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Research: When Brussels pushes its partners aside in the name of strategic autonomy

Posted on April 25, 2021 at 8:00 am

The scientific community has been shouting anxiously for several weeks. At the beginning of March and during a working meeting with representatives of Member States, The European Commission suggested To ban a number of its major research programs Israel, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, three countries with scientific traditions and long association with the European Union.

New European Framework Agreement devoted to research, Horizon Europe », It will commit to a total budget of 95.5 billion euros over the next seven years and its officials are currently listing hundreds of projects that will be eligible for funding from the European Union.

In this context, Brussels suggested restricting research in certain areas of quantum technologies and space during the next two years to European entities only, which sparked outrageous reactions from the concerned capitals and many scientists. “ Such a policy is dangerous to the long-term interests of Europeans. Science is international by nature and it is important that the French laboratories cooperate with foreign institutions at the highest possible level. Estimates eg Nobel Prize for Physics Serge Harush.

Strategic assets

The reason for this shift on the part of Europe so far associated with ” Open science “at sea? There is no doubt that the awareness that the technological competition is getting fierce between the United States and China, The two superpowers intend to dominate The world and that the pursuit of strategic autonomy, which has gradually become part of European policies, requires more self-reliance at the scientific level.

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This concern, spurred by France, led to the introduction, for the first time, in the organization of the European Union’s Research Framework Program, an article specifically stating that the Union ” Participation may be limited to select entities where there is a justifiable need to protect strategic assets, interests, autonomy or union security ».

Narrow field

Controversial projects fall under this motive. This will not be basic research, which is still available to non-EU countries, but research that has reached a level of development close to industrial application and is considered hyper-strategic as such, one expert notes. One of the programs in question relates, for example, to First development The quantum computer Widely The field of exclusion will also be narrower than some would like to believe. The restrictions relate to four calls for projects in the 1950s relating to quantity », Underlines a source close to the file.

Strict limits have also been proposed for the participation of third countries in Space projects , Such as communications, satellite transport systems, and space bombers, according to media outlet Science Business.

New release

Some observers argue that if the UK is excluded from the disputed programs, it is also due to ongoing negotiations Its future status as an Associate State In the search did not begin and the financial conditions for their participation were not specified.

Since the Commission instigated this psychological drama in early March, pressure on scholars and diplomats from major European capitals has put a lot of energy behind the scenes to convince those responsible for “DG Connect” , At the origin of this controversy, to review their version. Germany indicated to mezzo voce that it would be best to avoid depriving itself of these important research partners. Denmark and Austria echoed their belief to Research Commissioner, Maria Gabriel: Strategic independence must not translate into protectionism.

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« The first version was a bit drastic … Explains one of the parties to the negotiations. There is no doubt that there is a way to propose a more incremental approach, perhaps even to reintegrate excluded countries with strict safeguards on the use of IP rights. The next working group meeting scheduled for this week should make it possible to find a compromise acceptable to all.