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Seven more countries associate to Horizon Europe

Image: European Commission

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Israel, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia join EU R&D programme

Seven more countries have officially joined the EU’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme in the last couple of days, bringing the total number of associated countries to 14.

On 6 December, the European Commission signed an association agreement with Israel, as well as five countries in the Western Balkans: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. On 7 December, Georgia also joined Horizon Europe.

The agreements mean that the seven countries can participate in the €95.5 billion programme almost on an even footing with EU member states. Generally, association is agreed in exchange for a contribution to the programme’s budget, although this varies depending on each country’s geopolitical and socioeconomic status.

With its strong research sector, Israel was a big player in the previous programme, Horizon 2020, and has been associated to successive EU research programmes since 1996. Israel-based researchers won €1.3bn over Horizon 2020’s seven-year timeframe, which was the third largest amount of funding among non-EU countries, behind Switzerland and Norway.

“In the partnership with Israel, I hope to boost our innovation capacity in support of green and digital agendas and enhance science cooperation in the region,” said EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel (pictured right). She signed the agreement with Israel in the presence of its ambassador Haim Regev (pictured left).

Balkans agenda

Of the six other countries, only Kosovo did not take part in Horizon 2020.

Western Balkans countries received €170 million from Horizon 2020, and in 2021 the EU developed with Western Balkans nations an agenda on innovation, research, education, culture, youth and sport aimed at economic and social development in the region.

Gabriel said the implementation of the agenda and Horizon Europe “will have a great impact in the region and in Europe overall”.

The agreements mean that among the 18 countries with whom the EU has been formally negotiating association to Horizon Europe, only Albania, Morocco, Tunisia and the UK have yet to officially join. The Commission said that Albania is expected to join in the coming weeks.

While the UK has been a dominant player in previous EU R&D programmes, the Commission has refused to finalise its association in the face of ongoing political disputes after Brexit.

Switzerland, which gained the most funding of third-party countries from Horizon 2020, is even further out of the loop due to its own disputes with the EU.