Brussels, 09 Mar 2006
MEPs, national ministers and other stakeholders have called on the Commission not to reduce the funding allocation for health research that it set out in its initial proposals for the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
The Commission's original proposals called for a doubling of the FP7 budget compared with FP6, with health research set to receive 8.3 billion euro between 2007 and 2013. Since then, however, discussions among Europe's leaders on the EU's financial perspectives have led to a compromise proposal that will see the EU research budget increase by 75 per cent in real terms by 2013 compared with the 2006 level.
Participants at a debate entitled 'What place and priorities for European health research?', which took place at the European Parliament on 7 March, criticised the lack of in-depth discussions so far on future priorities for health research, and called on EU institutions not to reduce funding earmarked for health research in the new framework programme.
The Health Minister of Lithuania, Zilvinas Padaiga, warned that research on a number of diseases in Europe is highly fragmented, and relies on international cooperation and multi centre trials in order to produce timely treatments. Therefore, increased European cooperation is vital for achieving breakthroughs in a number of areas.
Other participants echoed this message, saying the EU should concentrate on areas of medicine where research efforts are insufficient at national level. Professor Josef Smolen, former president of the European league against rheumatism (EULAR), which organised the debate, said: 'The European Union should make utmost efforts to keep excellence in research and researchers in Europe and stop regarding investments in health as a burden.
Professor Smolen called on the European Parliament to insist on as much money as possible for FP7 and to maintain the amount foreseen by the Commission for health research in its initial proposals. 'Defending these positions, the European Parliament should not feel alone, but can fully rely on the support of EULAR and other European scientists' organisations,' he concluded.
Referring to the need to rewrite parts of the FP7 proposals in light of discussions on the financial perspective, Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has previously spoken of the need to avoid cutting the budgets of those activities with the smallest financial allocations in the original proposal, for fear of them losing their raison d'être. In the original proposals, health research had the second highest budget allocation under the Cooperation pillar after information and communication technologies (ICT).