The Informal Meeting of the Competitiveness Council, bringing together the EU Ministers competent for Research, started today at Brdo pri Kranju. The Meeting was chaired by the Slovenian Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology, Mojca Kucler Dolinar, who commented that Europe had as yet not fully exploited its research potential – its human resources, institutions and, in particular, the operational synergy between them. This is also the reason why, on scales measuring competitiveness and innovation, the United States and Japan, for example, often rank higher than Europe, while China is about to catch up with all three. “The European Research Area, when fully implemented, should provide the research-friendly environment vital for achieving the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy, which responds to these challenges,” pointed out Mrs Kucler Dolinar.
The European Research Area (ERA) can be created only in partnership between the Member States and the European Commission. The Slovenian Presidency, therefore, invited the EU Ministers to build partnership and show commitment to developing the ERA. “Let us be guided by the Slovenian Presidency slogan - Si.nergy for Europe,” said the President of the Competitiveness Council, adding, “The world will not wait for Europe to agree on a definitive vision of the European Research Area or to specify its further actions down to the fine details. That is why we have already made a start today.”
The Ministers agreed today that the EU Member States and the European Commission would be jointly responsible for establishing a genuine single European Research Area. In a lively debate on their vision for the ERA, the Ministers highlighted its features: the mobility of researchers, and attractive careers for them, enabled by the ‘fifth freedom’, modern universities and research organisations ensuring global excellence (i.e. a researcher- and enterprise-friendly research environment) as well as a coordinated strategy for international cooperation in the area of science and technology. The Ministers stressed that the common vision should be upgraded as soon as possible with a view to framing policy and action plans to put it into practice.
The Informal Meeting participants also agreed that the ERA could be achieved only through improved political management of the European Research Area, encompassing policies on research, education and innovation and involving all other actors – administrations, academic institutions, business and civil society. In this, the Member States will endeavour to intensively exchange examples of good practice, create new models and apply them in national research policies (in line with the open method of coordination – OMC), based on detailed analysis of the situation and on a well-developed information system.
In the spirit of partnership, the Ministers also proposed specific management methods to enable the ERA to be developed quickly and efficiently. The significance of this new commitment found expression in the launch of the ‘Ljubljana Process’. The new partnership initiated by the Ljubljana Process will be reflected in the work of future EU Council Presidencies, in particular the French, Czech and Swedish Presidencies, while the Slovenian Presidency will present a summary of the debate as a basis for the conclusions of the formal meeting of the Competitiveness Council in May.