Speaking at the International Conference and Ministerial Roundtable organised by UNESCO in his hometown of Ljubljana, Slovenia, Mr Potocnik explained what the region needed to do to boost its research and development capacities.
"Public investment in research in the South Eastern European countries is still very low, compared to the EU average of 1.9 per cent," he pointed out. "This is why you need to start drawing up a plan to progressively increase the public contribution to research. This will require some skilful work by Ministers of science, research and education."
He suggested that governments focus their research budgets on excellence and encourage collaboration and networking with the EU. On this note, he reiterated his commitment to bringing the countries of South East Europe into the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and commented on the value of research policy as a tool to facilitating European integration.
"Integration requires cooperation. FP7 is the perfect vehicle for this. Cooperation can take place beyond national borders, and regardless of historical and political obstacles," he told the delegates. "Collaborating in the programme will lead to cooperation with researchers and scientists from all over Europe and the world. Not only will you obtain more knowledge transfer, but also increased market access opportunities."
Mr Potocnik also encouraged the countries to update their research infrastructures and set priorities which match their strengths and interests.
However, the private sector also has a key role to play in contributing to spending on R&D, and for this to happen, the conditions for research investment need to be favourable. The Commissioner advised governments to implement fiscal measures allowing deductions of part of the investment, or to exempt scientists from social taxes.
Potocnik concluded by encouraging the countries of south-eastern Europe to avoid making the same mistakes the rest of Europe has made so far.
"One of those mistakes was not having invested enough in the last decades in knowledge - be it in research, innovation or education. We are still paying for that today," he warned. "So I urge you all to take the tough decisions needed to play your part in building and nurturing knowledge in your own countries. It is the best way to make this region attractive to investors, customers and its people."
For further information, please visit:
Copyright ©European Communities, 2006
Neither the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, nor any person acting on its behalf, is responsible for the use, which might be made of the attached information. The attached information is drawn from the Community R&D Information Service (CORDIS). The CORDIS services are carried on the CORDIS Host in Luxembourg - http://cordis.europa.eu.int. Access to CORDIS is currently available free-of-charge.