Brussels, 11 May 2005
The economic, social and, to a certain degree, political future of Europe rests on the shoulders of Europe's scientific community, believes French Research Minister, François d'Aubert.
Speaking at the first ever joint meeting between the French Academy of Science and its counterparts in the ten new Member States, Mr d'Aubert also welcomed the promise of a European Research Council (ERC), which, he believes, will constitute the basis of a new form of international solidarity.
'In the tectonic movement that is shaking our research and innovation systems, it is absolutely necessary to avoid that Europe becomes a vast subduction zone,' Mr d'Aubert told his audience. 'For example, according to an MIT study, in the three key fields of semiconductors, IT [Information technologies] and biotechnology, Europe only represents six per cent of the total world research. China, yesterday's world factory, already spends twice as much on research and development (R&D) as France. When can we expect China, world laboratory?' he asked.
According to the minister, research and innovation in the fields of health, physics, chemistry, mathematics and IT represent the ultimate rampart that protects the advanced economies of Europe from generalised impoverishment.
'Without research and innovation, globalisation is nothing more than a vast redistribution of maps on an international scale,' Mr d'Aubert stated, calling on European Member States to promote science and increase the national research budget according to the Lisbon strategy.
Research is one of the areas that can most glue Europe together, said Mr d'Aubert, since common research with tangible results will bring undisputed credibility to the European institutions and will legitimise them in the eyes of European citizens of the 25 Member States.
'I am convinced that, for our fellow citizens, important common programmes in the fields of health, space or the environment will allow to strengthen this desire for Europe,' said Mr d'Aubert. 'The situation today allows us, I believe, to envisage the future with optimism: the construction of the Europe of science is ahead of the rest of the European construction,' he added.
As Mr d'Aubert noted, whether within the framework of community initiatives or within ad hoc European structures, examples of European industrial success supported by scientific headways abound, for example: Ariane, Airbus, Galileo, and perhaps soon, ITER.
'European research has not ceased developing since the first European treaties of 1957, and especially since the creation of the framework programmes,' Mr d'Aubert stated. 'Similarly, great infrastructures, like the CERN in Geneva, Desy in Hamburg, the Laue-Langevin Institute in Grenoble are many 'concrete achievements' that create true European solidarity through science and contribute to European cohesion. With the constitutional Treaty, an additional stage will be reached, by instituting a truly European policy for research and space. Within this framework, the Europe of research will definitively become one of the strongest European realities, tangible for citizens on a daily basis,' he said.
Turning to the subject of the ERC, Mr d'Aubert explained that France wishes to increase the amount of fundamental research financed under the framework programmes, a wish shared by the ten new Member States, he noted. He therefore welcomes the positive discussions on the subject that have taken place in Brussels and Luxembourg.
'Fundamental research will play a leading role in European scientific policy,' said Mr d'Aubert. 'Indeed, a discovery in the field of fundamental research potentially benefits every country, every researcher and every citizen of the world, without distinction of any kind. It is a global public good that France and Europe, through generosity as well as per necessity, have the responsibility to promote. [...] This scientific challenge is not purely symbolic; the Union, the European Union, in terms of science, is about all this above anything else,' he concluded.
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