Meeting on 11 December 2012 in Brussels, the member states' research ministers agreed to complete the European Research Area (ERA) as soon as possible. National preferences still prevail in the ERA and it is not very outward looking, in spite of repeated requests by the European Council for its completion as the earliest possible date, no later than 2014. In their conclusions on the communication adopted last July by the Commission, A reinforced European Research Area partnership for excellence and growth', the ministers pledge to overcome these obstacles and point out the importance of applying transparent and fair standards in the Horizon 2020 framework programme and the European Institute of Technology (EIT), set to begin in 2014.

In its July communication, the Commission proposed five priorities for the ERA: more effective national research systems; optimal transnational cooperation and competition; an open labour market for researchers; gender equality and gender mainstreaming in research; and optimal circulation of knowledge. Although multiannual research programmes and infrastructure consortiums have led to advances in building a European Research Area, progress is uneven across member states and in the different components of the ERA, notes the Commission. To speed up the integration process, the Commission concluded tentative agreements in September with four European research associations, which agree to apply...

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