Brussels, 03 Jul 2003
On 30 June the EU Greek Presidency ended its six-month term, successfully meeting the objectives it set itself, particularly in the area of research and development.
In an interview with CORDIS News, Dimitris Deniozos, the Greek General Secretary for Research, outlined some of the highlights and lowlights of the Presidency, underlining in particular the 'breakthrough' that was achieved in reaching a common political agreement on the Community patent.
'It is well known that for more than 30 years, Europe has dreamt of having one unified patent system. The Community Patent is expected to give inventors the option of obtaining, with just one application, a single patent that is legally valid throughout the European Union, at a fraction of the existing cost of doing so,' said Mr Deniozos
'Reaching a political agreement on the patent received a 100 per cent input from the Greek Presidency,' explained Mr Deniozos. Two successive compromises were drawn up and delegates from the Presidency visited the EU's capital cities to seek support for the agreement. 'Even the Prime Minister of Greece invested considerable time and effort to the process,' said MR Deniozos. Also, 'Thanks to the work already carried out under the Spanish and Danish presidencies, the right conditions were created to enable the Greek Presidency to reach a political agreement in March,' he added.
Since then, work has continued behind closed doors. The Greek Presidency has been involved in discussing the implementation of a Community regulation to make the agreement operational, explained Mr Deniozos. The regulation sets out the main principles and features of the jurisdictional system for the Community Patent, as well as the language regime, costs, role of national patent offices and distribution of fees. However, there are still 'areas of discordance' with regard to the regulation, which Mr Deniozos believes will be tabled by the Italian Presidency. In addition, the Greek Presidency has, with the assistance of the Commission, drafted a proposal to revise the Munich patent convention, enabling the EU to become one of its members.
While the Community Patent was the main focus of the first half of the Greek Presidency, Mr Deniozos explained that his country also sought to tackle other issues, most notably the gap between innovation and research in Europe, which he believes has come about due to an institutional divide. 'In the past, innovation and research were on the same ground, and were both present in the EU's Framework Programmes. However, innovation was only a very small part of the Framework Programme, so it was right that the Commission made innovation a priority under the Directorate General Enterprise. Nevertheless, Mr Deniozos believes that this has created a separation between research and innovation, since there are two different Commissioners and Directorate Generals.
'The European Research and Innovation Area [ERIA], The way forward - A contribution of the Greek Presidency for further thought' was a publication aimed at enriching the dialogue on bridging this gap between innovation and research, said Mr Deniozos. The report addresses the opening up of national programmes, the implementation of Article 169, the role of EUREKA in the ERIA, the development of common infrastructures, and the integration of Europe's intergovernmental research organisations in ERIA.
In terms of addressing the three per cent target, Mr Deniozos pointed to another publication by the Greek Presidency which aims to further clarify what could be done to implement the Commission's action plan on boosting investment in research. 'Unfortunately, the action plan is only a shortened list of possible guidelines. With our publication, we tried to take a more in-depth look at the instructions and actions that would be appropriate,' he said.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of the Greek Presidency has been its contribution to the enhancement of scientific and technological cooperation in the Balkan countries. During a ministerial conference in Thessaloniki in June, an action plan and 'shared vision' for the Western Balkans were adopted, extending the opportunities FP6 already offers for scientific and technological cooperation between the countries of the two regions. A working group and two task forces have already been set up to assist the countries in adapting to the project based processes. Mr Deniozos referred to the momentous occasion as a 'firework' on which to end the presidency, adding that he hoped the Greek delegates could continue to work closely with the Italian Presidency in order to further cooperation with this region.
Asked whether he had any regrets or low moments during the six-month period, Mr Deniozos said that there were two items that he wished had been completed. 'I would have liked to have seen the work programme put together for the Balkans' action plan,' he said. He also expressed disappointment with regard to the EU and the European Space Agency's 'unwillingness to go ahead and come to a common agreement'.
Asked whether he was satisfied with the achievements of the Greek Presidency, Mr Deniozos said: 'Since we are involved in the process of creating and maintaining the European Union, we can never be satisfied with our achievements - there is always more work that has to be done.'
Mr Deniozos also had some words of wisdom for the Italian Presidency: 'My experience from the Community Patent has taught me that Europe is based on a mixture of European interests and should not be seen as a simple addition to national interests. We have to think 'European' first, and second Greek, Italian and so on.'
'If we think as Europeans, in ten years, we can find solutions to our problems. However, if we think as we do at present, each one in his own country, there will be very slow progress in Europe,' warned Mr Deniozos.