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A precious resource

The Mediterranean is at the crossroads of rich ancient and modern cultures from Africa, the East and the West, strung together across this inland sea. Despite the tourism industry which has created socio- economic growth based on the cultural wealth and natural beauty of the region, today, countries bordering the Mediterranean face problems of socio-economic and environmental sustainability.

The origins of these problems are influenced by man-made and natural factors. Among these are demography, historic institutional arrangements which may be out of tune with recent developments, low regional rainfall, and the overuse of natural resources. Amounts of freshwater are dwindling and the increasingly arid climate is affecting agricultural production which, in turn, is feeding environmental degradation.

The Euro-Med partnership was formalised at the Barcelona Conference in 1995 and emphasises common answers to shared challenges. Harnessing the principles of sustainability laid down by the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, the Barcelona process provides a framework for social, economic, financial and scientific co-operation set up between the EU and a number of Mediterranean partner countries - Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, West Bank and Gaza Strip, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey. The sea and its surroundings need looking after and sustainable solutions found to ensure common resources are not exhausted.

International research co-operation in the Mediterranean Sea area (INCO-Med) looks for opportunities to contribute high-quality and relevant scientific knowledge to scientific and technological partnerships working in synergy with other means of co-operation mobilised through the Barcelona process. It currently addresses five strategic areas: managing scarce water resources, social and economic modernisation, the preservation and use of cultural heritage, public health and disease control, and regional environmental sustainability.

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Confirming the international role of community research