Report of the R&D Expert Group on countering the effects of biological and chemical terrorism (Commission staff working paper dated 3 July)

July 25, 2002

Brussels, 24 July 2002

Full text

10 July 2002

from: the Secretary-General of the European Commission
to: Mr Javier SOLANA, Secretary-General/High Representative

Subject: Report of the R&D Expert Group on countering the effects of biological and chemical terrorism
- Commission Staff Working Paper

Delegations will find attached Commission document SEC(2002) 698.

Brussels, 3.7.2002 SEC(2002) 698

[...] Lessons from the analysis

2.9 Through analysis of the inventory, Member States identified both research and non-research areas that would benefit from additional stimulation at a European level.

In non-research areas, improved co-ordination in surveillance and outbreak investigation were identified as a high priority and to be considered by other Commission services (in particular DG Health and Consumer Protection) and Member States groups. Risk communication and training were also highlighted.

2.10 In research, Member States identified several areas that would benefit from additional research effort at a European level as well as areas that would benefit from improved European co-ordination. Member States suggested more research topics for countering bio agents than chemical agents.

2.11 Research to strengthen surveillance activities was considered to be a high priority both for additional research and for coordination of existing national programmes. Risk assessment and research on physical protection methods were considered to be medium level priorities for improved collaboration.

2.12 Rapid means of diagnosis and identification are of utmost importance for early detection and management of deliberate release of bio or chemical agents and new diagnostics were identified as a high priority for further research. Biological countermeasures were also considered a high priority including research on vaccines, therapeutics and underpinning basic research. New products and processes for decontamination were consider to be of medium level priority.

3. Next Steps
Recommendations of the Expert Group
3.1 On the basis of the analysis, the Expert Group made the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1 ­ The European Commission to stimulate reinforced coordination in appropriate areas of research. Examples of research topics identified by the Expert Group for improved coordination include, among others, research aspects to underpin surveillance and outbreak investigation, risk assessment and physical protection as well as training activities.

Recommendation 2 ­ The European Commission, DG Research to consider, with others involved, these issues when developing the call for proposals for research to support European policy in the Framework Programme 6, particularly concerning issues related to civil protection, including biosecurity and crisis management.

Recommendation 3 ­ Member States and the European Commission should examine the possibility of stimulating research within the Framework Programme 6 priority themes. Examples of research topics highlighted by the Expert Group for further long term research include, among others, new rapid diagnostics for identifying potential bio and chemical agents, new vaccines against potential bio agents and novel therapeutics.

Recommendation 4 ­ The Expert Group should continue its work, on an ad hoc basis in order to provide the European Commission with a network and mechanism for determining the research efforts needed in the EU and in the context of ERA.

Recommendation 5 ­ The European Commission's Joint Research Centre should keep in contact with the Expert Group, in order to inform it about its activities in this area.

Recommendation 6 ­ The European Commission should ensure that all activities that relate to the Ghent Conclusions continue to be coordinated.

Follow-up to the recommendations
3.2 After consideration of these recommendations, the Commission's services believe that the European Research Area provides a good framework for taking the research recommendations work forward. It generates the conditions to exploit the research potential in Europe by enabling a real coordination between Member States. The new Framework Programme, to be launched at the end of 2002, will help to make a reality of the European Research Area.

3.3 Without prejudice to the decisions which the Commission will subsequently take following the procedures foreseen in the Framework Programme 6 on the areas to be pursued, the research recommendations (1 ­ 3) will be taken forward by the Commission, in conjunction with Member States where applicable, through the three components of the Framework 6, taking into account the relative importance of other research priorities. The Framework Programme 6 provides a mechanism for fostering coordination of research through the programme on strengthening the foundations of the European Research Area. There are opportunities for specific measures in the context of research to support the Community's policy needs (anticipating the EU's scientific and technological needs) and longer term basic research in the context of the thematic priorities.

3.4 The Commission will continue to provide Secretariat support for the Expert Group as deemed necessary. This Secretariat will establish and maintain a restricted access website on the CIRCA system. It will be used as a method for communicating with members of the Expert Group and also provide a mechanism for exchange of information between Member States. The Expert Group will also be invited to form working groups to take forward specific research topics where particular Member States have an interest. The group will be able to convene at short notice in case of emergency.

3.5 The European Commission's Joint Research Centre will keep the Expert Group informed about the progress of the Bioresponse Working Group, the prospective studies, and of any relevant new activities and developments in the context of the Framework Programme 6. Furthermore, it will promptly inform the Council of the findings of the two prospective studies launched in 2002.

3.6 The Ghent summit conclusions also included a reference to improved co-operation between Member States regarding "risk assessment, early warning, the storage of such means as well as research". The Commission will continue to ensure close cooperation between these activities through sharing information and participation in relevant meetings. [...]

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