Brussels, 20 Feb 2004
The leaders of the EU's three richest Member States met in Germany on 18 February, where Europe's competitiveness was high on the agenda. In a letter to the European Council and the Heads of Government in the acceding countries, Messrs Schröder, Chirac and Blair called for a focus on innovation and the simplification of the research Framework Programmes.
'[G]rowth and productivity in Europe remain too weak,' states the letter. The reasons are given as a failure to by the EU Member States to maximise the benefits of outstanding European research, and barriers obstructing Europe's entrepreneurial potential.
For a more innovative Europe, the leaders of France, Germany and the UK suggest that the European Growth Initiative, adopted in December, should be geared more towards industrial research projects focusing on 'key growth technologies such as life sciences, nanotechnologies, communications technologies, energy technologies and environmental technologies.' The letter calls for more involvement by the European Investment Bank (EIB) in this context.
The leaders agreed that the Framework Programmes have to be simplified in order to make them more user friendly. The priorities should be to promote cooperation between business and research, while boosting future technologies. Improved support for long term, high risk research should also be considered, according to Messrs Schröder, Chirac and Blair.
As has often been claimed by the Commission, the letter goes on to say that 'Investment in R&D [research and development] is only one part of the innovation process. Equally critical to success is the ability of business to transform research initiatives into commercially viable processes and products.'
It is not only business, but also universities and research institutes which are asked to reconsider their approach to research and innovation. '[T]o strengthen the knowledge-based economy, universities and European research centres will have to be encouraged to establish closer links with a view to forming high-level poles of education and research capable of competing at global level.'
The letter also calls for measures to assist Member States in supporting innovation. It calls on the Commission to draw up a timetable with a view to abolishing regulations and reducing bureaucracy 'which unduly hamper competitiveness and innovation.' Another request relates to the establishment of a competition to identify European Centres of Enterprise. The initiative would 'raise the profile of pro-enterprise polices and [...] celebrate success in enterprise across the Union,' claims the letter.
As a means to achieving all of these goals, as well as others in the fields of employment and social policy, the letter finishes by calling for the appointment of a Vice President of the Commission responsible for economic reform. 'This person would push ahead with the Lisbon Agenda and coordinate the work of Commissioners whose portfolios are particularly important for its realisation,' states the letter. To read the letter in full, please