Throughout the procedure for adoption of the 5th Framework Programme in 1998, great attention was paid to the ethical aspects of research, particularly on the part of the European Parliament. Article 7 of the Framework Programme expressly states that the Community research activities must be carried out in compliance with fundamental ethical principles. In addition, the Framework Programme will fund studies on medical and biomedical ethics and has imposed strict controls on genetic research on human beings and experiments on animals. To allow fuller discussion of these aspects, the Commission was involved in the preparation of a major conference on ethics in science and technology, which will be held in Tübingen in June 1999.
Community research is one of the main remits of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE). This was set up in January 1998, under the authority of the President of the Commission, to continue and expand the work of the Group of Advisers on the Ethical Implications of Biotechnology, whose mandate expired in December 1997. It will cover not only biotechnology but all new technologies, some of which, such as information technology, are having a growing impact on citizens' everyday life, raising ethical issues in the process. The Group consists of twelve independent specialists in law, genetics, philosophy, theology, sociology, medicine and biology.
In 1998 the EGE published two opinions on fields of direct relevance to Community research - one on the ethical aspects of tissue banks (21 July 1998), the other on the ethical aspects of research involving use of human embryos in the context of the 5th Framework Programme (23 November 1998). Its first task in 1999 is to prepare an opinion on new information technologies. The Group also attended a hearing of the European Parliament Committee on Research in March 1999.