27 Nov 2020
Research ministers focus on New European Research Area and discuss investment targets
Following the Council Conclusions on the Future of the European Research Area (to be finalised by written procedure early next week), the EU Research Ministers discussed at their informal videoconference meeting on 27 November 2020 possible new targets for investments in research and development. These possible targets had been proposed by the European Commission in its Communication on the European Research Area of 30 September 2020. Both EC Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager and Commissioner Mariya Gabriel emphasised the importance of research investment for future prosperity and competitiveness. At the meeting, Member States and the Commission showed a strong will to strengthen the New European Research Area and to reach the target of 3% of GDP for EU research and development investment. Several Member States generally advocated ambitious targets – but they underlined the need to remain realistic as well.
The German EU Council Presidency also provided information on the status of negotiations and the further processes of the legislative packages on Horizon Europe and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). Both packages depend on the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). With every day that passes without agreement on the EU's budget for the next seven years, the chances for Horizon Europe to start on time in January 2021 are shrinking. However, the German Presidency remains optimistic that a final political trilogue will make it possible to finalise “Horizon Europe” by the end of this year. With regard to the EIT, the final political trilogue will have to take place under the Portuguese presidency.
Also on the agenda was recent progress on Open Science, particularly the implementation of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). The pilot phase of EOSC had been launched during the Austrian Presidency of the EU Council in 2018. The process will now be further intensified with the declaration “Opening the Door to a World of FAIR Research Digital Objects”. The objective is to enable FAIR Data (findable, accessible, interoperable, reuesable).
Concerning the state of play regarding the European Institutionalised Partnerships, EU Research Commissioner Gabriel underlined the goal of making them more efficient, saying this was achieved by reducing the number of Partnerships from 120 to 49. The aim is to concentrate on those Partnerships with the highest European added value, and they should contribute significantly to the implementation of the EU's priorities. Two additional legal acts (European Institutionalised Partnerships under Art. 187 and Art. 185) are currently being drafted and are to be implemented in accordance with "Horizon Europe".
Furthermore, Commissioner Gabriel presented the Commisson’s scientific opinion on improving pandemic preparedness and management: This series of recommendations could lead to efficient international cooperation, she pointed out.
Finally, the work programme of the incoming Portuguese Council Presidency was presented at the meeting. The Portuguese Presidency will focus on five main priorities: resilience, social, green, digital and global. The next formal meetings of the Competitiveness Council are due to be held on 26 February and 28 May 2021. A kick-off event for “Horizon Europe” is scheduled to take place in early February and will be organised together with the European Commission.
For more information:
Main results (Council website)