After months of discussions on the legal structure and statutes, the Competitiveness Council found a majority in support of the first four Joint Technology Initiatives, which could finally be kicked off in 2008.

Nearly one year after FP7 entered into force, the first JTIs have still not been approved. The Council will, on 23 November 2007, reached a "general approach" [informal agreement on substantial elements of the legal acts] on the first four proposals, aimed at establishing ARTEMIS, ENIAC, CLEAN SKY and IMI.

Whereas the JTIs are said to be key elements of FP7, and business has repeatedly called for their quick approval, recent Presidency drafts [see ARTEMISENIACCLEAN SKY and IMI] on the proposals suggest that member states have had a hard time agreeing on some key elements of at least the ARTEMIS proposal. In particular, concerns have been raised over the distribution of votes for public authorities and the funding of projects. 

The JTIs were originally envisaged as true industry-led initiatives, in which the choice of research to be funded would be based on excellence only. However, decision rights in the ARTEMIS and ENIAC joint undertakings will be divided between industry, the Commission and the group of individual member states giving additional funding to them (Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden for ARTEMIS, and Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal for ENIAC). 

This arrangement could make ARTEMIS and ENIAC vulnerable to the principle of juste retour (a proportional return on investment), a general problem with a negative effect on true European research co-operation. 

CLEAN SKY and IMI are established by two parties only - the industry and the European Community as represented by the Commission. Decisions on projects to be funded could therefore be far easier to take, as voting rights will be equal between the two parties, with the Commission having, however, a veto on the use of public money.

Asked whether ARTEMIS and ENIAC can be as efficient and successful as the two other JTIs, which do not have direct member-state interference in the decisions taken, a Commission representative gave assurances that "if the Commission didn't believe they could be efficient, it would have not proposed them, of course." The Commission also said the different JTIs are not comparable, as each of them tackles an issue per se and the structure of the stakeholder community varies a lot.

At the present state of negotiations, the JTIs would be set up as Community bodies (agencies), whereas at the same time they would take the form of real public- private partnerships, with responsibilty for the management of the joint undertakings shared with industry. They would have a limited duration of 10 years, as well as a legal personality.