Commissioner Janez POTOCNIK: Putting the Charter and Code into context: keeping Europe competitive, UK

September 9, 2005

London, 8 September 2005

Lord Sainsbury, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to speak at this conference. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the UK Presidency, and in particular Lord Sainsbury, for placing the issue of researchers’ careers so high on its political agenda.

Nearly six months have now passed since the Commission adopted its Recommendation on the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for their recruitment. I believe that these two instruments are an important step forward in our efforts to make research careers in Europe more attractive.

Today and tomorrow, this conference will focus on these key matters for the future of European researchers. But let me first try to put these discussions into a more general context.

Following the unsuccessful referenda on the EU constitution and the unsuccessful discussions on the EU budget, I am not the only one to believe that we are facing a very delicate moment for the European Union.

We can learn a lot from the negative referenda. Most importantly, that we have to clearly distinguish between facts and perception. Let me give you just one example: Enlargement. The fact is that enlargement is a big success.

It makes Europe stronger, internally and externally. And yet, the perception amongst many people is that we are somehow going too far and too fast in the EU.

I would dare to say that the European Union would need to deal today with the same problems with or without enlargement. Therefore, before making any quick conclusions and changing policy, there needs to be a very detailed analysis of the facts.

It might well be that we have to work also on the perception, not just the policy.

The EU has an obligation to inform and not the least listen to its citizens. We need to put misconceptions straight, but we also need to be open to change where we lack support of the people.

The citizens were split on the Constitution, but not on the analysis of Europe’s main challenge. Many, in particular among the young, are seeing in the European Union a threat against their economic and social future. Others believe exactly the opposite: they see the Union as the best way to challenge the realities of globalisation. So the reason behind their worries is the same one – only their answer is different.

Personally, I am deeply convinced that we have already formulated the right answer to this challenge: the knowledge based economy. That answer happens to be the priority of the Commission to which I belong.

Building on what Europe can do best: providing excellent education, allowing excellent research, making room for creativity and innovation. That is what our “Lisbon” strategy is about. And the reality is probably that here we are going too slow and not far enough.

There is an overwhelming need in Europe to stimulate growth and productivity, and also to strengthen social cohesion. This can only be achieved by placing the emphasis on knowledge, innovation and on the optimisation of human capital.

Therefore, the EU re-launched the Lisbon strategy this spring. The ambition is to develop a knowledge-based society in Europe by focusing on growth and employment and by strengthening the Member State’s commitment.

We must build sustainable leadership in the way knowledge is:

  • Produced, through research;
  • Disseminated, through education; and
  • Applied, through innovation.
This has very significant implications for research: if we are to develop growth and competitiveness, we need to invest more in education and training and in research and development, as well as in innovation.

One essential prerequisite is to have more, well-trained researchers in the European Union. Without this, Europe will not be able to secure and expand its role in science, technology and innovation.

Although more researchers are educated in Europe than in the USA and Japan, for example, today’s level of around 6 researchers in every 1000 members of the workforce means that Europe actually employs fewer than in those countries, where the figure is 9 for the US and 10 for Japan.

At least two factors can explain this apparent paradox:

  • Many university graduates consider it more interesting financially to work in an a business environment rather than in research;
  • There is a strong tendency for researchers to move abroad, in particular to the United States, and they are reluctant to return back to Europe in the absence of more attractive research opportunities.
So what must we in Europe do?

At all levels - at Community level, at Member State level and at the level of universities and research organisations - we need to find ways to strengthen Europe’s human potential in R&D.

We therefore have to work towards achieving three major objectives:

  • We need to increase European research investment in order to reach the levels attained by our main competitors;
  • We need to enhance public recognition of the researchers’ role and contribution to society and to citizens’ welfare, thus attracting more young people to enter the researcher profession; and
  • We need to create the conditions that persuade European researchers to stay in Europe and in the research field, or to return to Europe after having gained experience abroad.
When it comes to research investment, the EU has set as a goal that each Member State should, by 2010, invest 3% of its GDP in research. Now, let me share with you the latest figures on science, technology and innovation which the Commission published this summer:

  • There is currently a stagnation of R&D investment in the EU. We will be at 2,2% of GDP in 2010, if trends do not change.
  • At the same time, research intensity in China is currently growing at 10 % or more per year. If this trend continues, China will, in 2010, devote at least the same share of its wealth to R&D as the EU-25. In other words: China is catching up with Europe, not Europe with the US and Japan.
  • Business-funding of R&D is decreasing from the year 2000. In 2002 it stood at only 55,9% of domestic R&D investment, compared to 63% in the US and 74% in Japan.
I therefore believe that it is time to make some courageous moves forward, including with the EU budget, to turn the current crisis into a real opportunity. We have to create more attractive conditions for companies to work, invest, research and innovate in Europe.

I welcome the clear stance of the UK Presidency to significantly invest in knowledge for our future. We shall work together to help make this a reality.

I also sincerely hope that the negotiations on the future EU budget will arrive at a desirable conclusion in good time to avoid any interruption in support for the various important European endeavours, among which research is prominent.

A desirable conclusion of the budget negotiations is of course also a prerequisite for going ahead with a better and stronger Seventh Framework Programme, the flagship programme for enhancing knowledge in Europe.

Turning to the second objective and the need to enhance public recognition of the researchers’ role in society, the Commission underlined already in its Communication on “researchers careers” in 2003, the need for campaigns to increase awareness.

On this basis we launched in June this year the “Researchers in Europe 2005 initiative” which will, until November, engage hundreds of researchers from across Europe and from different disciplines in various events. We want to give the public a chance to find out about the work researchers do and career prospects in science. In short, to give a human face to research and encourage more people to consider a research career.

Many events are being organised at local, national and European level. The Researchers night on 23 September is one example, science festivals and exhibitions are others - all aiming to bring researchers closer to the public and to encourage the recognition of their role and importance.

I very much hope that these combined efforts from all parts of Europe, the dedication of the operators in a range of original initiatives, and massive public participation in these events will help the general public to become more aware of what researchers do; not only in terms of competitiveness and growth, but also in terms of their positive and effective contribution in our daily life and welfare.

As regards the third objective, the need to develop an integrated strategy for human resources in science and research, the European Commission and the Member States have undertaken a range of specific measures to encourage researchers’ mobility and to help break down the administrative and legal obstacles they face.

Further to the “pure” Marie Curie actions which are the main Community financial instrument to foster and finance mobility, I would like to mention a number of specific achievements:

Firstly, the setting up of the European network of mobility centres ERA-MORE, composed of 200 centres throughout Europe. These centres provide researchers and their families with essential, practical information needed to make their mobility experience a success.

In the same context, one European and national Researchers’ Mobility Portals have been set-up on the web to help researchers to identify training and job opportunities throughout Europe.

And the "Researchers' visa", which should facilitate the entry and stay of researchers from outside Europe is soon to be adopted.

Last, but by no means least, we have the Recommendation on the “European Charter for Researchers” and on the “Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers”, the theme for our conference.

These documents constitute another important target in our joint efforts towards developing and implementing an integrated European strategy for human resources in science and research.

It is clear that that such a strategy must:

  • Deliver better employment and working conditions and more favourable access and opportunities for women. We are suffering from a serious under utilisation of our human resources. Our science and our societies would be much better off if we got rid of the barriers for women researchers to remain in science.
  • The strategy must value international and trans-national mobility as an enriching experience for professional development, for the acquisition and transfer of new knowledge;
  • It must provide the necessary conditions to enable mobility between the public and the private sector; and finally:
  • It must strive to put an end to national or local practices that hamper the recruitment of the best available talents, such as non-transparent recruitment procedures.
The European Charter and the Code of Conduct contribute to all these objectives.

They are the fruit of a broad consultation which was carried out throughout Europe over a period of ten months, and which involved the Member States and the different stakeholders of the research community.

The Charter and the Code will give individual researchers the same rights and obligations wherever they may work throughout the EU. I am certain that if researchers are provided with a fair professional environment, it will create a more creative and better atmosphere for them and, consequently, enhance their research performance.

It is my hope that the Charter and the Code will increase opportunities for researchers in the EU thereby making it more attractive to stay and contribute to realising a true European knowledge society.

  • But for now it is the next step that is crucial: the application of the Charter and the Code.
  • This does not and cannot solely depend on the Commission. It depends on the readiness and commitment of the Member States, the funding bodies, the research organisations and researchers themselves, to carry this strategy forward.
  • Ladies and Gentleman, I therefore call upon all of you - as representatives of governments, higher education institutions, the business sector, the funding councils and research organisations - to make full use of the Charter and the Code and to transpose them into your own national, sectoral or institutional contexts.
I hope that this conference will represent a milestone for implementing these instruments and for pursuing our joint efforts to create a real European labour market for researchers in Europe.

I wish you two days filled with fruitful discussions here in London.

Thank you.

Item source: SPEECH/05/492 Date: 08/09/2005 Previous Item Back to Titles Print Item

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