In their conclusions of the European summit from 13-14 March 2008 our dear EU leaders introduce the idea of a fifth freedom for the free movement of knowledge. The Presidency conclusions read like this:
8. In order to become a truly modern and competitive economy, and building on the work arried out on the future of science and technology and on the modernisation of universities, ember States and the EU must remove barriers to the free movement of knowledge by reating a “fifth freedom” based on:
• enhancing the cross-border mobility of researchers, as well as students, scientists, and university teaching staff,
• making the labour market for European researchers more open and competitive, providing better career structures, transparency and family-friendliness,
• further implementing higher education reforms,
• facilitating and promoting the optimal use of intellectual property created in public research organisations so as to increase knowledge transfer to industry, in particular through an “IP Charter” to be adopted before the end of the year,
• encouraging open access to knowledge and open innovation,
• fostering scientific excellence,
• launching a new generation of world-class research facilities,
• promoting the mutual recognition of qualifications.
I quite like the idea of a fifth freedom but with it comes a very ambitios programme that would go deeply into coordinating or regulating national policies. However, my fear is that this point 8 of the Presidency Conclusions will be another one of these highly ambitious Council targets that will never see its realisation. Just remember the Lisbon Strategy or the Climate Change targets from last year.