The leaders of the European Union (EU) reportedly plan to make it a priority to make a decision regarding the region's R&D funding program--an agreement the region's scientists have been waiting months to see, according to a report by the Scientist.
Two years ago, the European Commission proposed to increase EU research funding but since then then funding has experienced significant cuts. When discussions over the total EU budget collapsed in 2005, any agreement on the science funding program--known as Framework Programme 7 (FP7)--was also frozen. However, according to the report, late last year an agreement on the overall EU budget paved the way for FP7 negotiations to move forward.
The Austrian government says it plans to use its six-month turn at the rotating EU presidency to broker a deal. In a joint statement with the Finnish presidency, which will take over from Austria for the second half of 2006, it said: "the presidencies will make every effort, in close liaison with the European Parliament, to ensure [the] timely launch of FP7."
The UK presidency had called for the EU's research budget to increase by 75% of its current level by 2013--from roughly 5 billion euros annually to 8.75 billion euros. However, negotiations on the budget details have not yet been finalized. The parliament has scheduled its first reading of the FP7 budget for June 2006.