Brussels, 29 Oct 2002
Reports on the EU candidate countries' progress on the road to accession show that they are ready to participate in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) on an equal footing with the Member States, but that more work is needed in a range of areas.
The European Commission has prepared annual reports on the progress of the candidate countries towards EU membership every autumn since 1998. These reports provide the basis for decisions to be made by the Member States in the framework of the enlargement process. The reports this year were particularly significant, since the conclusions they draw enabled the Commission to finally recommend that the accession negotiations be closed by the end of this year with a number of the candidates.
In the report on Slovenia the Commission reiterated its 1997 opinion that accession would be of mutual benefit. Slovenia has not requested any transitional arrangements and is 'generally meeting the commitments it has made in the accession negotiations in this field,' states the Commission. The report recommends that Slovenia should focus further efforts on encouraging research that supplies relevant technology to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and on strengthening the link between the public and private sectors, particularly through the transfer of scientific know-how.
The framework for cooperation in science and technology is also well established in Estonia, according to the report. The Commission recommends, however, the reinforcement of research related administration capabilities and the strengthening of the research infrastructure.
The report on Malta welcomes the establishment of a new initiative to set priorities and update its science, technology and innovation policy. However 'the development of the research sector, its effective integration into the European Research Area and the promotion of science and research will, in particular, require a further increase in business expenditure on research and development,' claims the report.
'Poland has continued to make progress in enhancing its policy towards science and research and in improving the administrative capacity necessary to implement this policy,' according to the Polish report. In order to complete its preparations for membership, the country needs to 'focus on strengthening the links of research institutes with industry and SMEs [while] ensuring a firm financial basis so as to create the necessary conditions to nurture innovation,' asserts the report.
More work is also needed in Bulgaria. The country has introduced a national framework for the development of science and research and amended its public procurement laws to grant universities and research institutes equal rights with private companies. The Commission is concerned, however, about 'the absence of an effective policy maker for this sector', which has meant that 'an overall strategy for scientific research and technological development is still missing.' Research expenditure also needs to be increased and policies prioritising research must be implemented, states the Commission report.
Meanwhile the European Council decided on 26 October that the candidate countries will participate in the research fund for coal and steel from the day of accession to the EU.
The research fund was established following the expiry of the European Coal and Steel Community Treaty in July 2002. Contributions to the fund by new Member States will be made in four instalments starting from 2006 (2006: 15 per cent, 2007: 20 per cent, 2008: 30 per cent, 2009: 35 per cent).
To see the Commission's reports, please visit: http://europa.eu.int/comm/enlargement/re port2002/#report2002
For further information on the research fund for coal and steel, please visit: http://www.cordis.lu/coal-steel-rtd