Brussels, 5 July 2006
OPINION of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Proposal for a Council Regulation (Euratom) laying down the rules for the participation of undertakings, research centres and universities in actions under the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community and for the dissemination of research results (2007-2011) COM(2006) 42 final - 2006/0014 (CNS) _____________
Full text of Opinion in MS Word file on ESC website
Conclusions and recommendations
The EESC welcomes the Commission's proposals on the new rules for the participation of undertakings, research centres and universities in implementing the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) in the areas of research, development and training in the nuclear sector and the dissemination of its results for the period 2007-2011.
The proposals aim to simplify and streamline procedures and methods with a view to the practical implementation of the Lisbon strategy, as redefined by the European Councils in 2005 and March 2006, and in order to meet the needs of the various research players and end users. However, final judgment on the success of these measures can only be made after the implementation rules are finalised.
The Commission proposals up to and including Chapter III are virtually identical to those relating to the 7th RTD Framework Programme in the non-nuclear sector, even though the numbering is different. The Committee therefore refers to its opinion on the subject and reiterates and draws attention to the comments contained therein which are also of relevance to the text of the proposal currently under review, up to and including Chapter III.
In particular, the Committee believes that the European nuclear fusion programme is a text-book example of genuine integration of Community efforts and of fully coordinated action, in the framework of the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) and the Contracts of Association.
This programme plays a key role for the EU in the area of fusion energy research, and leads to ongoing Community support in the form of financial and human resources and is enhanced by high environmental sustainability through the ITER/DEMO project activities.
The Committee is convinced that nuclear energy, which generates approximately one third of the electrical energy currently produced in the European Union, contributes to the independence and security of energy supplies and to the sustainability of European economic development, in line with the Kyoto Agreements; this, however, is on condition that better, more efficient and safe waste management standards are applied and that competitive European research and industries in the area of nuclear technology and services can be developed.
The Committee considers that appropriate levels of Community funding are scheduled for research, training, demonstration activities, coordination and support, networks of excellence, and the financing of fusion energy research.
The EESC stresses the need to promote research and the application of clean and safe technologies, in accordance with the needs and characteristics of individual Member States and urges that respect be shown for the decision of those Member States which do not consider that nuclear energy provides the answer to the problem of how to meet their future energy requirements and also take account of this stance in their research programmes.
The EESC highlights the role of training activities and programmes designed to develop careers in research and stresses that these actions are particularly important for the private sector, civil society and the general public.
The EESC believes that to enable participation in EURATOM FP7 and its specific programmes, it is vital to provide a framework of rules that is simple, comprehensible, clear-cut and transparent and that, above all, can provide certainties to potential players, particularly those of a smaller scale, on the principles and criteria that govern access to contracts and project management, as well as their evaluation, selection and formulation.
The EESC regrets that this is not always reflected in the proposal and believes that the efficacy of these rules should be monitored by independent experts after a reasonable period of time and that the assessment report should be submitted to the Council and the Committee.
The Committee considers that in order to respect the "value for money" principle vis-à-vis European taxpayers, the promotion and dissemination of research results is essential. It therefore points out that a fair balance must always be struck between, on the one hand, the protection of Community interests and the concerns of the Member States, not least as regards defence, and intellectual and industrial property rights, and on the other, the equally significant risks that could arise in cases of an inadequate dissemination of scientific and technical information in the sector concerned.
Lastly, the Committee believes it is essential that the IPR helpdesk be reinforced in order to offer timely and proactive assistance to potential participants in grant agreements and for indirect measures to support researcher training and development, as well as for the preparation and signature of consortium agreements.