International Cooperation

Mediterranean Partners


2 December 2019

Strengthening Collaboration in Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Region

Ms. Maria Cristina Russo, 5th from the right, and Mr. Khaled El-Shuraydeh, 5th from the left
with the rest of the participants

Group of Senior Officials (GSO) on Research and Innovation took place in Barcelona, Spain. The meeting was co-chaired by Ms Maria Cristina Russo, the Director for International Cooperation of the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, together with the Secretary-General of the Higher Council for Science & Technology of Jordan, Dr Khaled El-Shuraydeh. The meeting took place under the auspices of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and gathered participants from the EU Member States, the EU institutions and countries from both shores of the Mediterranean.

The objective of the meeting was to take stock of progress achieved since the signing of the Ministerial Valetta Declaration on Strengthening Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation through Research and Innovation (May 2017). Notably, according to the three pillars of the Valetta Declaration on the BLUEMED initiative, the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA), and Migration-related research. Looking to the future, the countries agreed to a set of conclusions emphasising the need to revitalise the GSO Secretariat together with the UfM in order to prepare for a strategic discussion to take place at the next GSO meeting in early 2020 and to ensure follow-up including the possibility of setting up a Working Group on Research and Innovation.

8 March 2019

Conference on The Middle East and the EU: New Realities, New Policies

F. Mogherini and J. Verbeke at the meeting

Two collaborative projects, funded under Horizon 2020, MENARA and MedReset organised the conference in Brussels. The agenda fostered a debate among the expert and policy communities on the present and the future of the Middle East and North Africa, and in particular on the EU’s role towards this region.

The event included a keynote speech by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission Federica Mogherini, introduced by Ambassador Marc Otte. HRVP Mogherini noted that “when scientists, academics, think-tankers and researchers of our region work together, it is a contribution to building a more cooperative and peaceful region (…), a more cooperative regional dynamic”.

MENARA stands for Middle East and North Africa Regional Architecture. It is also the Arabic word for lighthouse, evoking the project’s aim to shedslight on the emerging regional order and geopolitical shifts in the region amid increasingly volatile and uncertain times. MedReset is a consortium of research and academic institutions from different disciplines from the Mediterranean region to develop alternative visions for a new Mediterranean partnership and corresponding EU policies.

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Policy background

Following the European Council in Lisbon in June 1992, the European Union established a new framework for its relations with Mediterranean countries with the aim of forming a new Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

This partnership became a reality at the Barcelona Conference of November 1995 which brought together ministers of foreign affairs from EU Member States and Mediterranean non-member countries.

The partnership is based on political, security, economic, financial, cultural, social and human affairs. This bi-regional cooperation was given new impetus when the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) was launched at the Paris summit in 2008. The relations are focused on on six main areas which include research.

These six axes are:

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

Current EU policy dialogue with the Mediterranean countries is framed within the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), established in 2004 to strengthen relations with southern and eastern neighbours. The ENP was reviewed in 2011 and 2015, to adapt it to changes in the southern Mediterranean region.

Research and innovation policy framework

A Group of Senior Officials (GSO) (Ex Monitoring Committee - MoCo) for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation was created in 1995 within the framework of the Barcelona process to monitor and promote cooperation in research, technology and development.

The EU-Mediterranean GSO, was tasked to make recommendations for the joint-implementation of research policy priorities and is an important bi-regional policy dialogue platform which brings together EU Member States and all Mediterranean partner countries.

The last meeting of the EU-MED GSO took place in Brussels on 23 November 2015 and emphasised the crucial role of innovation as a game-changer in the Mediterranean. It also highlighted the importance of stepping up efforts towards a common Mediterranean research and innovation agenda.

A milestone in the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue in research and innovation is the adoption of the Cairo Declaration (2007) 'Towards a Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education and Research Area', at the first ministerial conference on higher education and research.

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 neighbourhood countries.

For research and innovation, the communication suggests working 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.

In this spirit, the Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Research and Innovation was held in Barcelona one year later. It brought together researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and legislators, who stressed the need to tackle urgent societal and economic challenges on both shores of the Mediterranean. Sustainable economic and cultural exchanges based on common research and innovation efforts that benefit citizens were also identified as important activities.

The EU also maintains bilateral research and innovation relations with its Mediterranean partners through Science and Technology (S&T) cooperation agreements. To date, the EU has signed S&T cooperation agreements with Algeria (2013), Egypt (2008), Jordan (2010), Morocco (2005) and Tunisia (2004).



5TOI_4EWAS (2016-2019)
The 5TOI_4EWAS project will focus on targeted open innovation in energy, water and agriculture societal challenges through a balanced innovation-friendly ecosystem in the Southern Mediterranean Neighbourhood (SMN) based on quintuple helix and NEXUS approach. The project will enhance and support regional smart specialisation and development by increasing research capacity, effective mobility of young innovators/researchers and shared knowledge to improve their participation in the EU research area. It will contribute to the establishment of favourable and stable conditions for international cooperation and the set-up of a common knowledge and innovation space of specialisation in the SMN for a real socio-economic impact, based on co-ownership and mutual benefits.

ERANETMED (2013-2017)
Following the Conference of Barcelona on 2012, ERANETMED responds to the need to develop new ways of sustainable cooperation. Both European and Mediterranean countries will equally participate and benefit from the output and opportunities created by the project. ERANETMED will consider a broad area for research, addressing not only the most important societal challenges of the region, but also actions to enhance innovation through applied research, capacity building, mobility and clustering. Its action will result in concrete co-operation between research programmes, such as networking, definition of strategic scientific activities, research structuring for long-lasting and stable cooperation.

This project builds on the experience of MIRA (an FP7 project Fostering the European Union-Mediterranean Partner Countries (EU-MPC) Innovation and Science & Technology Communities of Practice), but is adapted to the new reality of Euro-Mediterranean policy goals defined in the Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Barcelona 2012. It focuses on three societal challenges (energy, high quality affordable food, and scarcity of resources) and aims to tackle policy objectives by creating a dialogue and coordination platform of governmental institutions, research organisations, associations and civil society.




European Commission
DG Research and Innovation
Jacopo Bordignon
Policy Officer
Unit RTD H2 International Cooperation Africa, Asia and Middle East
Telephone: (+32) 229 60249

Jacopo Bordignon