||Candidate Countries, Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia
Candidate Countries – scientific co-operation leads the way
Cooperation in science and research was the first chapter to face scrutiny when the European Union decided to open accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia in October 2005. Both countries took the opportunity to present their research programmes and policies to the European Commission.
The draft screening reports have been transmitted to the Council for discussion with the Member States. The degree of convergence between the national research policies of both Turkey and Croatia with the European Research Area is impressive. At this stage, no difficulties in accepting the EU acquis on research are expected.
Croatia joins Sixth EU Research Framework Programme (FP6)
The Republic of Croatia and the European Union signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 18 November 2005 in Zagreb, which allows Croatia to participate fully – as an associated country – in the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) for the remaining year of its operation. This move should facilitate Croatian researchers and institutes in preparing for an even greater role in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Croatia did not join the Euratom specific programme.
Western Balkan Countries: the next group of countries to strengthen co-operation
Increased co-operation with the Western Balkan Countries (WBC) started as part of the Action Plan agreed at Thessalonica in summer 2003. The most concrete action was the organisation of a specific call for proposals dedicated to the Western Balkan Countries and aiming at strengthening research capacity in the region. Because of the success of this action, a new call was organised with a 6 March 2006 deadline.
But more should be done as research also plays a facilitator role in the integration process. Stability and prosperity in the region go hand-in-hand with sustainable economic development, hence the need for increased research efforts. Under the umbrella of the Austrian presidency, the Research DG is considering ways and means of increasing the efforts vis-à-vis the WBC. A so-called Steering Group could be set up to assist the WBC in fully exploiting the benefits of research actions at European, national and regional level.
Mediterranean partner countries – conference discusses past and future
A conference to mark the end of two major projects that have helped to forge S&T co-operation between the EU and its Mediterranean partner countries will take place in Paris from 22-23 March 2006.
The Euro-MedaNet and Euro-MedaNet2 projects come to a close at around the same time as seven Information Points (IPs) begin their work to cement even stronger ties between the two regions. Situated around the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean, the IPs will provide information about S&T co-operation opportunities that are financed by the Commission. Their presence should encourage more collaborative research activities between European and Mediterranean countries.
The Paris meeting will be an opportunity for delegates to explore how far co-operation has developed between the two regions since the partnership was forged at the Barcelona Conference in 1995. So what are the results? Have the partnership policies and programmes – for example, INCO-Med and MEDA – promoted co-operation effectively? What has been their impact on scientific research and the people of the Mediterranean? What can be done to strengthen collaboration in the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for research? These are some of the questions likely to be raised and discussed in Paris.
Further information: http://www.euromedanet.gr/content/display?prnbr=14661
EU-Russia S&T Co-operation
Based on the recently adopted EU-Russia Common Spaces, including the Fourth Common Space for research and education, as well as the bilateral S&T co-operation activities of the individual EU Member States, a shared and more coherent vision is being developed.
The current state of the EC-Russian scientific and technological co-operation is well advanced – Russia is one of the most successful third countries in the Sixth Framework Programme. There are six major areas in which co-operation is particularly positive – apart from ITER – all of which have direct relevance to sustainable economic development and competitiveness. The six are: materials and nanotechnologies; information technologies; aeronautics; space; food and biotechnology; and climate change. In addition, the development of international mobility through the Marie Curie International Fellowship programme and the INTAS Young Science Fellowship Programme must be mentioned.
In order to identify and establish the priority research areas of both mutual interest and benefit between Russia and the EU, especially in FP7 and in Russian S&T programmes, the establishment of permanent S&T working groups is being actively pursued along with the Framework Programme’s thematic areas. The aim is to create bridging mechanisms between the various instruments providing support for scientific co-operation.
EU- Ukraine S&T Co-operation
The Ukraine is now in the midst of overhauling its scientific and technological policy and modernising it, as follows: with a planned increase in the currently rather low level of investment in research (less than 1% of its GDP); with the development of competitive funding through a peer evaluation system; and with a focus on those main thematic priorities which are most directly linked to the new economic policy objectives of the Ukraine and its economic competitiveness.
Thanks to the common proactive use of the EU-Ukraine S&T co-operation agreements, participation by Ukrainian scientists in the different FP calls can be considered encouraging. Statistics show that the Ukraine is performing well in the fields of life sciences, materials science, nuclear safety and environmental protection as well as in aeronautics research and the use of space. In addition, the Ukraine recently signed up to participate in the development of the GALILEO programme.
Improved Ukrainian participation in the Framework Programme is due to the efforts to raise Ukrainian scientists’ awareness about the European Research Area and FP6, as well as to the specific role played by the INTAS processes.
In order to pave the way for decisively enhanced co-operation in the future, it is proposed that the Joint Committee of the EU-Ukrainian Scientific and Technological Cooperation Agreement will look into the ongoing co-operation and its shortfalls, and identifying thematic areas in which European and Ukrainian scientific co-operation would be mutually beneficial and whereby it could address specific concrete needs of the Ukraine.
Scientific co-operation with Central Asian countries
Scientific co-operation with the countries of Central Asia is being achieved mainly through the specific dedicated activities of the FP6 INCO programme.
The three important research priorities in this region are public health, environment, and industrial restructuring, where the INCO programme has successfully launched research projects.
All in all, these co-operative activities must be seen as having contributed to making these countries’ scientific communities better exposed to international excellence and to providing existing scientific excellence with financial support received on a competitive basis.
Southern Caucasus – action plans to boost co-operation
The EU is drafting action plans with Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan which, among other priorities, should improve research capacities in the three Caucasus countries.
The first round of negotiations took place in December 2005 as part of the EU’s neighbourhood policy for the South Caucasus. The aim is to help these countries become strong and lasting partners with the EU.
The talks cover a range of issues including democracy, foreign affairs, law and order, economics, trade, transport, environment – and research. The action plans will define what the three states need to achieve on their own, or with the assistance of EU instruments such as TACIS – a programme that offers technical and financial help to the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Discussions about research have been smooth and uncontentious. The draft text reflects these countries’ commitment to develop their own technological R&D capacities for the benefit of their economies and societies. They are willing to introduce appropriate programmes of reform to their scientific systems, and to make changes to their regulatory frameworks. All three also accept the need to increase investment in research.
These improvements, along with enhanced co-operation with the EU, should help to prepare Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan for integration into the European Research Area.
News from the International Science and Technology Centre (ISTC)
The ISTC – which aims to redirect the skills of former members of the defence-based scientific community – has had a busy time assessing and selecting projects. In 2005, 724 non-proliferation projects were analysed 87 of those were selected to receive EU funding. The main funding areas were nuclear sciences, nanotechnology, space, environment, aeronautics, health and biotechnology, energy, materials and ICT.
The 38th governing board meeting was held recently in Moscow, and an IPR workshop took place in Brussels, Belgium. Following a visit to the Closed Nuclear City of Sarov, with INTAS and the ENTR DG, a new Nuclear Cities programme has been concluded specifically to address the transformation of ten Nuclear Closed Cities in Russia.
An IPR handbook was drafted to lay down the procedures on how to protect industry’s relevant findings in these projects. The commercialisation programme made good progress. Together with the US, Canada and the colleagues from Russia, a workshop on law enforcement technologies was held in Moscow with the participation of the ENTR DG.
Further information: www.istc.ru
The Science and Technology Centre of the Ukraine (STCU): latest news
The STCU undertakes similar work to that of the ISTC and analysed 396 projects in 2005. Of these, 221 were further evaluated before 34 projects were selected to receive EU funding. The EU took over the chairmanship of the STCU Governing Board which is currently managed together with the US, Canada and Ukraine. Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Uzbekistan are the beneficiary countries.
A targeted initiative for co-financing projects – under predefined thematic priorities – was launched in conjunction with the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NASU).
Further information: www.stcu.kiev.ua
|| Developing and Emerging Economies
African science network visits DG Research
Representatives from the Network of African Scientific Academies (NASAC) visited DG Research on 6 February 2006.
The NASAC delegation used the time to talk to the policy-makers and administrators who run programmes for international S&T co-operation. It was a chance for the African scientists to learn more about how their countries can participate in EU-led programmes that aim to harness research for development.
The visit formed part of NASAC’s week-long trip to Europe, which was organised by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences with the help of the Inter-Academy Panel on International issues.
Africa: new agreements and partnerships
The Research DG is exploring ways to improve the interaction between the EU and some of Africa’s leading continental and regional S&T programmes.
Prominent among these are the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Specific activities include developing EU support for NEPAD’s S&T action plan, and the promotion of twinning arrangements between NEPAD and European partners.
The EU and African S&T policy communities have a strong track record of co-operation to build on. For example, the Research DG and South Africa are co-chairs of the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) – which is helping to advance the global sustainable development agenda.
Further information: www.nepad.org
Improving Africa’s links with EU instruments and policies
The EU’s range of external relations policies and instruments is being harnessed to build effective S&T co-operation between Europe and Africa.
A good example of this is the complementary use of the European Development Fund (EDF) and FP6 to support collaborative research activities. An S&T capacity-building programme is being prepared as part of the 9 th EDF.
The main aim of the Programme for Science and Technology Innovations and Capacity Building in ACP states is to respond to the outcomes of the Cape Town ACP Ministerial Forum on Research, and to the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, by building and enhancing strong scientific and technological capacity to support innovation in the different ACP regions. Following the commitment of EU and ACP ministers in Cape Town in 2002, the Research DG is supporting this programme by participating in a group (which also includes the Development DG, AIDCO DG, and the ACP Secretariat-General) which is working on its design and implementation .
€30 million of unspent 9 th EDF resources will be allocated to an ACP-wide capacity-building and innovation programme. Contracting should start soon following discussions by the EDF committee.
The Research DG believes that, despite the modest budget, the programme will prove to be important: it will be the first time that EDF money has been committed to S&T capacity-building in ACP countries.
S&T support for South African development needs
The EC and South Africa are considering a greater use of the European Programme for Reconstruction and Development (EPRD) to support South African science and technology activities.
Within the S&T agreement between the Commission and South Africa, the parties agreed that further consideration should be given to efforts towards better leverage of the European Programme for Reconstruction and Development (EPRD) for South African science and technology. The EU’s External Affairs DG is exploring the feasibility of providing different methods of support, including a sector-wide or budget support. Both parties are keen to promote synergies between science and technology and other instruments for South African-EU co-operation. Within this context, it is worth mentioning that the South African Medical Research Council is hosting the secretariat for the European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).
Since the last Co-operation Council in November 2004, S&T co-operation with South Africa has continued to grow stronger and stronger, building on the South Africa-European Union (SA-EU) Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement which was concluded in 1996. The fifth meeting of the SA-EU Joint Science & Technology Cooperation Committee (JSTCC) was held in Pretoria on 14-15 April 2005, hosted by the Department of Science and Technology for South Africa. Convened under the SA-EU Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology, the JSTCC is tasked with reviewing collaboration between the two parties, including South African participation in the Framework Programmes, sharing new developments in science and technology policy matters, and devising strategies for enhancing future collaboration.
The fifth JSTCC meeting reconfirmed the strategic and very positive nature of the SA-EU S&T Partnership. The Co-Chairs of the meeting, Dhesigen Naidoo, Deputy Director-General of International Cooperation and Resources at the South African Department of Science and Technology, and Dr András Siegler, Director of the International Scientific Cooperation Directorate at the Research DG, expressed their satisfaction with the progress achieved during the past year in promoting collaboration, noting a number of important successes.
South Africa’s engagement with FP6 is indeed increasing as a result of successful participation by South African research organisations in several of the FP6 thematic priorities, as well as in the focused activities for co-operation with developing countries (the INCO programme). South Africa has secured its position as one of the most successful FP6 participants amongst the EU’s economies in transition and developing country partners.
Latin America: summit puts science and technology on agenda
The fourth EU-Latin America and Caribbean Countries summit will take place in Vienna, Austria between 11-12 May 2006.
Research co-operation forms part of the packed agenda. Delegates will discuss mechanisms for co-operation and initiatives to strengthen dialogue between the two regions.
Forum and summit cement EU-China co-operation
number of meetings have taken place between EU and Chinese officials recently, aimed at cementing and progressing co-operation in science and research.
A high-level forum on science and technology co-operation was held in Beijing in May 2005. As well as celebrating 30 years of China-EU diplomatic relations, the forum took stock of S&T co-operative activities and sought to give new impetus to this important strategic partnership.
The eighth China-EU summit was held in the Chinese capital in September 2005. Wen Jiabao of the State Council of China, and Tony Blair, the then President of the European Council, were among the high-level delegates present.
Both sides confirmed their intention to strengthen the EU-China S&T partnership. They recognised that a Joint Declaration and Vision Paper – adopted at the May 2005 forum – and the new CO-REACH (Coordination of Research between Europe and China) network have laid the strategic foundation for further co-operation.
In fact, European and Chinese officials are now working together to prepare for the ‘China-EU science and technology year’, due to be officially launched in mid-2006.
Further information: www.co-reach.org
EU and India agree ambitious future plans
The sixth EU-India summit in September 2005 saw agreement on a joint political statement that covered all aspects of the relationship – including research matters.
Europe and India agreed to strengthen their collaboration in science and technology. They are aiming to co-sponsor collaborative research projects in a number of areas, including: genomics, nanotechnology and high-energy physics. In relation to biotechnology, both parties have also agreed to join forces to confront the global challenges posed by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Workshops and missions
To help implement these commitments, seven workshops and four Indian exploratory missions to the EU have been scheduled to take place later this year. They are likely to be completed before the EU-India science and technology agreement steering committee meets in Brussels this autumn.
The workshops cover:
The exploratory missions embrace systems biology, nanolithography, rail transport research, and R&D for aeronautics.
- Disease genomics;
- Infectious diseases;
- Computational materials science;
- Accelerator science and technology;
- Information security;
- Language computing; and
- Rail and maritime R&D.
S&T agreement between EU and South Korea in the pipeline
The EU and South Korea are in ongoing talks aimed at drafting a science and technology agreement that will strengthen co-operation between the two parties.
In 2003, the Korean science minister expressed a wish to open negotiations to improve research links between his country and the EU. The latter responded positively and discussions opened soon afterwards.
Co-operation with Australia provides ‘feast’ of opportunities
The Forum on European-Australian Science and Technology (FEAST) is playing a major role in pushing forward co-operative activities.
For example, an Australian proposal was recently selected for funding through an EU Specific Support Action call aimed at stimulating participation in FP6 by countries which have S&T agreements with the Community.
FEAST was launched in 2000 as an initiative of the then French EU Presidency and established jointly by Australia and the EU. The overall objectives of FEAST are to:
- Highlight existing S&T co-operation between Europe and Australia (both multilateral and bilateral); and
- Improve this co-operation, with a particular emphasis on multilateral co-operation, by identifying priorities and enhancing the quality, quantity and visibility of future action.
The evaluation of FEAST took place in March 2004 and there is general agreement that the project has been a success and is playing a major role in the enhancement of EU-Australian collaboration.
Under FP6, a Specific Support Action call for proposals – aimed at stimulating and facilitating the participation of those countries which have S&T Agreements with the EU – was published in June 2004. Following this call, the Australian proposal was selected for funding. The contract has been signed and the project started on 1 May 2005.
Further information: http://www.feast.org/
New project will strengthen EU-Canada ties
A new project has begun work to increase the quantity, quality, profile and impact of S&T co-operation between Canada and the European Research Area.
ERA-CAN was chosen for funding under the EU’s FP6 Specific Support Action programme, which aims to stimulate and facilitate the participation of those countries which have S&T agreements with the EU, and kicked off in December 2005.
S&T collaboration features in EU-USA talks
The EU-US summit, which took place in mid-2005 in Washington, has laid the foundations for greater economic co-operation – and has produced a commitment to forge closer ties on research issues.
The summit provided the signature of the declaration entitled ‘Initiative to Enhance Transatlantic Economic Integration and Growth’. This declaration contains a specific chapter on research matters entitled ‘Spurring innovation and the development of technology’. The Research DG has helped to prepare a work programme that will meet the needs of this chapter by stimulating co-operation in areas such as basic research and science policy, space, nanotechnology, health and medical technologies.
Two other chapters in the declaration also have strong R&D and innovation components: ‘Enhancing trade, travel and security’ and ‘Promoting energy efficiency’.
The work programme was endorsed during an informal EU-US Economic Ministerial Meeting which took place in Brussels in November 2005.