Minister Mauri Pekkarinen's address on Finnish Presidency's research and innovation priorities to EP ITRE Committee, 12 July (extract)

July 14, 2006

Helsinki, 13 July 2006

Minister Mauri Pekkarinen at the ITRE Committee, 12 July

[...] the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for research is an important instrument and one of the key dossiers on the Finnish competitiveness agenda. Finland will commit to promote the Programme in close and constructive partnership with the European Parliament.

One of our key objectives is to bring into conclusion the negotiations on FP7 for research. Even within the tight schedule, I strongly believe that we will be able to succeed with joint effort, a pragmatic approach by the Parliament and the Council and with some goodwill.

Debate at the Parliament and the Council show that the FP7 for research will be developed into a worthwhile instrument. Improving the European competitiveness requires new initiatives and significant efforts at the national and Community level. It will be vital to fulfil the research community's expectations by launching the FP7 promptly and providing the European research community with new opportunities for partnerships.

I am pleased to note that the Parliament has been highlighting the FP7 as a significant part of the Lisbon strategy. I also greatly appreciate the strong commitment the Parliament has demonstrated in promoting the decisions on the Framework Programmes and would like to thank the Parliament for its position following the first reading, which I thought will provide an excellent basis for the future negotiations. I am convinced that the Parliament's views will significantly add to the debate on the content of the FP7 for research. We have decided to organise an additional Competitiveness Council meeting on 24th July to provide the Parliament with a prompt response with the view of launching the second reading.

I would now like to draw your attention to a few special questions.

Using stem cells derived from embryos in research and funding this research within the FP7 for research is a critical ethical question. The Council has yet to express its view on the Parliament's proposed amendment, which we will examine carefully. It is quite understandable that the Parliament considers the nature of, and the procedure relating to, this question to be such that it will be incorporated in the decision on the Framework Programme.

We have made robust progress on the matters regarding the European Research Council (ERC). We fully agree with the Parliament on guaranteeing the ERC's scientific independence. I am sure that we will find the solutions to the questions, mainly technical in nature, that remain open.

International co-operation is vital for Europe on all fields of research. The ITER project is a good example of this. This project to develop fusion energy will be crucial to finding new energy sources long into the future. In May, the international agreement between the ITER partners was signed in Brussels. During the coming autumn, the Council is expected to adopt the necessary Council decisions to enable the EU to fully participate in the ITER project and commence its building urgently.

A few words about innovation policy, which is one of Finland's horizontal themes during the coming autumn.

Europe's innovation policy has scope for improvement. The problem in Finland, as in the other Member States, appears to be that contributions towards innovation and skills are not to a sufficient degree transformed into commercial and competitive products. Our major challenge is to find and employ the political measures to best increase the market's appeal for innovation.

One first objective is to establish innovation policy as a permanent topic in the debate on the EU's competitiveness. The second objective is a very practical one. In December, the last Competitiveness Council meeting during Finland's term is set to discuss concrete development measures, which the next President, Germany, will be able to promote.

At this point, I can bring greetings from the informal meeting of competitiveness ministers in Jyväskylä, where the challenges to European innovation were widely discussed. The meeting sends out an important message of a need for a general "roadmap" to promote innovation. Simultaneously, we should focus on EU-level action that benefits everyone while increasing innovation potential. Some detailed development projects are also being outlined and worked on during the autumn.

Finland's EU Presidency

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