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Asociatia Ad Astra a trimis o scrisoare Comisiei Europene

To the European Commission,

In light of the recent proposal to provide a medium-term loan to Romania [1], which will be conditioned by the implementation of a comprehensive economic policy programme, the Ad Astra Association of Romanian Scientists would like to bring to the attention of the Commission the following:

According to the recently approved budget for 2009, the Romanian Government has allocated only 0.248% of the Romanian GDP to scientific Research and Development (R&D) activities. This represents a dramatic decrease from the previous budget allocated in 2008 (0.38% of GDP) and has led to a severe crippling of science in Romania. Agencies that finance competitive research projects have witnessed such a dramatic decrease of funding that in most cases they were not able to continue the financing of ongoing projects. Funding was cut down by 50 to 80% for the majority of ongoing research grants and new calls for competitive funding were completely halted.

The attitude of the Romanian Government with respect to scientific research comes in clear contradiction with the engagements assumed by Romania during the negotiations for accession to the European Union (EU). In the Position Document, Chapter 17 – Science and Research, it was specified that an adequate funding for the R&D system will be ensured, with an estimated allocation of 1% of GDP in 2007 representing ~150 €/capita, i.e. 300,000 €/researcher [2]. The R&D funding allocated in 2009 represents only ~17 €/capita, i.e. 37,000 €/researcher, hence it is severely reduced as compared with the level assumed by Romania during the EU accession talks.

Moreover, the present funding policy for R&D in Romania goes against the position adopted by the EU. The European Parliament, through the resolution issued in 2005 regarding the Lisbon Strategy – P6_TA(2005)0069, has recommended that member states „commit themselves at the Spring European Council to the measures needed in order to raise R&D spending to at least 3% of national income (2% for the private and 1% for the public sector)” [3]. In addition, in the communication of the European Commission from 29th of October 2008, entitled „From financial crisis to recovery: A European framework for action” it has been explicitly specified that short-term action must be taken for „increasing investment in R&D innovation and education” [4].

The actions of the Government are not only in breach of the country’s European engagements, but also go against the political consensus established towards achieving them. This consensus took the shape of a national strategy of development through research and education, in line with the Lisbon Agenda, signed by all parliamentary parties, and spearheaded by a Presidential Commission [5]. The departure from this national strategy did not follow proper public debate.

We believe that the present attitude of the Romanian Government with respect to R&D will lead to increased exposure of the country to the ill effects of the worldwide crisis. The lack of engagement in supporting R&D activities will likely have a severe impact on the development and economic future of Romania, thus increasing its lag behind the other European countries. We have approached directly the Romanian Parliament, the Government and the President of Romania, but we were met with interest levels so low as to border on irresponsibility regarding R&D.

We are reassured to note in your communiqué [1] that securing this loan is conditional upon Romania adhering to the Lisbon Agenda.

We would like to ask the European Commission to consider including the following conditions to the granting of the loan to Romania’s Government:

– Adopting a responsible attitude with respect to research, development and innovation, as stipulated by the Lisbon Strategy, by increasing public R&D funding to at least 1% of GDP, beginning with 2010.
– Undertaking a set of measures designed to provide a real reform in the R&D field and agreeing to ensure high-quality evaluation of both competitive research projects and research institutions by employing international evaluators.

The Ad Astra Association of Romanian Scientists

[1] Press release of the European Commission, Ref. IP/09/611, of 21/04/2009.