Brussels, 23 Jan 2004
The prominence that research and innovation will assume under the Irish Presidency has become further apparent, having now been raised by three leading figures from the Irish government in addresses to the European Parliament.
Irish Minister for Labour Affairs, Frank Fahey, echoed assurances from the current President of the European Council, Bertie Ahern, as well as his deputy, and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Harney, that making Europe more attractive for researchers will be a priority during the Irish Presidency, in his address on 22 January.
'[W]e have to seriously question why it is that 400,000 EU science graduates are actually engaged in research and innovation on the other side of the Atlantic,' Mr Fahey told the European Parliament. 'Some of Europe's best brains are working to make the US more competitive and that trend must be reversed, and that talent must be enticed home.'
The minister claimed that the European labour market needs to become more adaptable, offering a better balance between flexibility and security in the workplace, if the continent is to retain its most talented workers. Better regulation and the development of affordable, quality childcare were among the issues he identified as being fundamental to guaranteeing minimum standards for workers.
Mr Fahey also joined those calling for less talk and more action with regard to the Lisbon objective - making Europe the most competitive economy in the world by 2010. 'If that objective is to be achieved, we need to eliminate the rhetoric and start making decisions. We need to deliver on the most ambitious agenda ever put before our legislators, and the Irish Presidency is determined to kick start this process. It is no cause for pride that four years into the process, we are actually further away from our objective than when we started.'
The importance of investing in training and education in the fields of research and innovation was also emphasised at a recent informal meeting between employment and social policy ministers from the EU and acceding countries. The Presidency conclusions emphasise that increased spending on training and education supports economic development. They also highlight that, in particular, 'the EU must invest in training for high skills jobs, innovation and research, to compete with external, low-wage, economies.'
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