Tunis, 3 April 2017. UfM Secretary General Fathallah Sijilmassi participated in the third Ministerial Conference of the Western Mediterranean Countries (5+5 Dialogue) on the promotion of research, innovation and higher education for social stability and economic growth, which took place on 30-31 March 2017 in Tunis.
The event was held under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi, and in the presence of the Ministers in charge of higher education, research and innovation of the ten countries of the 5+5 Dialogue, as well as the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, and the Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union, Taieb Baccouche.
Following the opening speech of the Head of Government of Tunisia, Youssef Chahed, the Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research of Tunisia, Slim Khalbous, highlighted the benefits of such a continuous dialogue maintained amongst Western Mediterranean Countries, in particular for exchanging on national experiences, building researchers’ networks and contributing to the economic development of both shores of the Mediterranean.
The essential role of research, innovation and higher education to create new jobs and prepare young generations with the skills required to face future challenges in the labour market was at the heart of Ministerial discussions. In this regard, the results of the first 5+5 Dialogue spin-offs creation contest were officially disclosed in Tunis. Following the decision of an international jury, three companies recently set up by researchers from Spain and Morocco were awarded a prize by Minister Slim Khalbous.
5+5 Dialogue countries recalled that these issues of training, professional integration of young people and job creation must remain a priority for UfM projects. 100,000 young people benefit so far from the 12 UfM labelled projects placed under the Mediterranean Initiative for Jobs (Med4Jobs) in the field of youth employability. The Euro-Mediterranean University of Fes and the EMUNI University also provide two operational frameworks for enhancing regional cooperation in the fields of higher education and research.
“The UfM is actively engaged in implementing a positive agenda for the Youth in the Mediterranean across all its sectors of activities”, stated UfM Secretary General Sijilmassi, recalling that “higher education, research and innovation are placed at the core of the UfM Roadmap for Action endorsed by Ministers of Foreign Affairs in January 2017 at the second UfM Regional Forum, where they reaffirmed the centrality of youth”.
Ministers also underlined the importance of research, innovation and higher education as essential areas of cooperation for addressing collectively common challenges that the region is currently facing, such as environmental degradation, shortage of natural resources or scarcity of water and energy.
In particular, they fully supported the development of the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA) initiative on sustainable food systems and water resources to be undertaken by the European Commission and several UfM Countries through an integrated framework. Ministers also welcomed the efforts to open up the BLUEMED Initiative on research and innovation for blue jobs and growth in the Mediterranean Area to southern Mediterranean countries as stated in the UfM Ministerial Declaration on Blue Economy.
Building on the conclusions of the previous 5+5 Ministerial Conferences held in Rabat (September 2013) and Madrid (March 2015), Ministers endorsed a new Work Programme for 2017-2018, for the implementation of which countries are encouraged to continue cooperation with the Secretariat of the UfM and build on possible synergies with relevant UfM initiatives and projects. A dedicated website for the 5+5 Dialogue on research, innovation and higher education was launched in Tunis to promote upcoming activities.
The Western Mediterranean Forum, commonly referred to as 5+5 Dialogue, is an informal political dialogue that brings together ten western Mediterranean countries: Algeria, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia. Its aim is to reinforce and enrich political, economic and cultural dialogue between the two shores of the Mediterranean.