Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


EURATOM: SEVENTH FRAMEWORK PROGRAMME (8087/05, 5057/06, 6185/06, 9981/06)

Letter from the Chairman to Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Science and Innovation, Department of Trade and Industry

  Sub-Committee B considered this document (6185/06) and your Explanatory Memorandum at its meeting on 13 March 2006.

  We welcome the proposals and are content to clear this document from scrutiny at this stage.

15 March 2006

Letter from Lord Sainsbury of Turville to the Chairman

  The above documents (12736/05, 12730/05, 12727/05, 12732/05, 12734/05, 5057/06) were discussed at the recent Competitiveness Council on 13 March.

  Detail of the outcome of this Council has been sent to you by Barry Gardiner. I am writing to further update you on the discussions that took place regarding the 7th Framework Programmes. I attach a report of this discussion at Annex A.

  I will continue to keep you up to date on the development of negotiations relating to the documents above.

7 April 2007

Annex A

REPORT OF COMPETITIVENESS COUNCIL DISCUSSIONS REGARDING THE 7TH FRAMEWORK PROGRAMMES

  As stated in the Barry Gardiner's letter the Council were asked to consider compromise texts for five of the Specific Programmes implementing the 7th Framework Programme and the proposed regulation for the Rules of Participation for 7th Framework Programme. The five Specific Programmes presented were "Co-operation", "Ideas", the two "JRC" (Joint Research Centre) Programmes and "Euratom".

  Ministers were not asked to agree any of the texts under discussion; rather they were invited to take note of the Presidency's texts and progress to date.

  In relation to the Specific Programme texts the Presidency identified two outstanding issues that Ministers might wish to addrdss; the ethical principles that apply in respect of the eligibility of projects to be funded under the 7th Framework Programme, and the governance of the 7th Framework Programme.

  Commissioner Potocnik reported he was pleased with the progress made so far on agreeing a large degree of the scientific content of the five Specific Programmes. he commented that Research had been a "winner" in the December European Council agreement on the Financial Perspectives. However, the budget for the 7th Framework Programme was inevitably going to be less than the Commission had originally asked for. Therefore revisions to the original proposals were likely. The Commission would be ready to do this within days of the final Inter-Institutional Agreement on the Financial Perspectives. The structure and the main components of the Framework Programme would remain but stricter prioritisation was likely. It was also likely they wouod not be able to fund all the Joint Technology Initiatives and Article 169s they had originally hoped, but the Commission remained committed to launching a number of these.

  The points raised by Member States focused almost exclusively on four issues; the two areas of discussions suggested by the Presidency, the Rules of Participation proposal and, in the "Ideas" Specific Programme text, the method of appointing the Director and senior staff to the implementing body of the European Research Council, the Executive Agency.

  A balanced exchange of views took place as to the ethical principles that should apply in respect of the eligibility of research projects involving human embryonic stem cells to be funed under Framework Programme 7, with a number of Member States adopting the for position and a number adopting the against position. Most other Member States considered that the proposal put forward by the Commission, which allows Framework Programme funding for stem cell research, but with certain exclusions and a stricter application procedure than other areas of research, represented a good compromise. Barry Gardiner's letter stated the contribution the UK made in this debate.

  On the governance arrangements for the 7th Framework Programme nearly all Member States felt it was important to retain the Programme Committees ability to approve individual projects and that the Commission needed to provide more information to Member States than in previous Framework Programmes. Barry Gardiner stated the UK felt it was key to strike a balance between simplification and ensuring due regard is given to transparency and accountability when considering the governance arrangementsof the Framework Programme. The UK saw merit in the Commission's proposal that programme committees should focus on strategically steering the programme, through the adoption of work programmes but added that it was important to ensure that replacing Member States approval of projects with an information procedure provided a sufficiently robust system to guarantee transparency and accountability. The UK also agreed that it was crucial that the Commission provided comprehensive, accurate and timely data to Member States to enable them to fulfil their role effectively.

  On the Rules of Participation text many Member States expressed concern that key details were being left to supporting documentation instead of the legal text. Some Member States also had concerns about the removal of the Additional Cost Model.

  Regarding the "Ideas" Specific Programme, a number of Member States reiterated that they wanted the senior staff of the Executive Agency of the ERC to be appointed in agreement with rather than in consultation with the Scientific Council.

  In summary, no decisions were asked of the Council and the meeting represented an opportunity for Member States to have an exchange of views on some of the issues still to be resolved in Framework Programme 7.

Letter from Lord Sainsbury of Turville to the Chairman

  I am writing to update you on the recent discussions that have taken place regarding the budget for the 7th Framework Programme.

  On 4 April 2006 an Inter-Institutional Agreement on the Financial Perspective 2007-13 was agreed between the three European institutions. This agreement provides for an extra €2 billion on top of the €862.4 billion agreed at the European Summit last December and within this extra funding an additional €300 million was earmarked for the 7th Framework Programme.

  An indicative breakdown of expenditure for the Financial Perspectives 2007-13 was part of the discussion on 4 April. The indicative breakdown leaves the final budget for the 7th Framework Programme at €48 billion in 2004 prices.

  This represents a significant reduction from the Commission's original proposal adopted in April 2005. The Commission has yet to produce a revised proposal to reflect the revised budget. However, there have been strong indications that the form and structure of the original proposal will be maintained, but in the light of the reduced budget a reduction in the number of Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) and Article 169 initiatives is to be expected.

  Discussions on how the reduced budget should be divided between the different areas of the 7th Framework Programme are still on-going both in the Council and the European Parliament.

  Following the Financial Perspectives 2007-13 agreement the Presidency are aiming to achieve a General Approach on both of the above documents at the Competitiveness Council 29-30 May 2006.

  I will continue to keep you up to date on the development of negotiations relating to the documents above.

10 May 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Stephen Ladyman MP, Minister of State, Department for Transport

  Thank you for your letter of 10 May, which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 22 May.

  We were very grateful to you for your helpful update on the Financial Perspectives agreed on 4 April, and their implications for the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). We have just published our report[29] into FP7, and are content to clear the dossier from scrutiny ahead of the May Competitiveness Council. We look forward to receiving a response to our report in due course.

23 May 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Lord Sainsbury of Turville

  Sub-Committee B considered this document (9981/06), and your Explanatory Memorandum, at its meeting on 26 June 2006.

  As your EM notes, we cleared the Seventh Framework Programme from Scrutiny by report in advance of the May Competitiveness Council, following helpful updates from you on the likely alterations to the budget. As your EM notes, the amended budget reflects the Austrian Presidency's proposals to Council, which the UK Government supported.

  We are therefore content to lift scrutiny on this proposal.

  We continue to maintain scrutiny on the separate Euratom elements of the budget, which as you indicate remain "subject to negotiation". We would be grateful to you for any updates on these elements and we look forward to receiving a response from you to our report on the Seventh Framework Programme in due course.

28 June 2006

Letter from Lord Sainsbury of Turville to the Chairman

  Further to your letter dated 28 June 2006 on EM 9981/06 I am writing to update you on the outstanding element of the Euratom text still subject to negotiation in Council and the recent discussions that have taken place regarding the 7th Framework Programme.

  The European Parliament had their First Reading of the draft decisions for 7th Framework Programme text on 15 June 2006. Although a large number of, amendments were proposed they do not change the substance of the decisions and the majority are fully consistent with the General Approach. There were some significant amendments relating to the European Research Council, where the Parliament agreed with Council's view that it should be established first as an Executive Agency; stem cell research, where notably the Parliament agreed that the regime under the current Framework Programme should be maintained; and SMEs, where the Parliament wanted to maintain the current 15% target explicitly.

  Following the European Parliament's First Reading, the European Commission produced a revised proposal on 28 June 2006 (11142/06). This largely maintains its original proposal, whilst taking in some elements of the General Approach agreed in Council and the results of the European Parliament's First Reading. in response the Finnish Presidency have acted swiftly to produce a compromise text with the aim of reaching Political Agreement at an extraordinary Competitiveness Council on 24 July 2006 (copy attached). The Presidency text is consistent with UK priorities. The major outstanding issues are, as before, (a) research using human embryonic stem cells, where there are differing views amongst Member States, and (b) continuing concerns from Austria over the role of the Joint Research Centre in relation to nuclear research under the Euratom Programme (the proposed budget for the Euratom Programme is not an issue of contention). The Presidency text does not make changes to the Commission's revised proposal on either of these two key issues. The UK position remains unchanged on both issues and we hope they can be satisfactorily resolved at the July Council.

  The European Parliament is aiming for a Second Reading on the Seventh Framework Programme in November and has asked that the Council provide a final position by September 2006. It is important that Member States reach Political Agreement in July so that the legislative process can proceed to enable the timely launch of Framework Programme 7.

  The Government is content with the Presidency's revised text, which maintains UK priorities, and therefore we would welcome the Committee considering clearing scrutiny ahead of the Competitiveness Council on 24 July. I will continue to keep you up to date on the development of the negotiations relating to the Seventh Framework Programme.

13 July 2006

Letter from the Chairman to Lord Sainsbury of Turville

  Thank you for your letter of 13 July, replying to my letter of 28 June. Sub-Committee B considered your letter, together with the Finnish Presidency's revised text on this proposal, at its meeting on 17 July.

  We were grateful to you for your update ahead of the extraordinary Competitiveness Council on 24 July, and are reassured that the revised text "maintains UK priorities" in your view. We share your hope that the Seventh Framework Programme can now be swiftly agreed in order that it is fully operational from the beginning of January 2007.

  We are content to lift scrutiny on this proposal, and would be grateful to you for any further updates on this important dossier.

19 July 2006



29   33rd Report, Session 2005-06, HL Paper 182. Back


 
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