Habemus FP5! On December 22nd 1998, a thoroughly successful Council has formally adopted the Fifth Framework Programme. During this meeting, the Ministers reached unanimous agreement on the legislation that is required to settle the rules for participation and dissemination. The first calls for proposals will be issued in February and March. The final budget for the programme amounts to 14.96 billion euro, which means an increase by 4.6 percent. Unlike in 1994, a smooth transition will be guaranteed when moving from the Fourth towards the Fifth Framework Programme.
Commissioner for Research, Innovation, Education, Training and Youth, Edith Cresson, anticipates that the freshly approved programme will breathe "a different spirit". The Fifth Framework Programme has been built on a well balanced selection of priorities. Commissioner Cresson insisted on thanking all the institutional players who actively have assisted to still pass the legislation on time. Special praise was reserved for Austria, which at present holds the Presidency of the European Union, the United Kingdom, which preceded Austria in this role, and the European Parliament.
The Council of Ministers, responsible for research, voted through all items of overarching legislation for the establishment of the new programme under both the European Community and Euratom treaty. In addition, legislation was voted through under the two treaties for the settlement of all necessary rules for participation in the programme. The Member States at the Council unanimously agreed on the content of the specific elements which constitute the Fifth Framework Programme. The legislation enacting the entire range of programmes will be passed by the Council in the first months of 1999 as a mere formality, after the text of the specific items has been translated into all the Community languages.
The legislative process for the set up of the Fifth Framework Programme has now come to an end. The European Commission will initiate the next phase in order to implement the new programme as soon as possible. Some major initiatives already have been taken, such as the identification of members for the Expert Advisory Groups, which have to be installed. Second, a call has been launched to select the experts who will sit on the assessment panels to compare competing bids as well as decide which proposals will be taken into consideration for funding.
At the beginning of 1999, the documentation to clarify the new programme for the research community will be available. From February 25th to 26th 1999, a conference will be organized in Essen, Germany, to launch the Fifth Framework Programme. In addition, the national agencies plan information days throughout Europe to illustrate in detail all the subsections of the new programme to the local professional groups of interest. Eventually, the first invitation towards interested researchers and companies to submit proposals for funding is scheduled in mid-February.
The Council of Ministers equally decided on how the overall budget of 14.96 billion euro will be divided between both the four thematic programmes and three horizontal programmes within the Fifth Framework Programme, and the Euratom treaty. For the latter, 1260 million euro has been reserved. The four thematic programmes have been allocated 10,843 million euro:
- Theme 1 - Quality of Life, Management of Living Resources: 2,413 million euro
- Theme 2 - User-Friendly Information Society: 3,600 million euro
- Theme 3 - Competitive and Sustainable Growth: 2,705 million euro
- Theme 4 - Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development: 2,125 million euro
- Confirming the International Role of Community Research: 475 million euro
- Promotion of Innovation, Encouragement of SMEs: 363 million euro
- Improving Human Research Potential: 1,280 million euro
The largest single budget line amounts to 1,363 million euro and has been assigned to the second theme's key action "Essential Technologies and Infrastructures". Next comes the "Training and Mobility of Researchers" line in the third horizontal programme, called Improving Human Research Potential, with 858 million euro. In the third theme, the two key actions "New Perspectives for Aeronautics" and "Innovative Products, Processes and Organization" both receive over 700 million euro.
Over lunch, the ministers dealt with ethical issues in modern research, such as cloning and the use of human embryos. These items will be extensively treated during a major conference, which will take place in Tübingen, Germany, next June. In the meanwhile, the national regulations, separately issued in each Member State, will stay in force. At the closure of the Council meeting, the ministers also agreed to optimize the cooperation relating to the items of research and innovation, with the Mediterranean countries through the MEDA programme of economic and social collaboration.