1. TOWARDS A COMPREHENSIVE AND STRATEGIC VISION
Scientific and technological progress in the life sciences and modern biotechnology is continuing at a breathtaking pace. At the same time, the potential benefits and implications for individuals, society and the environment have given rise to intense public debate.
At the European Council in Lisbon in March 2000, the European Union set itself a new strategic goal for the next decade: to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.
In its follow-up report of February 2001 to the Stockholm European Council under the so-called Lisbon strategy, the Commission recalled the economic, social and environmental potential of life sciences and biotechnology and, in consequence, the strategic and long-term importance for Europe of mastering these sciences and technologies and their applications. The Commission also announced its intention to present, by the end of 2001, a strategic vision of life sciences and biotechnology up to 2010 and beyond. That initiative should take a comprehensive and forward-looking perspective and propose concrete actions in the short-term to meet the challenges of tomorrow, to achieve the Lisbon objectives and to contribute to the continued public dialogue and consensus building.
Life sciences and biotechnology raise different types of issues which should be addressed at the appropriate level in accordance with the subsidiarity principle. In some areas, the Community has a clear responsibility (for example concerning trade and internal market implications as well as handling the implications of life sciences and biotechnology on existing Community policies), in others, the responsibility lies overwhelmingly with the Member States (e.g. on setting the ethical principles). The cross-cutting nature and importance of life sciences and biotechnology and their implications call for a careful reflection on overall coherence and on the involvement of civil society and stakeholders.
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