Background There is considerable variation in the recommended micronutrient intakes used by countries within Europe, partly due to different methodologies and concepts used to determine requirements and different approaches used to express the recommendations. As populations become more mobile and multinational, and more traditional foods become available internationally, harmonised recommendations based on up to date science are needed. This was recognised by the European Commission's (EC) Directorate-General (DG) Research in their 2005 call for proposals for a Network of Excellence (NoE) on 'nutrient status and requirements of specific vulnerable population groups'. EURopean micronutrient RECommendations Aligned (EURRECA), which has 34 partners representing 17 European countries, started on its 5-year EC-funded programme in January 2007. The programme of work was developed over 2 years prior to submitting an application to the EC. The Network's first integrating Meeting (IM) held in Lisbon in April 2007, and subsequent consultations, has allowed further refinement of the programme. Aim This paper presents the rationale for the EURRECA Network's roadmap, which starts by establishing the status quo for devising micronutrient recommendations. The Network has the opportunity to identify previous barriers and then explore 'evidence-based' solutions that have not been available before to the traditional panels of experts. The network aims to produce the EURRECA 'toolkit' to help address and, in some cases, overcome these barriers so that it can be used by those developing recommendations. Results The status quo has been largely determined by two recent initiatives; the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) reports from the USA and Canada and suggestions for approaches to international harmonisation of nutrient-based dietary standards from the United Nations University (UNU). In Europe, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been asked by the EC's Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection to produce values for micronutrient recommendations. Therefore, EURRECA will draw on the uniqueness of its consortium to produce the sustainable EURRECA toolkit, which will help make such a task more effective and efficient. Part of this uniqueness is the involvement in EURRECA of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), consumer organisations, nutrition societies and other stakeholders as well as many scientific experts. The EURRECA toolkit will contain harmonised best practice guidance for a more robust science base for setting micronutrient recommendations. Hence, in the future, the evidence base for deriving nutrient recommendations will have greater breadth and depth and will be more transparent. Conclusions The EURRECA Network will contribute to the broader field of food and nutrition policy by encouraging and enabling the alignment of nutrient recommendations. It will do this through the development of a scientific toolkit by its partners and other stakeholders across Europe. This will facilitate and improve the formulation of micronutrient recommendations, based on transparently evaluated and quantified scientific evidence. The Network aims to be sustainable beyond its EC funding period.