The European Research Area and of the 6th Framework Programme: Support for implementation of public policies
In the space of just over two years, the European Research Area (ERA) has become the reference framework for research policy issues in Europe. Proposed by the Commission in January 2000, this project was endorsed by the Lisbon European Council in March 2000 as a central component of the process of developing a knowledge-based economy and society in the EU to promote innovation, competitiveness and employment, sustainable economic growth and social cohesion. The conclusions of the June 2000 Feira European Council also referred to it, as do the conclusions of the November 2000 Nice European Council, which called for a progress report on its implementation for the Spring European Council in Stockholm.
The ERA is more necessary and urgent than ever:
Among a number of means to implement the objectives of the ERA, the EU has also its financial instrument for promoting research and European cooperation in this area, namely the framework programme.
The relationship between the EU's research efforts and the national research efforts is changing. Implementing the framework programme will require a genuine partnership between the EU and its Member States and with other European scientific cooperation organizations.
The new framework programme will be based on the following main principles:
In the framework programme as a whole, and especially in research activities specifically geared to helping implement Community policies, a special effort will be made to maximize the dissemination of results and to express them in terms that are readily understandable to decision-makers, so as to help them implement public policies.
The Framework Directive on Water can be taken as an example of this type of support. On the 23rd October 2000 the European Parliament and Council passed a Directive establishing a framework of community action in the field of water policy (Water Framework Directive- FWD). The Water Framework Directive (FWD) raises major challenges; these include an extremely demanding timetable, in particular in the nine preparatory years; the complexity of the text and the diversity of possible solutions to scientific, technical and practical questions.
A further problem is that a common understanding and methodologies for the application of the different areas of the FWD do not necessarily exist. Member States have, historically, developed approaches to monitoring, impact assessment, economic analysis etc. that will need to be compared in order to be certain that they provide comparable level of results over the range of ecosystems covered in the European Union. Accession Countries will also have to start to adjust their environmental legislation to be compatible with EU Directives and standards. The Framework Water Directive imposes a series of deadlines for the reporting by Member States to the European Commission.
The implementation of this Directive will have very considerable long-term implications on information needs and research objectives covering all European river basin and coastal zones. An effective and coherent water policy must take account of the vulnerability of all surface and ground waters, including aquatic ecosystems located near the coast and estuaries or in gulfs or related closed seas, as their equilibrium is strongly influenced by the quality of inland waters flowing into them.