To what extent does research
contribute to the integration of candidate countries in the EU?
Research was the first negotiation chapter to
be closed by the majority of the candidate countries and is the
first policy area where candidate countries are now fully integrated
into the EU. All candidate countries acceded to the Fifth Framework
Programme - some very effectively. Poland got off to a difficult
start but our participation has increased rapidly thanks mostly
to the special NAS actions - Polish centres of excellence recently
won 65% of all contracts and our contribution return rate for FP5
will probably reach 85%. Although this figure is much higher for
other countries, for example, Estonia, it is not bad for the largest
candidate country. Furthermore, everybody knows that shared results
of co-operative research are much more valuable than balancing the
The research sector acts as a positive forerunner
for other sectors. The scientific community are powerful opinion-makers
committed to European integration. Examples of such commitment from
my own country include the recently inaugurated programme "The Polish
Research for European Integration", and plans for a Polish Foresight
Centre supporting long-term transformation of Polish industry.
What new opportunities do you think FP6
will bring to the research community in the candidate countries?
I believe FP6 will offer a long list of opportunities.
The new thematic priorities correspond to our S&T policy, as does
the concept of centres and networks of excellence. Real progress
can be made in the candidate countries through co-operation on an
equal footing with strong, innovative European consortia. Active
participation in FP6 will bring other benefits, too. For example,
it will promote and strengthen links between research in the candidate
countries and the needs of industry, which is urgently needed. It
will also help develop a new culture in S&T governance resulting
in more open procedures in these countries, along with a regular
evaluation of research output, socio-economic impact, and project
management skills. Last but not least FP6 will help us achieve full
How well prepared are universities, research
institutes and private firms in candidate countries to take advantage
For the R&D sector in the candidate countries,
participation in FP5 was an effective learning experience. We have
become familiar with the FP system, gained self-confidence, and
raised the level of scientific competence following years of pressure
exerted by highly competitive funding systems. Strong support measures,
implemented by candidate country governments to assist researchers
in FP5, proved important. In Poland, significant financial support
will continue for successful participants in FP6.
On the other hand, candidate countries currently
suffer from low science budgets and far too few orders from industry.
In brief - the situation is not unique. A number of highly ranked
units in the science sector can compete although many innovative
firms remain far behind. No doubt researchers will achieve a high
participation rate in FP6, but it will be more difficult for candidate
countries' industrial partners to take full advantage of it.
How do you compare the research facilities
in the candidate countries with those in the EU Member States?
Overall, research funding in the candidate countries
is at a much lower level than in the EU Member States. In Poland
it amounted to 0.72% of GDP in 2001. As a result, the science infrastructure
tends to be weaker, although selective investments during the 1990s
led to the setting up of a large number of laboratories at a competitive
international level. Such a positive development is by, among other
things, the growing level of participation in the FP5. We plan to
capitalise on this by linking together in networks and consortia
from leading laboratories - centres of excellence - to enhance both
national and international competitiveness and to benefit from the
added value of joint projects.
How aware are scientists and the general
population in the candidate countries that they can benefit from
EU research programmes?
Polish research teams and innovative companies
participating in FP5 have already recorded significant benefits
from collaboration. They also get co-funding from the FP5 budget
and extra financial support from the state budget. Consequently,
more and more research teams are being motivated by these visible
results. The scientific community sees full accession to the EU
as a step in the right direction to becoming more competitive at
an international level.
However, the perception of potential benefits
from EU research programmes seems to be lower in other social groups,
although the relatively strong support for EU membership shows that
the society at large clearly sees the benefits of European collaboration.