The new ethical framework proposed is weaker than the current one
In Autumn this year the ITRE Committee (Industry, Research and Energy) of the European Parliament will vote the package of proposals for Horizon 2020, the EU’s new programme for research and innovation running from 2014 to 2020 with an €87 billion budget. Some major ethical problems remain and it appears that on many aspects the new framework is even weaker than the current one. In a Position Paper now made public the COMECE Secretariat highlights the main points of concern.
This programme, which had been presented on 30 November 2011 by the European Commission, has to be welcomed as a major instrument for promoting growth and innovation in the European Union. The ethical aspects of Horizon 2020 are at the very heart of the COMECE Secretariat’s analysis and assessment of the Programme. In May 2011, the Secretariat contributed to the Consultation launched by the European Commission as part of the preparation for the new research programme. The present COMECE Secretariat Position Paper summarizes its main points of concern.
- In the core legal disposition concerning the ethical framework of the Programme ( Article 16 of the Proposal for a Regulation establishing Horizon 2020 ) two of the most important principles applicable in this field are missing: protection of human dignity (Article 1, Charter of Fundamental Rights) and the principle of primacy of the human being – putting the interests and welfare of the human being before that of society or science (Article 2, Convention of Oviedo).
-The new proposals, surprisingly, do not include the previous commitment (§12 of the Statement of 30 December 2006) that the Commission "will not submit to the Regulatory Committee proposals for projects which include research activities which destroy human embryos, including for the procurement of stem cells". This means that the proposed instruments present an ethical framework which is in fact weaker than the one which is applicable under the current research programme (2007-2013). The Secretariat of COMECE indeed considers it as paramount, from the ethical point of view, for the exclusion of any research involving the use of hESC in steps subsequent to their derivation; among other reasons such funding itself stimulates the procurement of hESC and, thus, escalates human embryo-destructive research.
This stance of the Secretariat of COMECE is, moreover, soundly based on scientific, economic and legal grounds, being notably aligned with the recent ruling of the European Court of Justice in the case of Greenpeace v. Brüstle which, however, has not been duly taken into consideration in the proposals by the European Commission. This may expose the Programme, if not amended, to legal challenge after adoption.
The text of the “COMECE Secretariat Position Paper on Horizon 2020” is available in English (only) and can be downloaded here.
COMECE is the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, and comprises 26 Bishops representing all Member States of the EU. For more than thirty years now, COMECE has been accompanying the process of European integration, and offering its reflections. COMECE is now a partner of the EU institutions in the dialogue foreseen by Article 17 (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.