Brussels, 18 Mar 2004
The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a directive and two recommendations aimed at introducing a 'scientific visa' to facilitate the movement of third country researchers to and within the EU.
Raffaele Liberali, Director of 'the human factor, mobility and Marie Curie actions' within the Commission's Research DG, told CORDIS News that, in his view, the proposals are a significant step.
'The EU is taking steps to ease short-term visits by researchers from other parts of the world at a time when, for example, the United States is going in the opposite direction. This represents a real window of opportunity,' said Mr Liberali.
The proposals, which are the result of close cooperation between the Directorates General for Justice and Home Affairs and Research, include a number of key elements. First, they introduce a fast track procedure for the admission of researchers, whereby Member States' immigration authorities have to deliver residence permits within 30 days.
A major role is also given to the accredited research organisations where the foreign researchers will work during their stay. They are obliged to certify the individual in a 'hosting agreement', which confirms the existence of a valid research project, and that the researcher has the necessary scientific skills, financial means and health insurance.
'Once a researcher has gained their residence permit, they will be able to move freely within the Schengen Member States in order to attend meetings or conferences, and if they wish to extend their stay in the EU, it will no longer be necessary for them to return to their country of origin to submit the application,' Mr Liberali explained to CORDIS News.
Furthermore, the definition of a researcher under the new measures is kept deliberately broad. 'It relates to all qualified individuals in the knowledge and innovation process,' said Mr Liberali. In addition, the single residence permit that will be created will cover all types of researcher contract, such as fellowships, traineeships and scholarships.
Mr Liberali described, as further evidence of the practical and concrete nature of the proposals, how Member State research and interior ministers have already discussed the measures within the open method of coordination in order to reach agreement on fundamental principles contained in the proposal, and to speed up their adoption. The two recommendations that accompany the directive also invite Member States to voluntarily accelerate the implementation of the measures.
Indeed, adopting the directive has already been agreed as a priority for both the Irish and Dutch EU Presidencies, and Mr Liberali concluded by stating his hope that a political agreement would be reached as early as summer 2004.
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