Implementation of the Directive by member states is essential to the paradigm of ‘brain circulation' and the development of the European Research Area.
The researchers’ directive
© Fotodienst.cc/Oskar Goldberger
One of the key objectives of the European Commission, as first outlined in the Lisbon Agenda and reiterated by policy decisions since then, is to turn Europe into the world's most competitive and dynamic knowledgebased society. The Commission has striven to facilitate and create opportunities in Europe which will lead to the attainment of this goal, not at least in the area of scientific research. Enormous efforts have been made to improve the quality and amount of research and development currently taking place in European universities and private laboratories, through public-private partnerships and investment in universities in particular. However, we have recognised that one problem persists. If the European Union wants to be successful in its quest to become the innovation centre of the world, then it must rapidly increase the quality and quantity of researchers within the EU: not only to ensure the progress of science and innovation in Europe, but also as a crucial mean to attract and sustain the necessary investment required.
In recognition of the need to attract talented researchers from all over the world, the Council adopted a Directive in October 2005, which sets out specific procedures for admitting third-country nationals for the purposes of scientific research This Directive, which was established thanks to the close collaboration by my Directorate General and DG Research, facilitates access of non-European researchers to the European Union and creates a specific residence permit for 3rd country researchers, which enables them to move freely within the Union for the purpose of scientific projects. The Directive is aimed at “cutting red tape” and diminishes significantly the burden of the administrative procedures involved. It represents a pioneering piece of legislation, the adoption of which is essential to the paradigm of ‘brain circulation' and the development of the European Research Area, which my colleagues in the European Commission and I have been advocating so strongly and persistently. Moreover the researcher's visa system will provide an unparalleled opportunity for non-European and European workers to work together in helping Europe face the challenges of globalisation.
The date by which Member States were to adopt the necessary legislative and administrative procedures needed to transpose this Directive into their national laws has now passed. Unfortunately the great majority of the Member States have failed to adopt it in time. I hope that this situation will be remedied shortly. If we do not take action Europe will never succeed in securing the human resources required to attain its objective of investing 3% of GDP in Research and Development and will, as a result, be surpassed in this crucial field. Furthermore, failing to implement this directive means depriving European scientists of an invaluable opportunity to benefit from intellectual input from abroad and to exchange ideas with other leading research experts. We cannot let our scientists and, the rest of European society down, by not making the concrete commitments needed to make this possible.
In closing, let me once more underline that ensuring the access and mobility of 3rd country researchers is essential and indispensable for the future of Europe, not merely as means to improve and encourage scientific development and innovation, but also as a way to stimulate productivity and growth and to enable us to compete with other markets around the world. I therefore urge the remaining Member States to implement the Directive and thus allow us to come a step closer to fulfilling the Lisbon Goals and making Europe a more prosperous society.
Mr Franco Frattini is a vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security.