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Parlamento Europeo - 17 settembre 1992
Challenge of modern technology


Resolution on Europe's response to the challenge of modern technology

The European Parliament,

-having regard to its resolutions of 8 October 1985OJ No. C 288, 11.11.1985, p. 32, 17 June 1987OJ No. C 190, 20.7.1987, p. 76 and 26 May 1989OJ No. C 158, 26.6.1989, p. 351 on Europe's response to the challenge of modern technology,

-having regard to the state of progress of the Commission's deliberations on the Fourth Framework Programme of activities in the field of research and technological development,

-having regard to all the amendments adopted on the occasion of its consultation on the specific R&D programmes of the Third Framework Programme,

-having regard to the results of the evaluation report drawn up by the Commission on the Second Framework Programme,

-having regard to the aim of social and economic cohesion which the European Community has set itself through the Single European Act,

-having regard to the Maastricht Treaty of 7 February 1992, which no longer restricts the Community's R&D policy to promoting competitiveness at international level, but also provides for the promotion of research activities judged necessary in the light of other chapters of the Treaty,

-having regard to the motions for resolutions tabled by Mr Robles Piquer on:

(a)the annual designation of a European new technology capital (B3-0078/92),

(b)building up the Community's strength in the field of new technology (B3-0251/92),

-having regard to the problems discussed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro,

-having regard to the report of the Committee on Energy, Research and Technology (A3-0240/92),

A.having regard to the global challenges posed by the drastic changes facing our planet:

-the challenge of feeding the world's population, which is growing at an exponential rate in the poor countries of the Third World and which has risen from 4 bn in 1970 to 5.2 bn in 1992 - and will probably reach 10 bn by the year 2050 - whilst the economic situation in these countries has stagnated or even deteriorated during the 1980s,

-the challenge of preserving the environment, particularly the climate, which is threatened by the expansion of the greenhouse effect, the destruction of the ozone layer, desertification and deforestation,

-the challenge of producing and supplying clean, non-polluting and risk-free energy, given that the Community consumes 14.3% of all the energy produced in the world, but produces only 7.5%,

-the ethical challenge opened up by the new bio-medical technologies, particularly the possibility of manipulating hereditary factors,

B.having regard to the challenges associated with the welfare of the citizens of Europe:

-restructuring the economies of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which are threatened by a brain drain,

-contributing to the stability of the Mediterranean basin, which is threatened by serious economic, demographic and environmental problems,

-mastering technologies within Europe, to ensure the welfare of the citizens of Europe, and, in particular, to combat the growth of unemployment, which reached 9.2% in February 1992,

-achieving cohesion and convergence of living conditions, these aims being threatened by unequal rates of economic and technological development in the regions of the Community,

-safeguarding, at one and the same time, the well-being of the citizens of Europe and that of the citizens of the Third World,

-prolonging the ability of the disabled and the elderly to lead independent lives (in view of the ageing of the population and the parallel steady increase in dependence on aids and services),

C.having regard to the advantages available to the Member States: great research institutions, high-quality researchers and industries with great technological potential,

As regards the challenge of feeding the world's population:

1.Considers that there is a vital need for further promotion of research in the field of biotechnology to develop more productive and resistant cereals which will meet the specific needs of Third World countries;

2.Considers that there is a need to step up cooperation with the countries of the Third World, particularly in the field of biotechnology and agricultural and agro-industrial science, if food supply conditions are to be genuinely improved, and that the Commission should propose a strategic programme to this end;

3.Considers that the best way of helping the countries of the Third World is by respecting the traditional diet and culture of the local people, providing aid which is compatible, in both technical and environmental terms, with their systems and hence, in the case of food, promoting biological diversity;

4.Considers that the economic and technological aid provided by the Community's Member States should be increased to 0.7% of GNP, to help to improve living conditions in the Third World;

As regards the challenge of preserving the climate and the environment:

5.Stresses the need to step up Community R&D activity in the environmental field, in particular through the development and introduction of clean technologies and the incorporation of environmental requirements into production procedures; takes the view, furthermore, that this strategy should go hand in hand with the promotion of anti-pollution technologies;

6.Considers that climatological research should be a priority in the Fourth Framework Programme, particulary if one compares the ECU 104 m earmarked in the Third Framework Programme with the ECU 40 280 m earmarked for such research over 20 years by the United States;

7.Takes the view that research should be geared to improving the well-being of all citizens, and not exclusively to profit-making;

8.Considers that the Community should step up its programme of research into desertification in the Mediterranean regions in the Fourth Framework Programme, by providing for close cooperation with those countries where desertification is on the increase;

9.Reminds the Commission of the call made by Parliament for two centres of excellence to be set up with responsibility for coastlines and tropical rainforests respectively;

As regards the challenge of energy production and supply:

10.Points out that a high priority must continue to be given in the EEC's R&D programmes to projects with the following aims:

-promoting renewable energy sources more forcefully than hitherto,

-improving energy efficiency and energy savings,

-developing nuclear safety technology,

-developing more efficient and less pollutant technologies for burning fossil fuels, particularly coal;

11.Reminds the Commission that Parliament has pointed out the desirability of implementing a large-scale project, incorporating a 'centre of excellence', with a view to ensuring that a large proportion of the energy needs of African and European countries in the coming century can be met by means of solar energy;

As regards the challenge of improving the welfare of the citizens of Central and Eastern Europe:

12.Notes the worrying brain drain from the countries of Eastern Europe to the West, which is depleting the economic and technological potential of those countries;

13.Calls, therefore, on the Commission to set up a cooperation strategy to provide incentives for researchers and technicians to remain in their country of origin, to help stabilize the economic situation;

14.Recommends, as a matter of principle, that the new countries of Eastern and Central Europe take part in the Community's R&D programmes and that these countries be given access to European cooperation in the field of scientific and technological research (COST);

15.Stresses the considerable potential for close cooperation with the countries of Eastern Europe in the field of energy and the environment;

As regards the challenge of improving the stability of the Mediterranean basin:

16.Notes the gravity of the economic, demographic and environmental problems affecting the countries in the Mediterranean basin;

17.Calls on the Commission to lay down a strategy for scientific and technological cooperation with the countries of the Mediterranean basin to encourage their scientists and researchers to stay put in their countries of origin and help to create a critical mass of researchers which will enable those countries to boost their economic and social development and improve their environmental conditions;

18.Stresses the importance of cooperation with the countries of the Mediterranean Basin in the field of energy and environment;

As regards Europe's mastery of technological development and the competitiveness of its industry:

19.Questions the pertinence of the Member States' and the Community's responses to these challenges, which more often than not seek to enhance competitiveness solely on the basis of predominantly short-term financial criteria;

20.Notes that internal EEC expenditure on R&D in 1990 was only 2.3% of GDP -as compared with 2.79% in the United States and 3.11% in Japan - with considerable differences between the Member States;

21.Recommends that the Member States step up their efforts to reduce this gap, given the key role of R&D for the welfare of its inhabitants and Europe's competitiveness, with the aim of building up an R&D programme comparable with those of its main competitors;

22.Notes other weaknesses in Europe's competitiveness in the field of R&D, such as the shortage of qualified staff in the field of science and technology; in 1988, researchers accounted for a mere 4.03 per 1000 of the working population, as compared with 7.7 per 1000 in the United States and 7 per 1000 in Japan;

23.Recommends that the Member States increase considerably the participation of women in R&D programmes by means of suitable policies, including those already proposed by the Community;

24.Recommends, therefore, that the Member States increase their capacity for the training of male and female researchers and technicians in universities and the vocational training of male and female employees and other workers, given the decisive role of the quality of training in the innovation process;

25.Notes that it is not so much in basic research that Europe is lagging behind, but rather in the inadequacy of industrial application, one of the main reasons for the weak link between research and industry being the strategies of the major companies, which place great emphasis on extra-European alliances, competition and financial profitability, at the expense of wide-ranging schemes for European cooperation geared to technological innovation; draws attention, further, to the lack of bodies devoted to pre-competitive research, which would also serve to facilitate the transfer and exchange of information between the spheres of basic research and technological innovation; proposes, therefore, to extend the funding of pre-competitive research to cover horizontal, applied research; recommends, further, that strategic alliances be fostered;

26.Recommends that the competitive ethos be balanced by a cooperative ethos within the EEC; as a matter of priority in those strategic industrial areas in which Europe's place and independence are threatened; this cooperative ethos could take the form of increased support for cooperative industrial R&D at Community level;

27.Calls, therefore, for substantial changes in Community R&D policy, with Community support being conditional on contractual relations between the partners involved (companies, universities and the Community itself), particularly:

(a)access for all partners to all research files so as to reduce the risk of dependence or domination for those taking part,

(b)co-production incentives which would commit industrialists receiving research and development funds to pursue development to the product stage in European centres and branches, and which would make provision for the distribution and localization of activities and jobs;

(c)greater efforts with regard to standardization and specifications, linked to providing suitable outlets for products developed jointly (particularly through public sector orders and Community regional planning);

28.Recommends that the Community and the Member States continue to promote information and communication technology, so as avoid permanent dependence on Japan, which would affect not only the information and communications technology industries, but also all the other industries which manufacture products containing integrated circuits;

29.Considers, in more general terms, that there is a need to focus greater efforts on the generic technologies which are indispensable for the independent development of Europe's various industrial sectors;

30.Calls on the Member States to encourage research within companies by setting up a special research tax dependent on genuine participation in research and innovation work, either through EC-level cooperation or cooperation at national or regional level, involving SMUs and encourage bodies devoted to research; and calls on the Community to consider low-interest loans to finance research projects;

31.Calls, in view of the importance of workers' participation for the successful integration of new technologies, for the establishment of the right of opinion and consultation on all technological innovation processes which may have a significant effect on employment and working conditions;

As regards the administration of the R&D programmes:

32.Calls on the Commission to revise the ways in which these programmes are administered:

-by speeding up and simplifying procedures, particularly where SMUs are concerned,

-by exploiting the full scope of the relevant Treaty provisions and by seeking to develop the best operating methods in conjunction with EUREKA,

-by making project selection procedures more transparent, notably by bringing in external experts,

-and by coordinating more closely the R&D efforts of the Member States and those of the Community;

33.Urges the Member States not to use the increase in Community spending on R&D as a pretext to reduce vital national efforts in this field;

34.Considers that there is a need to reaffirm the meaning of the notion of excellence as a criterion to encourage the best teams, but also to improve the fabric of European science and technology as a whole, particularly in the peripheral regions;

35.Regards it as essential, further, to emphasize the regional dimension of research and technological development policies;

36.Considers, in this connection, that the Community's role must not be seen in terms of taking over national responsibilities, but rather in terms of fostering and organizing cooperation between research institutions, universities, companies and Member States;

As regards other needs of EC citizens:

37.Calls for the R&D programmes of the next Framework Programme to be extended to research in the human sciences, particularly urban sociology, the sociology of work, health economics, the study of education and training and research into the organization of production and companies;

38.Notes that the measures to foster research contained in the new Framework Programme should meet the demand for research connected with local development needs, regions in their role as innovators and cities facing new problems, maintaining the integrated nature of the measures and the balance between research for technological and industrial and for socio-cultural purposes;

39.Calls for R&D efforts to be directed largely at guiding strategic choices in the various fields of Community policy: agriculture, the environment, development, transport and energy and industry;

40.Calls on the Commission to include among its activities a programme of research designed to meet the challenges posed by the conversion of military production activities and the redeployment of people working in this sector;

41.Calls for the establishment of cooperation in the field of epidemiology between the medical research institutions of the Member States;

42.Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the parliaments of the Member States.

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