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  Graphic element DEVELOPMENT, REGULATION: EU clears plan to improve access to medicine (02/06/03)  
    A new EU regulation means exporters will now be able to deliver cheap medicines aimed at combating AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in poor countries.  
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  Graphic element CO-OPERATION, MOROCCO: Science builds a bridge over troubled waters (02/06/03)  
    EU delegates meeting their Moroccan counterparts at the Ministry for Scientific Research in Rabat last week tied the knot on a scientific and technical (S&T) co-operation agreement.  
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  Graphic element CLIMATE, P0LLUTION: EU slipping away from Kyoto targets (02/06/03)  
    Despite a notable reduction in emissions, the EU has lost ground on its pollution slashing targets and risks falling foul of its Kyoto obligations if action is not taken, a new EEA report reveals.  
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  Graphic element ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH: Making the world a safer place for children (02/06/03)  
    Safeguarding children against injury and environmental hazards is a commitment taken seriously by European authorities, two new reports confirm. Europe's future depends on it.  
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  Graphic element CO-OPERATION, RESEARCH: EU scientists break the ice (02/06/03)  
    Scientists working together onboard the ice-breaker, Polarstern, are proving that relations between EU members are reaching new depths.  
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graphical element DEVELOPMENT, REGULATION: EU clears plan to improve access to medicine (02/06/03)
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  A new EU regulation means exporters will now be able to deliver cheap medicines aimed at combating AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in poor countries.
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New scheme for tiered pricing of crucial medicines for poor countries
					
©Photo: PhotoDisc New scheme for tiered pricing of crucial medicines for poor countries

©Photo: PhotoDisc

The European Council adopted a regulation last week allowing exporters to supply essential medicines at heavily reduced, or so-called ‘tiered’, prices to developing countries, while maintaining the normal prices for the same drugs in the EU.

Measures to be put in place by the European Commission will encourage exporters to put their products, both generic and patented, on a tiered-price list. The proposed system requires medicines produced in OECD countries to be discounted by 75% off the average ‘ex-factory’ price, or at the cost of production plus 15%.

To prevent these cheaper AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis medicines being re-exported back into the EU, customs officials will be able to recognise them by a clearly identified logo. The plan works under a tacit partnership where industry sells the medicines with small mark ups on the cost price, public and private donors provide valuable R&D funding, and the EU provides the necessary legal framework to ensure the drugs are not diverted back into EU markets.

Extending the tiered system
Last week’s Council decision is a vital one in the long-term response to the growing threat of communicable diseases in the world’s poor regions. Separate talks are underway at the World Trade Organisation on how to stop developing countries from manufacturing these much-needed, but patented, drugs. According to a Commission statement, “If poorer countries get their medicines via a tiered-pricing system, they should not need to invoke compulsory licences. If the … system works, it could be extended to more countries and treatments.”   

Cheap, or even free, medicines alone are not enough to solve the health crises in many developing countries. While these measures help, they must work in conjunction with other points taken up in the Commission’s action plan against communicable diseases in poor nations, the ‘Programme for action: accelerated action on HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB in the context of poverty reduction’. These include the need for stable, functioning health care systems and better public health awareness and education, as well as a call for more research into new treatments for diseases prevalent in poorer countries.

The step taken by the EU is an important one in the fight against deadly diseases. This, it is hoped, will encourage other developed countries to follow suit. It will be high on the agenda of the upcoming summit of G8 countries in Evian this week.  

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Source: Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element CO-OPERATION, MOROCCO: Science builds a bridge over troubled waters (02/06/03)
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  EU delegates meeting their Moroccan counterparts at the Ministry for Scientific Research in Rabat last week tied the knot on a scientific and technical (S&T) co-operation agreement.
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Nuclear technology helps farmers in arid zones to refine biosaline agriculture
					
©Photo: International Atomic Energy Agency Nuclear technology helps farmers in arid zones to refine biosaline agriculture

©Photo: International Atomic Energy Agency

Recent terror attacks in Morocco raise a number of political and economic challenges which on initial inspection have little to do with science and research. But when Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin visited the Moroccan capital last week to present the results of a Commission-supported evaluation of Morocco’s research system, he touched on the importance of research in the quest for peace.

“I wish to express my condolences and the strongest condemnation of the terrorist attacks [bomb explosions] in Casablanca,” said Mr Busquin. “Now more than ever, the European Union and Morocco should work together.”

In light of Morocco’s recent tragedy, one area of potential interest for collaboration could be the EU’s work in explosive trace analysis (ETA). The Union has actively supported workshops and discussions on ETA methods for identifying and matching bomb blast evidence with traces found in the possession of suspects.

Tangible results of joint research
Addressing the social issues that potentially breed violence, European researchers have been working together for some 20 years with their North African peers. Joint research between the Union and Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt has investigated ways to manage and protect water, biodiversity, agriculture and health. In Morocco alone, some 170 collaborative projects have been undertaken in recent years focusing on public health, information technology, the environment, transport and the economy.

One example of this joint effort has been the development of management systems for cereal irrigation making use of EU satellite data. Co-operation has also been seen in the areas of water purification, coastal ecosystem management, and methods for monitoring breast tumours, to name a few.

Mr Busquin took the opportunity during his meeting with Omar Fassi-Fehri, the Moroccan minister for scientific research, to present the S&T co-operation agreement between the EU and Morroco. Negotiations for the agreement, which started on 14 April this year, have now been completed. To be signed in the coming weeks, the agreement opens the way for universities, companies and research centres to participate in the EU’s current Framework Programme for research (FP6).

Overseen by an EU-Moroccan joint committee, the agreement paves the way for a genuine EU-Moroccan partnership in S&T, ensuring reciprocal access to RTD activities between the two parties and a fair division of intellectual property rights generated by joint activities.

“The new agreement will make it possible to structure, organise and broaden our scientific and technical co-operation as Moroccan research continues to develop and integrate within a Euro-Mediterranean area of shared peace and prosperity,” said Mr Busquin. 

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Source: Contact: Research DG contacts

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graphical element CLIMATE, P0LLUTION: EU slipping away from Kyoto targets (02/06/03)
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  Despite a notable reduction in emissions, the EU has lost ground on its pollution slashing targets and risks falling foul of its Kyoto obligations if action is not taken, a new EEA report reveals.
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Big differences remain between Member States on pollution control
					
©Photo: PhotoDisc Big differences remain between Member States on pollution control

©Photo: PhotoDisc

A recent European Environment Agency (EEA) report has uncovered what could potentially be a disturbing trend. It found that greenhouse gas emissions for 2001 were 1% higher than the previous year. With an annual increase of 0.3% in 2000, this marks the second consecutive year-on-year rise.

This means that the European Union is slipping away from its obligations under the Kyoto protocol to reduce emissions of the six main greenhouse gases to 8% below their 1990 level by 2008-2012. The Union was 3.6% below the 1990 baseline in 1999. By 2001, emissions were only 2.6% lower.

“We have made progress towards our … emission reduction target,” Environment Commission Margot Wallström told delegates at a recent Climate Change Conference in Brussels. “However, the trend is going in the wrong direction.”

Although an unusually cold and dry winter was partly to blame, Ms Wallström identified big discrepancies between Member States in their implementation of pollution controls and the growth of the transport sector – where emissions rose by 18% between 1990 and 2000 – as the main culprits.

Ten of the 15 Member States are off track in reaching their burden-sharing target, Ms Wallström pointed out. One example is Ireland. Under the Union deal, it is allowed a 13% increase in emissions over the 1990 baseline. In 2001, it had already clocked up a huge 31% rise. The EU as a whole only managed to reduce its emissions through substantial cuts by, for example, Luxembourg, Germany and the UK.

Finding new momentum
The Environment Commissioner urged Member States to take action including introducing more climate-friendly transport policies and fiscal measures. “Those Member States that are not on track towards their burden-sharing targets should urgently make additional efforts,” she said.

Ms Wallström also underscored the important role of voluntary action taken by individuals and companies. “I am convinced that without their commitment we have no chance [of] prevent[ing] the dramatic deterioration that global warming could bring to our and future generations’ living conditions,” she noted.

Ms Wallström commended the progress made by the European Climate Change Programme towards establishing an EU emissions trading system. She also previewed three new Commission proposals aimed at helping the Union meet its Kyoto targets, including measures to control the growing proliferation of vehicle air conditioning systems, which are currently wiping out some 40-60% of the transport sector’s committed CO2 reductions.

The Commission is funding research into sustainable transport systems, environmentally friendly technologies and alternative energy sources under the ‘Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems’ thematic priority of its Sixth Framework Programme. 

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Source: EU sources    

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graphical element ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH: Making the world a safer place for children (02/06/03)
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  Safeguarding children against injury and environmental hazards is a commitment taken seriously by European authorities, two new reports confirm. Europe's future depends on it.
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Keeping our children safe
					
©Photo: PhotoDisc Keeping our children safe

©Photo: PhotoDisc

Every week in the European Union 100 children die from injuries caused by accidents which often could be prevented. Children are more likely to be exposed to contaminated water, air and soil than adults because they are less aware of the risk and their size makes them physically more vulnerable.

Protecting children against these and other hazards is high on the policy agenda of the European Commission and the World Health Organisation (WHO). One of the problems facing authorities is finding meaningful and comparable data on children’s health in Europe. Applying a set of agreed national-level indicators would make monitoring the health status of children across Europe more consistent and efficient.

An EU project carried out under the community ‘Health Monitoring Programme’ of the Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection has recommended 38 indicators covering health and illness, health services and behaviour, as well as a range of health determinants.

The project, Child Health Indicators of Life and Development (CHILD), included representatives from all EU countries plus Norway and Iceland. Its task was to come up with indicators, based on scientific evidence, that would apply across the entire health spectrum for young people of all ages in Europe.

Troublesome environment
The environment was seen as an important variable, but also a troubling one in terms of defining reliable and comparable indicators, according to the final CHILD report edited by Rigby and Köhler. The project team managed to whittle the options down to five environmentally related indicators: air pollution, road transport safety policy, protection against lead in buildings and decorating materials, harmful noise, and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in public spaces.  

A draft action plan for children’s health is being prepared for adoption at the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health to be hosted by Budapest in June 2004 under the theme: ‘The future for our children’. Areas of key concern in the plan will be asthma, allergies and respiratory health, neuro-development disorders and birth defects, water and food-related diseases, as well as injuries.

Injury prevention is also an area of grave concern to policy-makers and parents. A second report on ‘Parents’ perceptions of child safety’, presented on World Health Day in April this year, highlighted the importance of this neglected area.

"As parents are the primary caregivers of children, and those responsible for the health and well-being of children in society, we need to learn more about parents’ perception of child safety," said Joanne Vincenten, Director of the European Child Safety Alliance at the report launch.

The number one concern of parents in the study is their children being hit by a car. This is confirmed in statistics showing that traffic accidents account for more deaths among children than any other single type of accident. The report makes a number of recommendations to industry, government and society at large, and advocates much better communication to change perceptions about how to keep our children out of harm’s way.

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Source: European Bulletin on Environment and Health, Vol. 10/1

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graphical element CO-OPERATION, RESEARCH: EU scientists break the ice (02/06/03)
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  Scientists working together onboard the ice-breaker, Polarstern, are proving that relations between EU members are reaching new depths.
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Loading the deep-sea robot 'Victor 6000'
					
©Photo: AWI Loading the deep-sea robot 'Victor 6000'

©Photo: AWI

A team of around 150 marine scientists, biologists, engineers and technicians from Germany, France, UK, Ireland, Belgium, Poland, as well as Russia set off on May 22 aboard Polarstern, the research vessel run by the Alfred Wenger Institute (AWI), for a 12-week scientific expedition.

A deep-sea robot called ‘Victor 6000’, which has been developed by the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea  (Ifremer), will be used to help the European scientists study the deep-sea environment of the Arctic and North Altantic.
This unmanned submersible robot is capable of diving to depths of 6 000 metres. Using remote-controlled cameras and sample taking mechanisms, scientists can examine the ocean floor and gather sediment, water samples and organisms.

Partnership in marine research
This is not the first time that Victor 6000 has been used onboard Polarstern. The Franco-German partnership has been in operation since 1991, and was further reinforced by the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2001. To celebrate over 12 years of collaboration in marine research and geosciences, AWI and Ifremer held a science open day onboard Polarstern on 1 June.

The expedition currently underway will continue the study of biological, geological and chemical oceanography. During the first leg of the journey, researchers will study the deep-sea corals of Porcupine Bight, off the coast of Ireland, to determine their role in the ecosystem and possible impacts of fishing activities on deep-sea coral.

Next port of call for Polarstern will be Norway to examine the methane emissions of an underwater mud-spewing volcano called Hakon Mosby, which was discovered in 1996 and studied in past outings by the Ifremer and AWI partnership.

The destination for the final leg will be AWI’s deep-sea underwater observatory, Hausgarten, which was set up four years ago in the Arctic’s Fram Strait for sampling natural deep-sea variations. “Repeated sampling of the AWI ‘Hausgarten’ allows the natural variations of deep-sea communities to be monitored in a region of the ocean which is extremely sensitive to climate change,” said Dr Michael Klages, head of the deep-sea group at AWI.

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Source: Stiftung Alfred-Wenger-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

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