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Monitoring Committee for Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation in RTD (MoCo)


13 April 2015

EU and Middle-East Building Bridges through Science Diplomacy

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The EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas took today a new step towards strengthening cooperation in the Middle East through science diplomacy. To mark the EU's engagement towards building bridges between nations through research and innovation Commissioner Carlos Moedas participated in a high level conference on "Addressing shared challenges through science diplomacy: the case of the EU –Middle East Regional Cooperation" and visited the Synchrotron light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) in Allan (Jordan). SESAME is a unique international endeavour launched in 2003 under UNESCO auspices by Eastern Mediterranean countries to enhance scientific and technological excellence and build a culture of cooperation and peace in the broader Middle East.

Those initiatives represent a further element to confirm the excellent EU-Jordan relationships and endorse the role of Jordan as an important partner in the European Neighbourhood Policy.

Commissioner Carlos Moedas said: "Cooperation in research and innovation with our Middle East partners is a priority for the EU. SESAME is a powerful example of how science and research can bring diverse nations together. Jordan's active engagement in regional science diplomacy in hosting SESAME is extremely valuable. I am also very pleased that the EU was granted SESAME observer status with unanimity."


The Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) is expected to have a broad socio-economic impact in Jordan and the region. It can be used for a wide scope of applications from imaging of diseases, designing pharmaceuticals, solar cell enhancements to CO2 capture and assessing archaeological artefacts. The EU has played a major role in the development of the initiative through technical and financial assistance provided by several EU Members States and the European Commission, amounting to more than EUR 12 million. EUR 5 million have been granted by EU 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Owing to SESAME's nature as widely-available 'scientific user facility', the EU will provide further support to training needs and staff exchanges with other European synchrotron infrastructures.

Science Diplomacy

Although it is not new in the EU context science diplomacy remains an emerging concept with a largely untapped potential. It has a particular added value in the EU - Middle East cooperation as many research and science initiatives in the region bring together countries and entities often at odds such as Iran, Israel, Palestine, Turkey and Cyprus. Being one of the EU's research priorities science diplomacy is considered instrumental in rebuilding trust, fostering understanding in the region and reaching out to youth, talent and creativity.

In the framework of his visit Commissioner Moedas opened, together with HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal, a high-level conference entitled "Addressing shared challenges through Science Diplomacy: The case of the EU – Middle East regional cooperation". Among the speakers of the conference were other distinguished personalities such as Rolf Heuer – the Director-General of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Laszlo Lovasz – Chairman of the World Science Forum, HRH Princess Sumaya Bint El Hassan, HRH Princess Basma bint Ali, Dr Tracey Elliott for the Royal Society, 2014 Science Diplomacy Award Holder Zafra Lerman and others.

More News about the Mediterranean


Policy dialogue

Following the European Council in Lisbon (June 1992), the European Union established a new framework for its relations with the Mediterranean countries with a view to forming a Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. This Partnership became a reality at the Barcelona Conference of November 1995, which brought together Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU Member States and the Mediterranean non-member countries. The Partnership is based on political, security, economic, financial, cultural, social and human affairs. A Monitoring Committee (MoCo) for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation was created in 1995 to monitor and promote cooperation in Research, Technology and Development. This bi-regional cooperation was given new impetus at the Paris summit in 2008. The 'Union for the Mediterranean – UfM' was launched. It was decided to focus the relations on six main axes including Research.

These six axes are:

  1. Depollution for the Mediterranean
  2. Maritime and land highways: security and safety
  3. Civil protection
  4. Alternative energies
  5. Higher education and research
  6. Mediterranean Business development initiative (with a focus on SMEs)

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. The ENP was reviewed in 2011 to adapt it to the changes in the Southern Mediterranean region. In May 2011, the High Representative of the European 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, it suggests to work towards the establishment of a Common Knowledge and Innovation Space (CKIS), which pulls together policy dialogue, national and regional capacity-building, cooperation in research and innovation and increased mobility of researchers.

Research and Innovation policy framework

EU bilateral Science and Technology cooperation agreements with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and soon Algeria focus on strengthening the bilateral policy dialogues and promoting cooperation.

In addition to the bilateral policy dialogues, the Monitoring Committee (MoCo) for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in Research, Technology and Development plays a key role as a bi-regional policy dialogue platform bringing together EU Member States and all Mediterranean Partner Countries. The MoCo plays a central role in stimulating Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in research and innovation and was assigned the task by the Council 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) 'Towards a Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Area' and constitutes a policy framework for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in research and higher education.