The Ministerial Conference on “Strengthening Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation through Research and Innovation” was held on 4 May 2017 in Valetta under the auspices of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union with the support of the European Commission.
The meeting saw the participation of the Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport of Malta, Chris Agius; the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas; the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella; the Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), Fathallah Sijilmassi; and the HRH Princess Sumaya Bint El Hassan of Jordan.
The Ministers emphasised the key role that research and innovation play in developing an understanding of the root causes of migration. They encouraged a region-wide coordinated approach to increase researchers’ and students’ mobility and establish common platforms for data collection and analysis while making the best possible use of existing tools.
The Ministers called for the identification of innovative solutions to create more opportunities for youth, and thus help to address the current pressing challenges of the Mediterranean region. They welcomed several emblematic regional initiatives, namely:
- The “Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean area – PRIMA”. This new integrated initiative will contribute to pooling the know-how and financial resources of the European Union and participating Member States in order to foster ground-breaking solutions for sustainable water provision and management and food production in the Mediterranean region. 19 UfM countries are currently involved in it. The Ministers reiterated their support for the launch of PRIMA’s first calls for proposals in early 2018, after the formal adoption of the decision by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.
- The “BLUEMED Initiative on research and innovation for blue jobs and growth in the Mediterranean” and the inclusion of other UfM countries in its implementation, as stated in the UfM Ministerial Declaration on Blue Economy. The BLUEMED initiative offers a shared strategic framework for working towards a healthy, productive and resilient Mediterranean Sea that is better known and valued. It is designed to tap the full potential of the marine and maritime sectors by structuring transnational cooperation to create new ‘blue’ jobs and promote and improve social wellbeing, sustainable prosperity and the environmental status of the region and its surroundings.
“Higher education, research and innovation are at the core of the UfM Roadmap for Action endorsed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs in January 2017,” said UfM Secretary General Sijilmassi. “Knowledge-sharing, scientific cooperation and technology transfer are more instrumental than ever in consolidating human development, job creation, inclusive growth and stability in our region.”
The Ministers welcomed the UfM Secretariat’s involvement in forthcoming initiatives and encouraged the promotion of synergies and complementarities among all countries and stakeholders. The UfM flagship projects in higher education and research include the EuroMed University of Fes as a new regional centre contributing to fostering scientific exchange and cooperation as well as the mobility of students, professors, researchers and entrepreneurs in the region.
The Ministerial Declaration adopted in Valetta builds on the many research and innovation commitments endorsed at recent UfM Ministerial Conferences including ones on Employment and Labour, Environment and Climate Change, Water and the Blue Economy.
The Declaration also reflects many of the issues addressed in the Tunis Declaration signed on 31 March 2017 by Ministers responsible for Research, Innovation and Higher Education of the 5+5 Dialogue who adopted a renewed Work Programme for strengthening their cooperation in these sectors in 2017-2018.