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Europe's future is dependent on science and innovation

Higher Education Minister Morten Østergaard's speech presenting the Danish Presidency priorities in ITRE (Committee on Industry, Research and Energy – European Parliament) in Bruxelles 24 January 2012.

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The Danish focus areas

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Allow me to start by congratulating you with your new position as chairman of the ITRE Committee. Let me also thank the Parliament for this opportunity to present the ambitions of the Danish Presidency in the research and innovation area.

It has been 10 years since Denmark last held the Council Presidency. Much has happened since then. Both in Europe and globally. I clearly remember the summit in Copenhagen in December 2002 where the decision was taken to admit 10 new member states – in what would be the largest enlargement in EU history.

Today, we are also experiencing a historic period in EU history. Unfortunately, this time there is a different common denominator. Today Europe is in a profound economic crisis that has rocked the very foundation of our cooperation.

For Europe this is a challenging time:

The most crucial challenge being to bring us safely through the economic crisis. At the same time, Europe should also devote efforts to solving cross-border challenges related to climate, energy, environment and security.

Based on this, the Danish Presidency has four focus areas:

Firstly, we need a responsible Europe.

The only way to create growth and enhance Europe's competitiveness is by Member States pursuing a viable economic policy. Responsibility breeds trust from the markets and is a prerequisite for renewed prosperity.

We have an unparalleled framework for decision-making at the European level – the Community Method – that enables us to raise standards of freedom and fairness in economies and societies without diminishing the diversity of cultures and communities.

A crucial issue during the Danish Presidency will be the negotiation on the multi-annual financial framework – the MFF, which we will take as far forward as possible.

Secondly, we need a dynamic Europe.

The cornerstone of our Union is the single European market. More than ever, we need a market, which creates jobs and prosperity for the citizens of Europe. The single European market should be strengthened and innovative solutions be promoted.

The challenges are great. Growth is low. Debt is high. And jobs all over Europe are being lost.

Growth and job creation needs a push. Ensuring sustainable growth calls for strengthening the condition for excellent research, innovation and higher education in Europe.

The bridge between the three corners of the knowledge triangle and research and industry should be as short as possible. And as direct as possible.

Europe shouldn't become a dusty museum. We must be a dynamic Europe with a creative force beyond our own borders.

Thirdly, we need a green Europe.

We should still be a global leader within the green economy. We must be willing to adapt to a more green society, and we need to make efforts to tackle the rising challenges of pollution, lack of resources and climate changes.

Research and innovation in these areas should therefore be strengthened. And in turn it will lead to jobs and growth.

For example, energy consumption is predicted to rise by a third during the next 25 years. And at the same time the extraction of oil from known fields is significantly decreasing.

Energy efficiency can save Europe billions of Euros in imported energy. Instead of spending that money, we should invest it in sustainable growth and green jobs within the EU. The Commission has estimated this could potentially create up to 2 million jobs.

Fourthly, we need a secure Europe.

The best way of safeguarding the security of citizens and the European international impact in a more globalised world are through concerted efforts and a strong European cooperation.

Research and Innovation

Besides the Multi-annual Financial Framework, the overall political context of our Presidency will be the follow-up on the EU2020 strategy and the Innovation Union, where Horizon 2020 is the key driver for European co-operation in research and innovation.

During the Danish Presidency the Council will have to deal with a number of central legislative initiatives within the area of research and innovation, namely the next framework programme Horizon 2020, the regulation and the strategic innovation agenda regarding the EIT, GMES and Euratom.

Here, I will concentrate on Horizon 2020.

Europe's future is dependent on science and innovation. And the European Commission is taking the right path by proposing to strengthen the forthcoming framework programme for research and innovation – Horizon 2020.

We agree that focus should be on:

  • Responding to the economic crises by investing in future jobs and growth,
  • Addressing people's concern about their livelihoods, safety and environment,
  • Strengthening the EU's global position in research, innovation and technology.

The Danish Presidency will do its best to ensure complementarity and synergies with Research and Innovation funding challenged through the cohesion policy, the Common Agricultural Policy and other relevant activities of education and other EU programmes. We agree that Horizon 2020 should contribute to eliminate fragmentation and ensure more coherence, including with national research programmes.

Ensuring greater coherence between research and innovation is a priority for the Danish Presidency, and it is crucial to Europe's competitiveness and growth.

We want to maintain excellence as the leading selection criterion for funding research and innovation programmes. And we want to ensure a strong and independent European Research Council.

The Presidency will also work to ensure more simplicity and flexibility in the framework programme. This is a prerequisite for ensuring higher participation from industry in general, and from SMEs in particular. Less bureaucracy and more research will be the motto.

Let me now say a few words about how we are going to run our Presidency.

It goes without saying that Denmark is fully committed to chair the negotiations on Horizon 2020 in the Council. The schedule for the negotiations is tight if we want to have the new programme ready for action in 2014. Therefore, we have to set ourselves an ambitious target.

Our aim is to bring the negotiations as far as possible during our Presidency. To be very precise: We would like to reach a partial general approach on Horizon 2020 at the Competitiveness Council on the 31st of May 2012.

During the first phase of our Presidency we will discuss the various views on Horizon 2020 with European key stakeholders.

We have arranged a ministerial conference in Copenhagen on the 1st of February 2012 for a dialogue with key stakeholders on Horizon 2020. The ministerial conference is scheduled back-to-back with the informal Council meeting on the 2nd of February, where we plan to have an informal policy debate on Horizon 2020.

We would welcome participation from the European Parliament to these events, and I have forwarded an invitation to the newly appointed rapporteur, Ms. Madurell, to give a keynote speech at the Informal Council meeting.

The first Formal Council meeting will be on the 20th and the 21st of February, where we will have an orientation debate on Horizon 2020.

Together with your predecessor, Madam Chair, we have been planning an informal seminar on Horizon 2020 in March or April to take place in the European Parliament. It will be organised jointly between the Presidency, the European Parliament and with participation of the Commission.

This will allow us to have an informal discussion between the institutions during the first phase of the negotiations on Horizon 2020.

I am sure that the seminar will make an important contribution to the future discussions between institutions on this matter.

Let me conclude by saying that this Presidency will do its utmost to ensure the best possible cooperation with the European Parliament. Cooperation between our institutions and with researchers, knowledge institutions and industry is crucial for a successful and timely outcome of the negotiations. And of course also good cooperation with Poland and Cyprus – our Trio-partners.

If we work diligently and constructively with the issues at hand we can reach our target for the Danish Presidency and take a big step towards preventing any gap between the Seventh Framework Programme and Horizon 2020.

With these words – ladies and gentlemen - I would like to thank you for your attention. Thank you, Madam Chair.

last modified Dec 21, 2021