Stem-Cell Research Background for the Competitiveness Council 26/27 Nov.

November 25, 2003

Brussels, 24 Nov 2003

The Council is expected to reach a political agreement on the Commission's proposal on EU funding of human embryonic stem cell research.

This proposal aims at establishing implementing provisions concerning research activities involving human embryos and human embryonic stem cells eligible for Community funding as envisaged by the Council/Commission statement at the time of the adoption of the specific programme "Integrating and strengthening the European research area" adopted on 30 September 2002.

The Commission proposal lays down criteria for the research activities concerned, according to which, in particular, "the human embryos used for the procurement of stem cells must have been created before June 2002 as a result of medically-assisted in vitro fertilisation designed to induce pregnancy, and were no longer to be used for that purpose".

The European Parliament delivered its opinion at its plenary session of 19 November 2003, in which it proposes amendments to the Commission proposal and, in particular, the deletion of the cut-off date for the creation of the human embryos, retaining only the criterion that these embryos must be "supernumerary" early-stage (i.e. up to 14 days) no longer needed for the treatment of infertility and destined for destruction.

From the work done at the Working Group and at the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Council, it arises that all delegations agree that, research activities involving stem cells under the Sixth Framework Programme must comply with strict criteria but there are still divergent positions regarding the use of human embryos for the procurement of (new) stem cells for research to be funded by the Community. At this stage, there is not a clear majority in favour of the Commission's proposal neither supporting the European Parliament's position.

This proposal is based on article 166 (4) of the EC Treaty (qualified majority within the Council and consultation of European Parliament).

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