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FP7 Research Debate - European Parliament Debate is on

08.02.2007

Following the UK Presidency’s resolution of the EU budgetary debate in December, the way has been cleared for finalisation of the Seventh Framework Programme for R&D (FP7). Speaking at the ITRE Committee meeting on January 26 th, Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik urged the Parliament to quickly adopt their report on the European Commission’s April 2005 proposal for the programme, saying that " the calendar for adoption of the FP7 is now extremely tight…If we are to deliver a Framework Programme in time for 2007, we need an agreement in October."

Ten days earlier, MEPs in the ITRE Committee, which covers industry, energy and research, received the long awaited draft report on the Commission’s proposal, prepared by Polish Ex Prime Minister and EPP-ED MEP Jerzy Buzek. The report shows broad agreement with the content of the Commission’s proposal, but also includes many amendments to the Commission’s text.

Above all, the draft report emphasizes the importance of not reducing the proposed doubling of the overall budget, and states that " any reduction in the budget for the Seventh Framework Programme runs counter to the Lisbon Strategy and contradicts declarations by European Leaders."

The Commission’s new budgetary proposal, not yet published, will have to take into account the European Council’s agreement on the 2007 – 2013 Financial Perspective, reached last December at the end of the UK’s Presidency of the Union.

Following protracted negotiations during the Luxemburg Presidency, which failed to reach a conclusion, the European Council agreed to reduce the EU budget to 1.03% of EU member State GDP. The Council promised a 75% increase in the research budget by 2013, from 2006 levels, stating " particular priority should be given to delivering a substantial and progressive enhancement of the EU’s research effort." In other words, it will be steady increase, not the sudden and much hoped for step-change, and it is likely that much hard lobbying remains to be done to ensure the promised money goes where it is needed. How the money will be spent remains unclear.

Mr Buzek’s draft report meanwhile, which will be finalised towards the end of February, - according to the latest schedule - will be voted on by the ITRE Committee at the end of April, and in plenary session in June.

"EWEA is calling for inclusion of the need for a single budget line for renewable energy. Alongside the need for increased funding for renewables, the single budget line is key. Since FP4 ended in 1998, renewable energy research funding has been on the wane, and now the RES sector is calling for sufficient funding to all renewables research. MEPs have called for funding in the region of €250 to 300 million per annum," said EWEA’s Hugo Chandler.

FP4 was also the last time that a framework programme featured a dedicated budget line for renewables research (under FP6 it was included in a wider basket alongside "clean coal" and CO2 sequestration).

"An increased, transparent budget for renewables, in line with the definition laid out in the RES-E Directive, should indicate the full amount of funding available to each technology over the course of the programme," said Hugo Chandler.

On February 7 th, Britta Thomsen, Vice Chair of the ITRE Committee presided over a European Energy Forum debate organised by EUREC and EREC in the European Parliament, entitled "Renewable Energy Research in FP7." A ‘broad church’ group of some twenty MEPs from across the political spectrum, representatives of the EU Member State Permanent Representations (Perm Reps), high level researchers and industry, heard how renewable energies like wind can benefit European security of energy supply, while mitigating the climate changing effects of conventional electricity generation technologies. They heard also how funding for renewable energy has steadily decreased since the oil price hikes of the 80s, and how this reduction is threatening European global market leadership, at a time when the USA, for example, has increased its federal funding for wind energy research.

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