Europe is undergoing a period of extensive transformation. With EU enlargement, globalisation and structural changes in the European social fabric, the EU is being confronted with a series of complex issues which need addressing.
Europe is changing in its basic features, from demography (e.g. ageing), to migration flows, and from family structures to social protection systems. Globalisation has given rise to new political and socio-economic conditions. As markets become more integrated and competitive, the EU needs to address its development model to achieve its goal of becoming "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion".
Enlargement creates a further need for analysis and action. Both accession countries and current EU members are introducing, and will have to introduce, significant changes at the political and socio-economic level. This will not always be a smooth process. Enlargement will further enrich cultural, economic, institutional, and social diversities across the EU. This will require the capacity to harvest the richness of diversity while preventing conflicts which might be associated with it.
The European Union’s programme for research and technological development (RTD) is using the tools of social science and humanities to tackle these challenges.
Key Action: "Improving the Socio-economic Knowledge Base"
During the first two years of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), 113 research projects were funded. These proposals focused on four main areas of research:
a) societal trends and structural changes,
b) technology, society and employment,
c) governance and citizenship, and
d) new development models fostering growth and employment.
Many of these research areas are also cross-dimensional. This is exemplified by two instruments: RTD projects and ‘thematic networks’. The aim of RTD projects is to carry out research on important EU issues and to produce results which can be used as input for EU policy makers and other interested parties. Thematic networks bring together already existing research, carried out by institutes in various European countries, to develop crossfertilisation and knowledge transfer across Europe. In this leaflet, we will refer to each research area briefly, and provide examples of successful projects.