Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Jan, Schmidt and the lost FPs

'I'm not here! And neither's Jan!'

At the EARMA Conference today Prof Manfred Horvat, the self-styled Framework Programme archaeologist, admitted that it had been 'very difficult' to find any details of the first three programmes, running between 1984-1994. Now read on.

Scene: a nondescript office, somewhere near the Square de Meeus, Brussels. The floor is strewn with papers. Two men are frantically rummaging through a filing cabinet.

Jan: I tell you I can't remember! I'm sure there must have been some reports, but it was so long ago...
Schmidt: Well you'd better start remembering where you put them! Maire's going to be here any minute, and she's going to want answers! How can you lose ten years of records anyway?
Jan: Man, it was a different time, okay? Just leave it!
Schmidt: What do you mean? It can't have been that different. 15 billion euros was still 15 billion euros!
Jan: Well actually it was a bit more complicated than that. There were Deutschemarks, French Francs, Belgian Francs, Guilder...it all got a bit confusing...
Schmidt (stops searching and turns to his colleague): Are you telling me you lost it??
Jan: I'm...I'm not sure, okay? I mean we had other things to think about. There was the whole Berlin Wall thing, and Margaret Thatcher used to be round here quite regularly. Always asking for money. 'It's ours, ours, ours,' she used to say. On and on she'd go. She wouldn't take no for an answer. A bit like Marie, actually.
Schmidt (quietly) What? So you're saying that you used it to pay off Thatcher?
Jan (sheepishly): Might have. Can't remember exactly. She did send a lovely bouquet of red, white and blue roses shortly after one of her more insistent visits.
Schmidt: But, but...all that research that wasn't funded! All those careers, all those researchers, all that work...we might have discovered the cure for cancer by now if it hadn't been for you!
Jan: They really were very lovely roses.
Schmidt: Ahh! (tears some audit reports in frustration)
Jan (putting a hand on Schmidt's shoulder) Look, it was a long time ago. Everyone's forgotten about it.
Schmidt: But Maire hasn't! She wants a full report on the outcomes of the first three Framework Programmes! On her desk! By tomorrow!
Jan: Listen, we've got time. We can cobble something together. (gathers a wad of papers from the floor and sits down. Uncorks a bottle of peach schnapps. Schmidt joins him). Okay, let's see, there was bound to be something about coal and steel in there...
Schmidt: Yes! (writes) 'The intention of the - um - "instruments"...'
Jan: (gulping schnapps) Good!
Schmidt: 'in this first, coordinated research framework is to fund excellent research on coal and steel to' - what's the phrase? - 'make Europe globally competitive'!
Jan: Excellent! I think we should have a worrying statistic in there about the EEC falling behind America and Japan in terms of percentage spend on R&D...
Schmidt: Yes! That always goes down well! Make it look like we were worried.
Jan: And, to make it realisitic, we should say something about it being a break from the past. That we were introducing measures to simplify processes...
Schmidt: What? Even if it's the first one?
Jan: Yes, definitely! It wouldn't be a realistic Framework Programme if we weren't saying it was a break from the past and a move towards simplification. This is looking good already, Schmidt! Why were we worried?
Schmidt: Come on my friend! We've got plenty of paper, half a bottle of schnapps and three hours until dawn!
(suddenly there's a loud hammering at the door. Jan and Schmidt turn in horror. A woman with an Irish voice starts shouting)
Unidentified Irish Woman: I know you're in there, you eijits! I'm not waiting any longer! Now are you going to tell me nicely or am I going to have to drag it out of you: what the fe*k happened to all those billions, so?

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