To put what lies ahead in context, the Commission has published a mid-term review of its work programme, outlining some of the key achievements delivered so far in 2006. They include efforts to implement the renewed Lisbon strategy, as well as proposals to modernise European universities, and establish the EIT.
Since the start of the year, the Commission has adopted 37 out of the 96 objectives set out in its work programme. Principal among them are initiatives to boost the prosperity of the Union, as set out in the renewed Lisbon Strategy.
In June, the Commission proposed a series of measures to increase the competitiveness of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), which are seen as essential sources for innovation and job creation. The measures are designed to improve access to external sources of finance, especially risk capital, to enable SMEs to start up and develop. They include the creation of investment readiness programmes; removing obstacles for EU-wide presence of venture capital funds; and making use of financial instruments such as Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises initiative (JEREMIE) to obtain a set of financial products specifically engineered for SMEs.
Also linked to the Lisbon Strategy, the mid-term review points to the successful adoption by the Commission of the 'i2010 eGovernment Action Plan: Accelerating eGovernment in Europe for the Benefit of All' to modernise Member States' administrative systems. Countries that score high on public sector openness and efficiency and eGovernment readiness also top the economic performance and competitiveness scoreboards. The action plan outlines five specific areas in which practical headway can be made between now and 2010 in order to accelerate the delivery of eGovernment service, and, at the same time, ensure tangible benefits for all European citizens and businesses. Consultations were also launched to review the regulatory framework for electronic communications.
Other noteworthy advances include the intensive work carried out on the negotiation of the budgetary framework for 2007-2013, which saw an increase by â¬300 million in the budget for the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) which now stands at â¬55.6 billion. The Commission also worked closely with the other European institutions to reach agreement on the content of the programme proposal. In July, the Competitiveness Council reached a decision regarding the funding for stem cell research and nuclear research, which had been the cause for much debate. The decision cleared the way for a second Parliament reading of the FP7 proposals in the autumn, and the timely launch of the programme on 1 January 2007.
The first half of 2006 also saw further discussions on the EIT, the proposed European pole of excellence. In February, the Commission set out its ideas on the Institute in a communication. A vast consultation with Member States and organisations concerned followed, and in June, the Commission reworked its proposal, taking on board stakeholders' feedback regarding the governance and operations of the EIT. The Commission is expected to present a formal proposal by the end of 2006.
In addition to the EIT, the Commission also proposed measures to modernise the research and teaching activities of European universities, as well as to examine their potential role as a motor for innovation.
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