Brussels, 31 May 2005
Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potocnik has called on Europe's private sector to support the EU's bid to become the world's most competitive knowledge-based economy.
Speaking at the annual conference of the European Industrial Research Management Association (EIRMA) on May, Mr Potocnik outlined the Commission's plans for the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and the relaunched Lisbon agenda, highlighting the central role of the private sector in each.
'But hanging over all of this is the crucial debate on the EU budget for 2007 to 2013 - the so-called financial perspectives,' said the Commissioner. 'The decision by Member States on the financial perspectives, and in particular on the research framework programme budget, will be a moment of truth.'
European leaders, he argued, must decide whether they want a Europe that focuses on redistributing existing wealth or one that focuses on knowledge-based growth and creating sustainable prosperity for its people.
'What we see for the moment is, I am afraid, far from promising. Many Member States' governments, who are clearly worried about keeping the support of their voters, continue to defend traditional posts in the budget, such as agriculture and tourism,' Mr Potocnik continued. 'I am not saying that we do not need to support agriculture and cohesion, but if we are serious about the future of Europe, we need to invest seriously in growth-driving actions - that is, in research, knowledge and innovation.'
Addressing the assembled business leaders directly, Mr Potocnik urged them to use their influence to help promote an EU agenda that he believes is in their best interests. '[W]e need your support to help us convince national authorities to take decisions which are necessary in order to deliver the Lisbon strategy. This concerns the Community budget for the next seven years, and in particular the doubling of the [FP7] budget. I invite you, therefore, to take an active part in the establishment of the national Lisbon reform programmes. Your views are important and must be heard.'
Finally, Mr Potocnik reminded his audience that public policies to create a favourable environment for private research investment are just one side of the coin, and that there is also an obligation on companies to play their part. 'The other side [of the coin] is the decisions of private actors to invest, expand their business, and to take advantage of the measures which public policy actions and programmes offer them. Here, the ball is in your court,' he concluded. To read the full text of Mr Potocnik's speech (in PDF format), please click here