Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Mugs, yet again

It is a measure of how little Blair understands of the dynamics of the EU that he wants much of the expenditure devoted to the CAP to be redirected to EU research and development projects, arguing that too much of the CAP funding goes to benefiting French farmers.

What he clearly does not realise is that a disproportionate amount of the research budget also goes to France, not least via the space programme where 40-45 percent of the €10 billion annual budget – abstracted from the framework research programme – ends up in the hands of French aerospace manufacturers.

And now we get yet another example of the pork barrel being rolled out in France's favour, with the award of the largest ever international research programme, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) research programme being awarded to… you guessed it, France.

Initially expected to go to Rokkasho-Mura, in north eastern Japan, the EU has fought a long and dirty campaign (some details of which we recorded in an earlier posting) to get the project relocated to Cadarache in southern France. Not least, the EU used some of the tactics of unilateralism it often criticises in the United States, having threatened to pull out of the project all together and go it alone, if the Japanese did not yield.

These bully-boy tactics have now succeeded but, according to a report by Reuters, success had come at a very high price – one which the rest of us are going to have to pay.

The EU had had to make huge financial and industrial concessions to the Japanese to clinch the €10 billion project, the deal for which was signed in Moscow yesterday. It will get contracts for up to 10 percent of the procurement, EU participation in science projects in Japan, and up to 8 percent of the cost of ITER construction, plus a disproportionate share of Japanese staff on the ITER organisation, including the post of director-general.

Furthermore, the EU will have to fund 40 percent of the €4.6 billion construction cost. Needless to say, though, France only has to pay 10 percent – down from the original 20 percent - the same as the other five members of the international consortium. For that, it will have a facility that employs 3,500 scientific workers and first use of the technology, if it proves successful.

The role of Britian, of course, is to pay our share to keep French research and industry going, on top of which we are expected to relinquish our rebate, and let France keep its CAP funding. Do we really have "mug" stamped on our foreheads?

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