Brussels, 11 March 2002
Marie Curie fellowships are one means by which the Commission will ensure mobility between the current EU candidate countries and Member States in the Sixth Framework programme (FP6), Georges Bingen, Head of unit for the Commission's Marie Curie fellowships unit, said on 7 March.
Speaking at the 'European enlargement: new opportunities for research funding' event, organised by the European Commission, the German Federal Ministry of education and research and the European liaison office of the German research organisations (KoWi), Mr Bingen highlighted how the Marie Curie schemes under FP6 will provide maximum continuity and increased flexibility.
In FP6, the scheme will also be open to third country nationals, and participants will not be subject to any age restrictions. A reintegration measure is also proposed, including incentives to return to Europe from abroad. Whereas the present framework programme, FP5, saw only return salary costs fellowships for researchers returning to the Community's less favoured regions, FP6 will introduce reintegration grants for researchers returning to all EU countries or Associated States.
Mr Bingen added that the Commission will also seek to promote excellence through the Marie Curie schemes in FP6, with the introduction of Marie Curie excellence grants, chairs and excellence awards.
One concern among candidate countries is that increased researcher mobility will mean a brain drain from the Central and East European countries to the West. Regarding the Marie Curie fellowships, Mr Bingen stated that the applications selected under FP5 up to February 2002 have meant that 14 per cent of fellowship holders have moved from candidate countries to the EU. However, only 0.5 per cent of fellowship holders have moved from the EU to one of the candidate countries.
Responding to the fear of a brain drain, Norbert Kroó, Secretary-General of the Hungarian Academy of sciences said that the concept is not necessarily a bad thing.
'Brain drain should not be considered negatively. If a scientist can make more of a contribution somewhere else, that is a benefit to society. What we must do is work on the replacements,' he said.
Professor Wojciech Maciejewski, Chairman of the Commission for international programmes of the Polish University rectors' conference, expressed the concern that it is more difficult to find short placements abroad for researchers than placements for the entire duration of a PhD. This poses the problem that many candidate countries are reluctant to sent their top young scientists abroad to do their entire PhD. Andrzej Siemaszko, from the Polish Academy of science and also the national contact point in Warsaw, was more positive. He said that while Poland has trouble sending post doc students abroad because they don't have many, Poland currently has a very high student population as well as high unemployment, which he believes is likely to lead to a higher number of students remaining in academia.
Dietrich Elchlepp from the German Federal Ministry of education and research suggested that one of the reasons why few researchers go to the candidate countries is that the institutions are unknown. He asked those present to consider how awareness of universities and research centres in the Central and East European countries could be raised.
In addition to cooperation with the EU, many candidate countries and Associated States and third countries are carrying on their traditions of regional cooperation, for example the Visegrad Four (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland), the Baltic States and the Balkans. Talking to CORDIS News, Professor Kroó said that while cooperation is good, and both tradition and historical contacts should be preserved, 'these regions should not become ghettos, the iron curtain should not be reconstructed from the inside.'
Professor Kroó lauded the role that science can play in regions such as the Balkans, describing it as a 'stabilising factor'. He added that 'money saved by not being afraid of an enemy in the East can be used to fund this stability in terms of science.'
For information on the event, please consult the following web address: http://www.kowi.de/aktuelles