Brussels, 18 Mar 2004
COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL AND THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
on the presentation of a proposal for a directive and two proposals for recommendations on the admission of third-country nationals to carry out scientific research in the European Community
1. General outline
1.1 Developing research to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy in the world
Since its launch by the Commission in January 2000 the European Research Area has been the lynchpin of the European Union's research policy.1 It received the backing of the Lisbon European Council in March 2000 and is the keystone of the new strategic objective the European Union has set itself for the coming decade: to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy in the world.
To achieve this objective it will be necessary to develop a global strategy to prepare the transition to a knowledge-based society and economy. One of the preferred instruments for achieving this goal is support for the mobility of researchers, as was underlined in a Council Resolution of 10 December 2001. In its Lisbon conclusions the European Council asked the Council and the Commission, together with the Member States where appropriate, to take the necessary "steps to remove obstacles to the mobility of researchers in Europe by 2002 and to attract and retain high-quality research talent in Europe."2 This desire was reiterated in the Council conclusions of Commission, to strengthen the actions being undertaken to develop the European research area, in particular by: facilitating or continuing to facilitate entry and residence for researchers from third countries." This concern was also shared by the European Parliament, notably in its report of 9 May 20003 and a resolution of 18 May 2000.4
Encouraging the mobility of researchers in a globalising world
The mobility of researchers is a key element in the acquisition and transfer of knowledge. The globalisation of the economy, which is more and more knowledge-based, is constantly increasing the international dimension of science. This concern was highlighted in the Commission Communication on the international dimension of the European Research Area5 and is also at the heart of the Sixth Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities,6 particularly within the context of the specific programme for Structuring the European Research Area,7 which sets out to boost mobility by encouraging European researchers to move to other parts of the world and the admission and transfer of researchers from third countries to the European Union.
This new dimension to research has been characterised by a major opening-up of possibilities for third-country nationals to take part in the Sixth Framework Programme. The opening of the doors to researchers from outside the European Union has been seen as a key measure to make the Union more attractive for researchers throughout the world in future.