Richard North, 10/08/2004  

Not only sport but scientific research. The EU’s Constitution, supposedly a reader-friendly document, whose purpose is to tidy up the previous hundreds of pages and painfully agreed on treaties, is also, as EurActiv points out, providing a “legal basis” for an EU research policy.

Article I-3, which is a bit of a catch-all, states:
The Union shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth, a social market economy, highly competitive and aiming at full employment and social progress, and with a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. It shall promote scientific and technological advance.
The Article does go on about social justice, protection of everybody’s rights, cultural and linguistic dignity and goodness knows what else. Quite what any of this means is not clear to anyone. Nor is it clear what this extraordinary Pollyannaish wish list is doing in a constitution.

But, perhaps, the most extraordinary phrase in the whole rag-bag is the one about scientific and technological advance, and the idea that there needs to be some kind of a legal basis for research policy.

Research and scientific advance are carried out by scientists working variously for academic institutions or various firmst that involve scientific work. (For example, drug companies, at present the bad boys of the biens pensants.) Why does it need a legal basis?

According to EurActiv “the EU will share responsibility with the Member States in initiating actions and, especially, in defining and implementing the Research Framework Programmes”. This is a sure-fire recipe for scientific stagnation.

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