Brussels, 9 January 2004
As its incoming president, Irish Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Harney, has set the agenda for the Competitiveness Council under the Irish Presidency, with a focus on achieving the goals of the Lisbon strategy.
Within this wider objective, the Irish Presidency pledges to make progress in areas such as researcher mobility, intellectual property rights, research infrastructures, and advancing the European Research Area (ERA).
Presenting a booklet detailing the Competitiveness Council priorities, Ms Harney said: 'Since the Lisbon growth targets were set almost four years ago the growth gap between Europe and the US has widened; not because the US is smarter intellectually but because they're better at getting things done.
'We need fewer, not more, prescriptive proposals from Europe. The Competitiveness Council is the engine room of the Lisbon agenda. [...] If things don't move at the Competitiveness Council now, the whole EU vehicle and the Lisbon agenda will stand still.'
In the booklet of priorities, the Irish Presidency states that it attaches great importance to advancing the creation of the ERA. To achieve this, however, it argues that a 'step change' is needed in the research and innovation performance of European enterprise.
To realise such a step change, the Presidency commits itself to reaching the three per cent target for research investment. However, it stresses that 'this investment must show benefits for people and society.'
Another vital element in stimulating the research and innovation performance of European industry, according to the position paper, is the mobility of researchers. 'The Competitiveness Council will seek to progress a range of issues, including the regulatory/legislative issues involved [...] in the field of entry and residence of third country researchers.' Other areas such as the recognition of qualifications and clear rules on the rights of residence will also be addressed.
The Irish Presidency recognises that the Community Patent is important for industry, and must be made available to firms at a reasonable cost. It therefore pledges to 'make every effort to ensure its adoption.' It also highlights the importance of the directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights and promises to make every effort to achieve a common position within the Council.
Other issues singled out as priorities include research infrastructures, where it is stated that 'a European approach is required, given the levels of funding involved and strategic requirements [...] between individual Member States.' Particular attention will also be paid to the industrial exploitation of research carried out in the field of nanotechnology.
In conclusion, Minister Harney admitted that: 'Our legislative schedule is constrained to some degree by the pending European Parliament elections this summer and the prospect of a new Commission later in the year.
'Nevertheless it is our intention to keep up the momentum. In light of the IGC [intergovernmental conference] disappointment, we have no time to lose,' she added.