Euro-Mediterranean countries ready to cooperate on energy
By Marie-Martine Buckens | Monday 23 July 2012
Meeting on 19 July in Nicosia for an informal Council, the member states’ research ministers, joined by their counterparts from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), tentatively agreed to step up scientific and technical cooperation between the Northern and Southern shores of the Mediterranean. They failed, on the other hand, to build consensus on the new simplified financing model proposed by the European Commission for its future R&D framework programme, Horizon 2020.
The majority of ministers present expressed support for the Cyprus Presidency’s proposal to strengthen the Euro-Mediterranean partnership on research and innovation. Cypriot Research Minister Stavros Malas explained that this partnership is founded on the principles of co-responsibility, mutual interest and shared benefits. Concretely, under the new regional partnership – based on Article 185 of the treaty – the Commission would be able to participate in research initiatives undertaken by several member states with partners from the Eastern Mediterranean or Northern Africa (for details on ‘Initiative 185’, see
Europolitics 4468). The ministers expressed the view that efforts should be focused on themes related to the societal challenges facing the region, namely climate change and energy. Other cooperation themes were also discussed, namely maritime cooperation, social sciences and humanities.
DEBATE ON SIMPLIFICATION CONTINUES
Simplification is one of the key innovations of the future Horizon 2020 research programme, which will start in 2014. The new regulations will not only establish common rules for research programmes and innovation programmes (CIP), which are currently separate, but will also apply to other Horizon 2020 financing bodies, such as joint technology initiatives (JTIs) and to the European Institute of Technology (EIT). Participation rules as well as financing models will be simplified. It is the latter point that has caused controversy in the Council for a number of months. “Simplification is of course a technical question, but it is nevertheless an essential political question because it will affect the community of researchers in the coming years,” declared Malas. Research Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn added that it was at the request of many researchers and enterprises that the Commission proposed this “radical” new financing model, based on the approach of “one project-one financing rate-one rate for indirect costs”. The commissioner acknowledged that the Cyprus Presidency has a tough task ahead since it will have to try to secure a partial general approach on participation rules. Cyprus is hoping to do so at the next Research Council, set for 11 December.
Simplification is one of the key innovations of the future Horizon 2020 research programme