ERA: Commission ‘should facilitate, not regulate’

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Preliminary results of a broad consultation on the future of the European Research Area (ERA) show that scientists prefer voluntary cooperation, networking and exchange of best practice to binding legislative action at European level.

Despite some progress made since 2000 in building a European Research Area (ERA), “progress is far too slow and too timid,” said Research Commissioner Janez Poto?nik, presenting the preliminary results of a public consultation on the issue. 

“I don’t think we can afford to meet again in five years’ time and make the same analysis as today,” he added, speaking at a conference on the Future of Science and Technology in Europe on 8 October 2007.

“Messages are coming out loud and clear from the public consultation,” Poto?nik said, including the need for the Commission to reflect carefully on its role. “It is not the Commission that will build the ERA, neither by law nor by wishful thinking. It is clear to me that if we do too little, not much will happen. But if we do too much, not much will happen either,” he reflected.

Secondly, the consultation results show that nobody wants top-down coordination, but rather people support defining and implementing “modalities that stimulate and reward bottom-up initiatives for more competition and more cooperation.”

“Stakeholders generally do not favour binding legislative actions at European level but rather flexible, voluntary and bottom-up cooperation schemes, networking and exchange of best practices. They advocate that the Commission facilitate rather than regulate (e.g. via the open method of coordination, issuing principles to be shared and guidelines),” states the summary report on the results of the consultation. 

In this regard, according to the report there is strong support for action on all ERA dimensions at all governance levels (regional, national and European) “and particularly for action at EU level on researchers, international co-operation and infrastructures.”

An in-depth analysis of the results of the consultation is underway and the Commission will propose new initiatives for ERA in 2008.

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