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Issues&Positions

EUROFER view on post-ECSC Treaty steel research

EUROFER view on post-ECSC Treaty steel research

Background


The Amsterdam European Council in June 1997 adopted a resolution inviting the Commission to make proposals in order to ensure that, upon expiration of the ECSC Treaty in 2002, the revenues of outstanding reserves are used for a research fund for the coal and steel industry and to sectors related to them.

In October 1997, the Commission issued a communication to the Council, setting out the arrangements for continued coal and steel research using the revenues from the ECSC assets remaining after the expiry of the ECSC Treaty.

In July 1998, the Council of Ministers adopted a resolution on the expiry of the ECSC Treaty, stating in some detail how the ECSC assets should be managed to let the revenues constitute dedicated funds for coal and steel research along lines similar to the existing ECSC research programme and in close consultation with industry.

In April 1999, the Council of Ministers agreed that the ECSC assets and liabilities should revert to the Communities remaining, that the ECSC funds should remain separate from other Community funds, and that administration of the assets should be entrusted to the Communities remaining, as represented by the Commission.

More details on the Council and Commission resolutions and proposals are shown in Annex 1.


EUROFER view

EUROFER supports the above-mentioned Commission communication and Council conclusions. Noting the Council's demand that the Research and Technical Development (RTD) programme should be managed in close consultation with industry and that existing procedures should be respected, EUROFER proposes the following for implementation of the Commission proposals and Council conclusions regarding ECSC-funded steel RTD after 2002.


Project selection

A Steel RTD Committee should be appointed by the Commission from nominations received from the EU steel industry. The committee, chaired by the Commission, should comprise RTD executives from EU steel companies and steel RTD organisations. The main tasks of this committee should be to:

  • Formulate medium-term RTD guidelines.
  • Establish priority themes for future ECSC-funded collaborative steel RTD.
  • Select steel projects for ECSC funding.
  • Supervise the activities of the Expert Committees appointed to advise on the technical monitoring of RTD contracts.
  • Advise the Commission concerning procedures for dissemination and application of results of the RTD programme.


Project monitoring

For regular monitoring of the entire programme, Expert Committees should be appointed by the Commission from nominations received from members of the Steel RTD Committee. Members, covering specialist areas of steel process, product and application technologies, should be drawn mainly from steel companies and RTD institutions involved in the programme. The main tasks of these expert committees should be to:

  • Receive and assess regular progress reports and final reports on RTD contracts in their area of expertise.
  • Advise the contractors on how to deal with any problems arising during the progress of the contract.
  • Organise workshops and other actions to exchange knowledge and experience.
  • Regularly report to the Steel RTD Committee on the progress and quality of current and completed contracts.
  • Carry out 'Post-Completion Reviews' in consultation with the contractors to establish the benefits from completed contracts.


Programme management and co-ordination

As the case has been so far, the Commission should be responsible for the overall programme management and co-ordination.

Thematic networks or similar actions with ECSC projects and related Framework Programme projects should be established in order to stimulate cross-fertilisation between projects and to maximise added value.


Structured dialogue with stakeholders

An RTD Advisory Committee should be formed in which the steel industry can present its view on political and financial aspects of the management and use of the research assets. The members should be appointed by the Council. The committee should also comprise representatives of steel-industry employees and steel users.

The Commission should consult the RTD Advisory Committee on:

  • The medium-term research guidelines to be issued by the Commission at five-year intervals.
  • The annual RTD programmes developed by the Steel RTD Committee.
  • The periodic evaluations of the RTD programmes.
  • The financial management of the research assets. It is assumed that these assets will be managed according to the principles of maximum yield and security.

EUROFER is in favour of a continued structured dialogue with the European Commission after the expiry of the ECSC Treaty and has therefore proposed the formation of a Steel Forum for this purpose. If this forum is created, it should also assume the role of the RTD Advisory Committee proposed above.

 

Annex 1Council and Commission resolutions and proposals

The Amsterdam European Council on 16 and 17 June 1997 concluded: The Commission is invited to make the appropriate proposals in order to ensure that, upon expiration of the ECSC Treaty in 2002, to use the revenues of outstanding reserves for a research fund for sectors related to the coal and steel industry.

On 8 October 1997, the Commission issued a communication to the Council, COM(97)506. In the communication, the Commission set out the arrangements for a research mechanism along the following lines:

  • The Member States, the direct heirs to the ECSC, should decide unanimously to transfer the ECSC assets to the Communities remaining.
  • In order to ensure that all revenue generated by these assets is used for coal and steel research, the sums should be placed in an autonomou internal fund to be administered by the Commission in association with the sectors concerned.

    On 20 July 1998, the Council of Ministers adopted a resolution on the expiry of the ECSC Treaty. Main points of the resolution:
  • The ECSC funds should remain separate from other Community funds for the purposes agreed by the Member States, even after all outstanding financial operations have been completed and all possible contingencies that could emerge have been adequately covered.
  • Administration of the assets should be entrusted to the Communities remaining, as represented by the Commissio
  • The assets should be managed on the basis of multi-annual financial guidelines proposed by the Commission and adopted by the Council.
  • The revenues from the ECSC assets should constitute "dedicated" revenue under the general budget of the European Communities to be administrated by the Commission. This should be directed to a research programme for sectors related to the coal and steel industries, including the possibility of widening the scope of the existing programme to applied research. Further changes to the use of the revenue should be subject to a unanimous decision of Member States.
  • The research programme should be managed along lines similar to the existing ECSC research programme and on the basis of multi-annual research guidelines proposed by the Commission and adopted by the Council, in close consultation with industry.
  • These guidelines should further develop the current research programme financed by the ECSC, by ensuring a high degree of concentration and by making it complementary to those under the Community Framework Programme.
  • The existing procedures concerning the adoption of individual research projects should be respected.

On 16 November 1998, the Commission issued a working paper SEC(1998)1948 Expiry of the ECSC Treaty Financial Activities. The paper provides a number of strong arguments for the Commission's proposal that the ECSC assets and liabilities should revert to the Communities remaining at the expiry of the ECSC Treaty. It is also stated that the percentage contributions of the coal and steel industries during the period 1953-1998 were 27.2 and 72.8 percent, respectively. Finally, the paper discusses the problems related to the accession of new Member States and the conditions for their participation in future ECSC RTD but without giving any firm conclusions.

On 29 April 1999, the Council of Ministers adopted a resolution on the expiry of the ECSC Treaty. Main points of the resolution concerning the ownership of the ECSC assets and liabilities:

  • These assets and liabilities should revert to the Communities remaining.
  • In order to ensure separation of the assets and liabilities from other Community funds a balance sheet of the ECSC in liquidation should be made out, as an annex of the EU's general assets and liabilities while consolidating the sum of the balance sheet in the EU's assets and liabilities and that the profit and loss account shall be dealt with in a similar way.
  • After the end of the liquidation of the ECSC, the assets generating the fund revenue shall be called the Coal and Steel Research Assets.
  • The cost of the Commission's management of the assets or of the fund respectively, will be borne by the Commission from the General budget of the European Union.
  • All contributions to the assets or the fund respectively, shall accrue to it.

Furthermore, the Council considered that

  • The question of the contributions of future EU-Member States to the assets or fund respectively should be clarified during the accession negotiations, taking into account the decisions reached on previous similar occasions.
  • The breakdown of research allocations between the sectors of coal and steel and their related sectors should be confirmed in the final Decision of the Council and of the Representatives of Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council on the expiry of the ECSC Treaty on the basis of the Commission's contribution of 17 November 19

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