Research spending cuts feared

October 15, 2004

The planned doubling of the European Union research budget could lead to cuts by national governments in their own programmes, the EU research commissioner-designate has warned.

Speaking at a European Parliament hearing ahead of his taking office in November, Janez Potocnik said: "We have to be careful that there is no reaction among member-states that they reduce national spending on research."

He argued that negotiations over boosting budgets for the EU framework programme to €40 billion (£.7 billion) needed to be achieved alongside commitments from national governments that they would ring-fence spending. "We have to commit member states to do their part," he said.

Mr Potocnik's confirmation in his job is all but assured after MEPs welcomed his comments at the hearing. The Slovenian is in favour of encouraging the public to accept research that some consider ethically and environmentally dubious. He has said that studies on stem cells "should not be ruled out" where they promised to "help thousands" fight serious illness. On biotechnology, research had been "too burdened by the GM effect" and was "extremely important" for industry. And on nuclear fusion, with a decision looming on whether Europe should build a model reactor, he said the EU should "not close an option that's promising".

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