The official involvement of the European Community in scientific and technological research – after the Euratom experience - opened up in 1974 with the project of coordinating national policies, programmes and activities. The idea was to use facilities and projects in science and technology, already existing in the member States, and to help them to collaborate through a European coordination policy. Several European Commissioners, especially when Community financial resources were scarce, tried the “easier” strategy of coordination. At the Lisbon European Council in March 2000, the European Union gave to itself a new strategic goal, that “to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world”. For achieving such an ambitious goal by 2010, the Council put R&D at the centre of its strategy, establishing a European Research Area. The ERA is the last name given to the coordination strategy, but its implementation like in the past seemed almost impossible. On the other hand, there exists a de facto coordination through the Framework programmes: the European Union research programmes profoundly penetrate in the national structures of research and the networks that they create involve most of the large national research institutions. And since the European financing of S&T activities has sharply increased, making of the European Union one of the single most important financial contributors to the development of science and technology in Europe, there is no doubt that with its role as financer of both fundamental and applied research, the European Union will play an even more important role as at least de facto coordinator of the national science and technology policies in the future.
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