"If Europe is to be a world leader in science, then it must be open to the world. The current system can be off-putting for scientists from abroad," said Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik, deploring the fact that member states had not yet "honoured their commitments".
Only six member states had fully transposed the directive into national law by the 12 October deadline. The directive sets out a specific procedure for allowing third-country nationals into the EU for the purposes of carrying out scientific research - the so-called researchers' visa. Four other member states (France, Latvia, Lithuania and the Slovak Republic) have indicated only partial implementation of the directive.
The Commission is now entitled to open infringement proceedings against the 19 member states who have failed to implement the necessary laws, regulations and administrative provisions to fully implement the directive.
The researchers' visa directive is part of a larger 'researchers' package', adopted by the Council in Autumn 2005, to attract foreign researchers to the EU. In addition to the directive on visas, it included two recommendations on facilitating the admission of third-country scientists to the EU in order to carry out research and issuing uniform short-stay visas allowing them to travel within the Union. The recommendations took effect immediately after adoption.
Supporting the mobility of researchers is one of the instruments for achieving the Lisbon objectives and a prerequisite for the process of building a true European Research Area (ERA).
The Commission also announced that an expert group is currently identifying members of the future European Research Area Board (ERAB). This new board will replace the current European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) and its principal task will be to issue an annual report on the state of research and make policy suggestions.