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Convened on 29 May 2009 in Brussels, the EU Competitiveness Council reached a political agreement on a draft regulation setting up the legal framework for a European Research Infrastructures Consortium (ERIC). The Council document constitutes the response to the proposal for a Council regulation in this field, put forward by the European Commission in July 2008. The newly adopted regulation defines the criteria for a research infrastructure to qualify as an ERIC and the overall governing rules. Under the regulation, research infrastructures qualifying as ERICs will be granted the status of international organisations and will benefit from several other advantages, such as VAT exemptions.
The absence of such a legal framework (until now) was a major stumbling block for member states, causing significant delays in investment and launch of joint actions. From now on, member states interested in setting up research infrastructures with the status of ERIC would have to submit an application to the Commission. Based on the regulation, the European Commission will decide if the applications meet the ERIC establishment criteria.
The new legal framework is expected to facilitate the development of a list of 44 infrastructures in several priority areas, in the next 10-20 years. Consequently, it represents an important step in the enforcement of the European Research Area (ERA).