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If we ponder the future of Europe, the first question we have to ask ourselves is: what does "Europe" actually mean? The answer is that Europe is, above all, an intellectual tradition which, geographically, by no means coincides with the boundaries of the Union itself. At the heart of this tradition lie rationalism and scientific method, patently the best way of ensuring the growth and wellbeing of human beings. Today, as a result of the demographic explosion and truly global economic competition, science has to address its toughest challenge ever. The problem is that the Europe of the fifteen spends no more than 1.8 per cent of its GDP on basic research, a figure which is obviously far too low. It is thus vital to improve the quality of education systems in European countries, to offer incentives to scientific and technological research and innovation in private industry and, finally, to boost basic research carried out for the love of science itself.