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups, and in compliance with the Financial Regulation.
8. UNDERTAKES, together with the Commission in their respective competencies, to ensure that the implementing regulations and accompanying guidance documents are adopted in time for the launch of the Seventh Framework Programme."