Science ministers to meet in Sarajevo to flesh out new 10 million Euro science fund

Science ministers from South-East Europe will meet in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) on 22 and 23 November 2012, under the auspices of UNESCO, to try to take forward research aspects of a recent EU initiative to develop the Danube region (‘The Danube Region Strategy’).

The meeting will attempt to flesh out an agreement on a regional research fund totalling at least 10 million Euros – half coming from nations, half from the EU – agreed for further consideration at the Conference of the Ministers of the Danube Region, in Ulm, Germany (8-9 July).

“They agreed on this research fund, but there was no content,” said Peter Mayer, UNESCO consultant who is putting together the programme for the Sarajevo meeting. “There was nothing in it. What we want is content.”

The Danube Region Research and Innovation Fund is part of a wider Danube Region Strategy, aimed at developing the economy and improving environmental conditions in the region. The strategy was adopted by the European Commission in December 2010, and endorsed by the ministerial council in April 2011.

The Danube Region Strategy is “a buzz word” said Mayer, adding that one of the priorities is to create a new and bigger programme or a fund for further collaborations in research and innovation within the Danube region, which includes all Western Balkan countries but also Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria and Romania.

“They’ve just decided on it … there’s no money in it yet. It was just a political commitment, but it was driven by Western European countries; this decision was made in Germany, so we need to find what commitment [exists in the region] for these kind of activities.”

“What we want to know is how open, or how committed, the national ministers would be to such fresh ideas.”

The outcome document is expected to contain the ministers’ official commitment to creating the Danube Region Research and Innovation Fund, as well as a set of priority research areas to be funded through regional sources and multilateral projects.

“The target [of the meeting] are the ministers. The ministers have a certain amount of money, they have political influence.”

“We want them to want the topics, we want them to want regional collaboration,” Mayer said.

The outcomes may also contribute to the countries’ ability to draw on funds from Horizon 2020, the EU’s next research framework programme which will run from 2014-2020.

“If in the next framework programme regional cooperation is a topic, then we have already prepared a small aspect of their roadmap.”

The South East European (SEE) Ministerial Round Table on Science and an Expert Meeting are being organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Civil Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the UNESCO Venice Office. It was supposed to be held earlier this year in Serbia, but a change of government there meant that UNESCO had to seek an alternative venue, and eventually found one in BIH.

The meeting is part of a series of meetings of science ministers organized by the UNESCO Venice Office in cooperation with national governments in Tirana, Albania (2010), Budva, Montenegro (2008), Ljubljana, Slovenia (2007) and Paris (2001).

Mićo Tatalović

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