The Slovenian Presidency's outstanding achievement: adoption of the new European Research Area

Met dank overgenomen van Sloveens voorzitterschap Europese Unie 2e helft 2021, gepubliceerd op vrijdag 26 november 2021.

EU research ministers adopted a new way of governing the European Research Area and an action plan for the next three years. In the adopted recommendations of the Pact for Research and Innovation, the member states committed themselves to a set of common EU principles and values, priority areas for action, investment and reforms, and a simplified process for policy coordination and monitoring.

At the end of the EU Council meeting, the Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Simona Kustec, said: "Today is a great day for European science. The adoption of the new European Research Area is an important milestone for science and an outstanding achievement of the Slovenian Presidency. The new way of governance and the adopted action plan will increase the efficiency of the European Research Area, enable us to respond more quickly to key challenges of our society, deliver greater impact for European citizens and contribute to Europe's competitiveness."

Alongside the conclusions on the new way of governing the ERA, the ministers also adopted the ERA public policy plan for the next three years, which contains 20 actions to effectively deliver on the set objectives. In addition to this plan, for the first time in the history of the European Research Area, ministers adopted the involvement of stakeholders in the ERA governance structure, which will speed up development and enable faster research results. The stakeholders who will have a place in the ERA governance structures are representatives of universities, research institutes, the economy, research agencies, academies, research funding agencies, academia, infrastructure and research societies. The chair of the Council, Simona Kustec, stressed:

The action plan, the involvement of stakeholders and lean governance are creating a new European Research Area, which will not only focus on the free flow of researchers, knowledge, data and technologies, but also on the united approach of member states to tackle common challenges.

Simona KustecMinister of Education, Science and Sport

Simona KustecMinister of Education, Science and Sport

In the context of the pact's adopted recommendations, the member states committed themselves to the following:

  • Common EU principles and values in research and innovation,
  • Common priority areas for action,
  • Investment and reforms, and
  • A simplified process for policy coordination and monitoring.

Research and innovation are key to accelerating the digital and green transition

The clear message from ministers in the debate is that research and innovation will play an extremely important role in all these initiatives. Therefore, the implementation of the new European Research Area will be key to accelerating the green and digital transition.

The Slovenian Presidency's achievements

In the final part of the meeting, Minister Kustec presented the Slovenian Presidency's key achievements, among which she highlighted the adoption of the European partnerships:

Joint investments of tens of billions of euros at EU and national levels are an important achievement of the Slovenian Presidency, which will have clear benefits for EU citizens, based on the principles of openness, inclusiveness and transparency, and will lead Europe towards a green transition, digital transformation and increased resilience in key areas.

Simona KustecMinister for Education, Science and Sport

Simona KustecMinister for Education, Science and Sport

Another special achievement of the Slovenian Presidency is the Ljubljana Declaration on Gender Equality in Research and Innovation, which has been endorsed by 35 European countries.

Space ministers met as part of the afternoon session of the Competitiveness Council

Ministers adopted the conclusions on "Space for Everyone", underlining the importance of more equitable participation of different stakeholders in space projects in all member states. They encourage the strengthening of links between space and other sectors. Minister Kustec said: "The conclusions are intended to convey the message that the European Union should promote pragmatic solutions to foster the development of space ecosystems in member states through existing space policies and programmes such as CASSINI or Horizon Europe."

In the main discussion on long-term sustainability, sustainable development and funding of the so-called "new space", the growing importance of space for European competitiveness was underlined, with a strong focus on the development of this new space. Ministers stressed that space brought growth to the economy, with benefits for both space and other sectors. Until recently, the development of the space sector has been driven mainly by institutional markets. New players and new users are now playing an increasingly important role in the new space. Other sectors and players are also entering the field. This raises questions, for example, about the potential impact of the increasing number of satellites being launched into space by new space stakeholders.

In conclusion, Minister Kustec presented the Presidency's Secure Connectivity initiative as the third flagship project alongside Galileo and Copernicus. With this initiative, the Presidency aims to ensure broadband access for all and to ensure resilient communication for government users, as well as for specific sectors such as finance, energy and transport. It also includes a strategic component in terms of digital sovereignty and strategic partnerships, as it would also cover the Arctic and Africa.

Competitiveness Council (Research and space), 26 November 2021

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