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Brussels, 1 October 1999

The European research area is opened up to researchers from 11 new countries

Keywords: Research policy, international cooperation, association

The 11 countries about to join the Union early in the next millennium have signed "association" agreements giving them full access to the Fifth Framework Programme (1999-2002) of European Community research activities before accession. This new stage will allow research institutes, universities and businesses from these countries1 to participate in the programme under exactly the same conditions as entities from the Member States. Research has, therefore, become the first Community policy open to these countries to which they must contribute financially. This opening-up to the East marks a significant extension of the European research area: for the 150 000 or so researchers in the candidate countries and for researchers in the Union alike, these agreements mean greater opportunities and facilities to form partnerships and benefit from each other's scientific and technological potential.

This eastward extension has been faster for research policy than for other sectors mainly because of the cooperation culture which has been the driving force behind the scientific community in Europe since the birth of modern science.

For researchers and engineers from these countries, these agreements open up access to research programmes with a budget of almost EUR 15 billion between 1999 and 20022.

In the spring the Commission planned ahead for signature of these agreements when it published the first calls for proposals for inclusion in the Fifth Framework Programme. These already gave guarantees that the evaluators would treat research centres and businesses from the 11 applicant countries on the same conditions as entities from the Member States.

The awareness-raising campaign targeted on these countries on the opportunities and conditions for participation has borne fruit, with a high rate of participation by bodies from these countries in the proposals received in response to the first calls.

In reciprocation, all these countries have decided to open up their research programmes in the fields corresponding to the areas covered by the Fifth Framework Programme3 to scientists from the Member States.

This association, speeding up integration of these countries into the scientific and technological community in Europe, forms part of the pre-accession strategy prepared by the Commission. As such, it must give these countries vital support for the process of political change and economic restructuring to which they have committed themselves. The challenge of enlargement is to bring these countries up to the Community level. This means renewing their infrastructure, modernising their industries, making their products and services more competitive on the world market and combating environmental degradation in order to improve the standard of living of their citizens - all at the same time. None of these challenges can be met without strengthening their scientific and technological capabilities first.

For further information:

National contact points for the Fifth Framework Programme: http://cordis.europa.eu/fp5/src/ncps.htm

RTD info 22: Supplement on the 11 candidates for membership: http://ec.europa.eu/research/rtdinf22/etoc.html

Anna Rémond
Europe Unit, Research DG
Fax: +32-2-296.33.08
E-mail: inco@ec.europa.eu

Michel Claessens
Communication Unit, Research DG
Fax: +32-2-295.82.20
E-mail: michel.claessens@ec.europa.eu

1 Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic and Slovenia. Top
2 All these countries except Poland, Cyprus, Estonia and Lithuania have also opted for association with the Euratom nuclear research programme. Top
3 They have been opened up already in Cyprus and should be in the ten other countries by the end of the year.Top

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PRESS RELEASES | PRESS RELEASES OF 1999 | 04.10.1999