Preparation of the Competitiveness Council of Ministers, Brussels - November 26th 2003 (full version)

November 26, 2003

Brussels, 25 November 2003

The following research points are included in the programme of discussion for the Council meeting to be held tomorrow in Brussels under the chairmanship of the Italian Minister for Education, Universities and Research, Letizia Moratti. The European Commission will be represented by Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin

Enhancing competitiveness and growth

The Council will discuss the Initiative for Growth and the "Quick Start" programme associated with it. Following the debate, the Presidency seeks adoption of Council conclusions. The "Initiative for Growth" was endorsed by the October 16-17 European Council. On November 11, the Commission published a Communication (COM (2003) 690 final) to further elaborate on the "Initiative" and to define the "Quick Start" list.

The Initiative for Growth aims at encouraging Europe's economic recovery by focussing on transport infrastructures and major research projects. "QuickStart" research projects focus on space, nanotechnology, next-generation lasers, and hydrogen and fuel cells.

Stem cell research

The Council will discuss the Commission proposal for a Council Decision that aims at establishing "implementing provisions" with regard to research activities involving human embryonic stem cells eligible for EU funding in order to find a political agreement.

At the Council meeting on 22 September, it was decided that the issue would be discussed again following the European Parliament's opinion. On 19 November, the EP delivered its opinion in which it proposes amendments to the Commission proposal.


The Council will discuss the White Paper on "Space: A New European Frontier for an Expanding Union" presented by the European Commission on November 11. The policy paper was developed in close co-operation with the European Space Agency (ESA) and calls for substantial additional spending on space. It also recommends action to ensure Europe's independent access to space, to enhance space technology, promote space exploration, attract more young people into careers in science and strengthen European excellence in space science.

European Space Policy will be implemented through a new multi-annual European Space Programme. It will identify priorities, on a five-year basis, for research, infrastructure development, services and technology. Applications might include satellite broadband telecommunications to tackle the "digital divide", and earth observation, communication and positioning systems.


The Council will discuss the issue of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). ITER aims to build a new large-scale experimental reactor producing a high level of energy through the fusion of hydrogen nuclei at very high temperatures. ITER partners include the European Union, Japan, Russia, Canada, the United States, the People's Republic of China and South Korea. The EU is participating with a total of €750 million, representing the biggest share of the EU's €1.250 billion EURATOM Framework Programme (2003-2006) budget.

The programme should create conditions for the construction of the ITER facility over the next few years. Total costs for ITER construction and operation should amount to €10 billion over 30 years. Two European countries, Spain and France, have presented candidate sites. Japan and Canada also presented candidate sites. The decision on the site and cost-sharing arrangements should be taken at an international level by the end of year. Should the Council not take a formal decision on the site and cost-sharing arrangements at EU level during the meeting, the issue will be discussed again on December 3.


The Presidency will inform the Council about the outcome of the "European Convention on Life Sciences and Biotechnology" conference held in Rome on 21-22 November.

The emphasis has been put on technology transfer, training and communication. The Council should allow short remarks from the table.

DN: MEMO/03/240 Date: 25/11/2003

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