On 18 January 2000, the European Commission adopted the Communication "Towards a European Research Area". The objective of this communication was to contribute initiatives for a more favourable research environment in Europe. At the European Council held in Lisbon from 23 to 24 March 2000, this communication was fully ratified by the Heads of State and of Governments who recommended the installation of a series of deadlines to help realise the ERA. Furthermore the Council Resolution of 15 June 2000 requested the Member States and the Commission to take the necessary measures to start implementing the project.
Meanwhile, the Committee of the Regions, the Economic and Social Committee and the candidate countries and both the scientific and industrial sectors gave their strong support to this project as a means for Europe to demonstrate global leadership in scientific research.
Agricultural research till now has undoubtedly assisted in making European agriculture and agro-industry an important player in the global economy. However, agricultural research, if it is to meet challenges of the new millenium, has to be restructured within the context of the European Research Area, in order (i) to be able to keep pace with ongoing international research activities, (ii) to contribute to the policies of the European Union and (iii) to meet the increasingly exacting needs of the European citizens.
In this respect the French Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries, in conjunction with the European Commission – Directorate General for Research have organised a Conference, under the auspices of the French Presidency of the European Union, entitled " Agricultural Research in the European Research Area ". This Conference is aimed at establishing an open debate and a common action plan, which will help define a structural and operational framework for the implementation of future agricultural research within the European Research Area.
The main goals of this Conference are therefore:
This conference is just the first step towards a new approach dealing with European agricultural research. The potential benefits for the Member States, the scientific community, industry and European citizens are numerous but they will only be realised through constructive debate such as this which fixes targeted objectives and identifies the means to put them in place. We have no doubt that the high level of expertise gathered from across Europe for the purposes of this conference will deliver the foundations of such a structure.
Mr Jean Galvany