bridges vol. 11, September 2006 / Letter from Brussels
by Franz Pichler & Martin Schmid
The Austrian Council Presidency 2006 from a research point of view
by Martin Schmid
When preparations for Austria's 2nd Council Presidency began in 2004, it was clear that the negotiations on the 7th Research Framework Program would be at a crucial stage when Austria took over in January 2006. The preparatory work was very much focused on these negotiations whereas other initiatives were limited to a minimum. The overall goal was to advance the negotiations as far as possible on the 7th Framework Program "package" consisting of the EC and the Euratom Framework Program, seven specific programs, and the Rules for Participation (also EC and Euratom) - altogether 11 dossiers - in order to facilitate their adoption on schedule, the start of FP7 in January 2007.
There may be nothing less predictable on the continent than the outcome of co-decisions by the European Institutions, especially if more than €50 billion are at stake. To make it even more difficult, the Union's financial framework for the years 2007-2013 was only adopted in April 2006. Until then it was unclear how much money the Member States would dedicate to the EU's research promotion activities.
Thus, the first three months of the Austrian presidency were mainly dedicated to enormously tiring work on the technical content of the specific programs and the Rules for Participation. Hundreds of pages of scientific and legal content had to be discussed page by page trying to reach a compromise between the 25 Member States. The work was done in close cooperation with the European Commission's experts who, in the end, are the ones responsible for implementing the program. That meant weeks of almost constant meetings, digging through huge piles of paper, producing dozens of versions and drinking liters of coffee.
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