Commission charts progress on mobility strategy
12 March 2003 - The European Commission has published its first progress report on the steps taken so far to implement the EU’s mobility strategy for the European Research Area.
The strategy outlines a series of actions to overcome the financial, legal, administrative, and practical obstacles which restrict researcher mobility in Europe. The report describes the considerable progress made at EU level in the 18 months since the Commission adopted the strategy in June 2001.
In terms of legislative and administrative obstacles to mobility, steps have been taken to make it easier for researchers from third countries to enter Europe. The Commission’s Research, and Justice and Home Affairs Directorate-Generals are co-operating closely in this field and a Communication is planned for later this year on the exact measures to be taken to improve entry conditions for third country researchers. A proposal for a legal initiative in this area, which could have beneficial consequences for foreign researchers, is currently under discussion.
The Commission has also made efforts to tackle differences in the social security systems in the EU – one of the biggest obstacles to the mobility of researchers. The Greek Presidency is looking into these issues for migrant workers, including researchers. A Proposal for a Council Regulation on the coordination of social security systems, which would reform and simplify a current EC Regulation in this area, has been proposed. The Barcelona European Council in March 2002 urged Member States to adopt this Regulation before the end of this year.
The report also describes the progress made in recent months to improve the information and practical assistance available to mobile researchers. The development of a pan-European mobility web portal is now well underway and is due for launch in the autumn. A prototype was on show at the FP6 launch conference in Brussels in November 2002.
In parallel to the web portal, the European Commission has moved ahead with plans to set up a network of mobility centres across the EU. These will provide practical assistance to researchers and their families moving abroad. A working plan was adopted in April 2002 and, following a survey of Member States and candidate countries, 40 so-called ‘bridgehead organisations’ were identified. These will help the 33 participating countries to organise the mobility centres at national level. The official launch of the network is planned for October 2003.
When it comes to financial support to promote researcher mobility, 2002 was an important year. The EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for research and technological development was adopted and launched. Out of a total budget of €17,500 million, €1,580 million has been allocated to human resources and mobility activities, known as the Marie Curie Actions. This represents a 70% increase on FP5 and is a clear indication of the crucial role of researcher mobility in ensuring the success of the European Research Area.
The report also outlines other European Commission initiatives over the past 18 months which will have an impact on future human resources and mobility actions. These include an initiative to benchmark human resources in R&D, new efforts to measure the international mobility of researchers, and steps to improve the social visibility of researchers and their careers. The Commission plans to issue a Communication on this last topic in June 2003.
The full text of the progress report is available online.