Following the European Council in Lisbon (June 1992), the European Union established a new framework for its relations with the countries of the Mediterranean basin with a view to forming a Euro-Mediterranean partnership. This partnership became a reality at the Barcelona Conference of November 1995, which brought together the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the EU Member States and the Mediterranean non-member countries. A Monitoring Committee (MoCo) for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation was created in 1995 to monitor and promote cooperation in RTD.
This bi-regional co-operation was given new impetus at the Paris summit in 2008. The ‘Union for the Mediterranean – UfM’ was launched, with the political objective of upgrading relations and focusing on six main axes including Research.
In terms of bilateral relations, the current EU policy dialogue with the Mediterranean countries is framed within the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which was established in 2004 with the objective of strengthening relations with Southern and Eastern neighbours. In its seven years of existence, the ENP has transformed bi-lateral relations between the EU and its southern neighbours and has led to more political contacts, trade relations and policy-driven cooperation activities.
The ENP has been reviewed to adapt it to the current changes in the Southern Mediterranean region which directly affect all countries. In May 2011, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission published a joint communication (COM (2011) 303) presenting a new approach to strengthen the partnership between the EU and the neighbourhood countries. In terms of Research and Innovation the focus is on working towards the development of a Common Knowledge and Innovation Space, which would pull together policy dialogue, national and regional capacity-building, cooperation in research and innovation and increased mobility of researchers.
The EU has concluded bilateral S&T cooperation agreements with Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, which focus on strengthening the bilateral policy dialogues and promoting STI cooperation. Albania, Croatia, Israel and Turkey are all associated to the seventh Framework Programme.
In addition to the bilateral policy dialogues with the Mediterranean countries, the Monitoring Committee (MoCo) plays a key role as a bi-regional policy dialogue platform bringing together EU Member States and all Mediterranean countries. The MoCo plays a central role in stimulating Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in research and innovation and was assigned by the European Council the task of making recommendations for the joint implementation of RTD policy priorities.
The first ministerial conference on Higher Education and Research led to the Cairo Declaration (2007) 52 KB , ‘Towards a Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Area' and constitutes a policy framework for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in research and higher education, highlighting key objectives and actions to be pursued.