Draft Summary of Conclusions of the COST (Cooperation in Scientific and Technical Research) Senior Officials Committee held in Strasbourg on 6 - 7 February 2003

May 2, 2003

Brussels, 01 May 2003

Full text of Document 224/03
Suite of documents 224/03

Subject: DRAFT SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS 152nd meeting of the COST Senior Officials Committee held in Strasbourg on 6 - 7 February 2003

1. OPENING OF THE MEETING

The Chairman welcomed participants to the CSO meeting, in particular:

- Mr Gvozden Flego, Minister of Science and Technology, from the Republic of Croatia,
- Ms Nada Lvob- oki , Assistant Minister of Science and Technology, from the Republic of Croatia,
- Mr Zoran Popovski, State Secretary, Ministry of Education and Science of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and
- Mr Helmut Löwe, new delegate (Federal Ministry of Education and Research), from the Federal Republic of Germany.

2. ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA

The Committee adopted the Agenda, as set out in Telex n° 391 of January 2003.

3. APPROVAL OF THE SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS OF THE 151ST MEETING (doc. COST 203/1/03 REV 1)

The Chair informed the Committee that the mid-term evaluation of COST Action 525, referred to in the abovementioned summary, had been completed.

The Committee approved the abovementioned Summary of Conclusions taking into account a statement from the German delegation on Item 9 1 and a statement from the UK delegation on Item 4 2.

4. INFORMATION FROM

- the Chair

The Chair informed the Committee of his visit to Croatia in preparation of the Ministerial Conference end of May.

The Chair confirmed having accepted the invitation by the State Secretary to visit the most recent COST Member State, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Exact date for the visit will be fixed in co-operation with the Council Secretariat.

1 The German delegation stated that it opposes to the majority voting procedure for activity plans and yearly budget split as concluded by the 151st CSO meeting. A new proposal introducing the concept of decision-making based on the proportional weight of delegations will be forwarded to JAF Group by the German delegation.
2 The UK delegation stated that in its view approval of MOUs was given with the proviso that if the budget situation became catastrophic the new Actions would be put on hold.

- the Greek EU Presidency

Mr Bonas, from the Greek delegation, informed the Committee of the latest developments and forthcoming events within the field of RT&D policy during the Greek Presidency.

- JAF and SIG

The Chairs of JAF and SIG informed the Committee that reports from the respective meetings were available and had been circulated to delegations:

- JAF meeting of 23 January 2003 (doc. COST 208/03)
- SIG meeting of 24 January 2003 (doc. COST 210/03).

The proposals made by the two groups to the CSO would be introduced under relevant agenda points.

5. PROGRESS REPORT ON COST OFFICE

Mr Mayer, from the ESF informed the Committee of the recent exchanges with the Commission. The future contract between the Commission and the ESF would be a "Specific Support Actions" contract. The ESF is currently working on its Technical Annex.

Mr Weber, from the ESF, confirmed that legal advisors had been chosen, based on their previous experience with non-profit organisations and the European Commission, to assist the ESF in elaborating the terms of the contract.

During the ensuing discussion the French delegation (supported by I, PO) intervened expressing concerns of the scientific community on the continuity of COST. Several delegations wondered about the timetable asking whether the contract would be finalised in time for the Ministerial Conference and requesting the CSO to be informed on the contents of the contract as soon as possible.

Mr Peter Kind, Commission, confirmed that the present Secretariat could provide advice to the ESF that could help them in developing their proposal to act as COST`s implementing agent. Funding from the 6th FP can only be transferred to the implementing agent after the contract is signed. As mentioned in the letter of 13 June 2002 from Commissioner Busquin to the Danish Minister Sander, the Commission has been prepared to continue providing the secretariat of pre-existing COST Actions during a transition period of a few months after the end of 2002. It would, however, in the present budgetary situation be difficult to continue to provide secretariat services at the current level beyond the end of February.

Referring to the funding available for COST from the 6th FP (50 - 80 Meuro), Mr Kind stated that with a successful reform of COST along i.a. the lines of the Assessment Panel Report a figure towards the upper end of the 'fourchette' could be expected. For the year 2003, the Work Programme, agreed with the Programme Committee, had provided an amount of 12 to 16 Meuro. The yearly figure could be expected to rise substantially with the successful reform of COST.

Several delegations spoke in favour of drafting a timetable on the way ahead. It was stressed that possible delays in funding during 2003 would need clarification in order to allow for appropriate measures at the level of the Actions.

The Chair concluded the discussion by confirming his intention to send out a letter to the TC Chairs depicting the present situation. In the future, information would be forwarded to the TCs on a more regular basis.

6. SIG PROPOSAL TO FORMULATE A FUTURE STRATEGY FOR COST (COST 207/03)

The SIG Chair presented a proposal from SIG to the CSO to decide on a strategy for COST, based on a discussion paper "A Strategy for COST 2003" dated 26 January 2003.

Several delegations were in favour of a COST strategy along the lines of the present discussion paper. Adding a paragraph on the positioning of COST within the ERA to the strategy paper was proposed. The French delegation made a proposal to restructure the document by dividing COST's future strategy along three lines: organisational, scientific and political.

The Chair invited delegations to provide their comments in writing on the basis of the present discussion paper. The SIG Group would meet on 7 March in Brussels to formulate a document to be presented to the CSO.

7. PROPOSAL FOR A REVISED COST CEM (COST 6/2/02 REV 2)

The Committee approved the revised document "Guidelines for assessment, monitoring and evaluation of COST Actions" (COST 6/2/02 REV 2) with one amendment 1.

The Chair thanked Professor Fedi, as representative of the CSO, and all those who had contributed in updating the document for the outstanding work achieved.

The JAF Group was called to re-examine the document in one year in view of experience then gained in the new structure. Other relevant documents (COST 400/01, COST 401/01 and COST 333/2/96 REV 2) would also require updating to reflect the changes in COST.

1 Doc. COST 6/2/02 REV 2, 1st page: two last sentences to be deleted. (Final version set out in doc. COST 222/03.)

8. PREPARATION OF THE MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE IN MAY 2003

- Presentation by the Croatian delegation

Minister Flego informed the Committee on preparations concerning the Ministerial Conference scheduled in Dubrovnik on May. Invitations had been sent out to the Ministers and several positive replies had already been received.

The Chair thanked Minister Flego for his presence at the meeting and affirmed the Committee's preparedness to make the Ministerial Conference a successful event towards the future of COST. Delegations were requested to transmit their registrations for organisational reasons by 15th March.

- CSO Report and Declaration (Draft Conclusions)

Reference documents in preparation of the Ministerial Conference:
- Draft Declaration (dated 19 January 2003)
- Draft CSO Report (dated 18 March 2002)
- Table on progress made since Prague (dated 15 January 2003) (to be used as an aide-memoire/check list for the CSO report).

JAF Chair invited delegations to provide their comments on the present drafts in writing to the Council Secretariat. Revised documents would be discussed by JAF/SIG Group on 20 - 21 March 2003.

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