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President decries cuts in R&D

SLOVAK President Ivan Gašparovič is saddened by the decision of the Iveta Radičová government to re-allocate financial resources from the Research and Development Operational Programme and the Education Operational Programme to highway construction. President Gašparovič so commented in reaction to a petition drive initiated by representatives of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV), the TASR newswire wrote on February 13.

SLOVAK President Ivan Gašparovič is saddened by the decision of the Iveta Radičová government to re-allocate financial resources from the Research and Development Operational Programme and the Education Operational Programme to highway construction. President Gašparovič so commented in reaction to a petition drive initiated by representatives of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV), the TASR newswire wrote on February 13.

“By taking these resources from our scientists, it’s as if we are trying to tell the EU that they were unable to use the money appropriately,” he said in a statement. According to President Gašparovič, Slovakia now runs the risk of not receiving any further subsidies for its operational programmes.

On February 2, the cabinet reallocated €350 million to the Operational Programme Transport, which means it will be spent on highway construction. Of this, €120 million will be reallocated from the Operational Programme Research and Development and almost €60 million from the Operational Programme Education. The move has triggered complaints among representatives of the academic and scientific community. They believe that it might have a catastrophic effect on Slovak science. Their concerns led to a petition to reverse the government’s decision. Scientists claim that the €180 million will be enough to build just 12 kilometres of highway. Over 8,200 Slovak scientists, academic personalities and members of the public have already joined the action.

The cabinet argues that EU funds for science are not being drawn in sufficient quantity. SAV chairman Jaromír Pastorek blamed this on bureaucracy, which he said is much worse in receiving EU funds for science than in other fields. According of Pastorek, only a few kilometres of highway can be built from the money reallocated from the OP Education. Yet the funds are of a crucial importance to Slovak science, which he said is undernourished.

Pastorek appealed for people to “support Slovak science and education and even the future of Slovakia at the www.zachranmevedu.sk website,” claiming that the cabinet has behaved schizophrenically by on one hand declaring that science, research, education and a knowledge society are its priorities, but on the other hand making decisions that undermine science.

Comenius University’s rector, Karol Mičeta, also warned that the cabinet’s decision could jeopardise education and research at universities.

In Slovakia, as President Gašparovič pointed out, state financing for research and development is under 0.5 percent of GDP, a level which is unacceptable and needs to be increased so that Slovakia can at least close the gap with other European nations. In Finland, for example, 3.4 percent of GDP is spent on R&D.


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