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EU research ministers discuss Euromed cooperation

The Mediterranean region needs more than “scientific diplomacy” to build long-term collaboration with Europe, research ministers have said.

Stavros Malas, Cyprus’ minister in charge of research, chaired a meeting of EU research ministers in Nicosia on 20 July. He said that cooperation with Mediterranean countries should go beyond scientific diplomacy to address “real scientific, economic and societal needs”. Research cooperation policies could contribute to restoring stability in the region, a Cypriot diplomat had told Research Europe before the start of the rotating presidency.

Because of its location Cyprus wants to boost collaboration with neighbouring Mediterranean countries outside of Europe, which has stalled for some years.

This informal meeting of the Competitiveness Council in Nicosia, Cyprus, was chaired by Cyprus’ presidency of the Council of the EU, which started on 1 July for six months. Ministers in charge of industry issues met on 18-19 July, while research ministers met on 20 July.

Research commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said that the EU could implement partnerships with Mediterranean countries through a bi-regional R&D programme. This could be done for example under Article 185 of the Lisbon Treaty, which enables the EU to participate in research programmes undertaken jointly by several member states.

Speakers at the Council meeting also included Edouard Brezin, former president of the French Academy of Sciences; Ismail Serageldin, director of the library of Alexandria, Egypt; and Ilan Chet, deputy secretary general of the Union for the Mediterranean.

The UfM was founded in July 2008 by 43 heads of state and government in Paris, during Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential term. It runs cooperation projects in several areas including transport, energy and water, as well as higher education and research.