From the EU's FP-7 webpage:
What are the key research areas defined by the European Commission?
FP-7 comprises 4 programs:
The cooperation program accounts for over 60% of the available funding and allows European researchers to work together on collaborative research projects to advance knowledge, to propose solutions to some of the major issues facing us today and to develop new technologies for the future. It promotes cooperation among universities, industry and research centers across the European Union, as well as with the rest of the world. This program focuses on research in: health; food, agriculture and biotechnology; information and communication technologies; nanosciences, materials and production technologies; energy; environment; transport; social and economic sciences; space; and security.
The ideas program is implemented through a new body, the European Research Council (ERC), and provides on average 1 billion Euro per year for investigator-driven frontier research in cutting-edge, “risky” areas. The first call for proposals focuses on early-stage independent investigators – those ready to set up their own team for the first time. Future calls will cater to all experience levels. Applicants do not have to be in Europe to submit a proposal – but the work must be done in Europe if selected.
The people program provides increased funding for Marie Curie actions, which promote the training and mobility of researchers at all research career stages. This includes fellowships for Europeans wanting to work in another European country; specific international activities to fund non-European researchers to work in Europe and to fund Europeans to work outside Europe; and reintegration grants for European researchers to return to Europe from abroad. European researchers in the US will be eligible for most actions.
The capacities program enhances research and innovation capacity in Europe through activities such as funding access for researchers to major European infrastructures; support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to develop their research potential or to outsource their research; international cooperation and science and society.
In my opinion, this is a very positive thing for the European Union. It allows their scientists, including small research shops, better research opportunities across the whole of the EU. It will improve cooperation and competition in research endeavors, both of which have been shown to improve research results.
This program will also benefit more than just the EU, as the research results will be shared with the world, much like the research programs funded by the NSF. Cheers to the the EU for launching this initiative.