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25 years of EU-Mediterranean research and innovation partnership — going from strength to strength

Jun 25,2022 - Last updated at Jun 25,2022

By Mariya Gabriel and Wajih Owais

More than twenty-five years ago, the European Union and the Mediterranean partners committed to turning the Mediterranean basin into an area of dialogue, exchange, and cooperation, guaranteeing peace, stability, and prosperity. Research and innovation cooperation has always been instrumental in addressing global challenges such as climate change, health inequalities, water scarcity and migration. Since the Valetta Declaration in 2017, significant progress has been made in R&I cooperation. 

Firstly, collaborative projects. Since the seventh framework programme for research and innovation, 489 projects received funding involving partners from the Mediterranean countries. These projects included NGOs, Research Centres, Public and Private Universities and SMEs from both regions. 

Second, targeted partnerships in strategic areas. The Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA) is the biggest R&I programme in the region's history, with a €494 million total budget tackling water management, farming and food systems challenges. 168 research and innovation projects are already funded and are showing promising results. For example, FIT4REUSE, a 3-year project of about €2 million involving 7 Mediterranean, showed efficiently how treated wastewater and desalinated water could compensate for the gap between agricultural water demand and supply.

The BLUEMED initiative focuses on blue jobs and growth in the Mediterranean Sea region by working with marine and maritime communities. It tackles sea pollution and transition to a more sustainable fishery and transportation system. 

The BLUEMED partnership will also work on a Mediterranean lighthouse for the Horizon Europe Mission to Restore our Ocean and Waters.

Third, science diplomacy fosters mutual understanding and tolerance in the Mediterranean. Successful examples include the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME). 

SESAME is the first major international centre of excellence science in the Middle East and neighbouring region. It offers students and researchers the opportunity to conduct world-class research in subjects ranging from medicine and biology, through basic properties of materials science, physics and chemistry to health care, the environment and archaeology.

The COVID-19 pandemic and now, recently, the war in Ukraine brings new challenges for people in our regions. Now more than ever, we need to continue strengthening our cooperation and finding innovative solutions by supporting our talents.

In February 2021, the EU adopted a Joint Communication, putting forward an ambitious New Agenda for the Mediterranean setting out objectives to build fairer and more prosperous societies for the years to come. 

It underlines the importance of addressing skills mismatches and youth unemployment and preventing brain drain. It also facilitates access to EU programmes for Southern Partners, including association with the current Research and Innovation Programme Horizon Europe. 

Forty-two countries agreed to address health, climate change, and renewable energy as three primary research and innovation priorities under the UfM Regional Platform in Research and Innovation (R&I), co-chaired by Jordan and the EU.

The upcoming Ministerial on R&I taking place on 27 June will endorse these priorities and pave the way for the future cooperation and mobilisation of resources needed to implement relevant actions. 

The Ministerial will reinforce our shared vision on fundamental R&I values and principles, including respecting the freedom of scientific research. 

Our EU-Mediterranean regional Partnership has progressed in recent years based on mutual interest, co-decision, co-ownership, and shared benefits. One thing is clear. The future lies in working together, building closer ties and finding innovative solutions to the concerns we share. This is and will continue to be at the heart of our Partnership.

Mariya Gabriel is EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth and Wajih Owais is Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan


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