Balkan and Black sea countries key to developing a wider ERA, conference told

February 20, 2003

Brussels, 19 Feb 2003

The Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) is a unique opportunity for the Balkan and Black sea countries to mobilise their scientific resources and contribute to the development of a wider context for the European Research Area, the Greek General Secretary for research and development, Dimitris Deniozos, has claimed

The comment by Mr Deniozos came during a conference in Thessaloniki on 18 February, aimed at giving an in depth presentation of FP6 with emphasis on the research priorities, rules for participation and the various opportunities for the countries of the Balkan and Black Sea regions.

'If we are to reach a high level of competitiveness throughout Europe and beyond [...] a new generation of business that extends into nanotechnology, biotechnology and infotechnology has to be created,' said Mr Deniozos, referring to some of the thematic areas of research under FP6..

Broadening scope of scientific development in such a way would require an injection of new expertise, 'Scientists from countries of the Balkan and Black Sea regions can bring new blood to the European Research Area (ERA). This is the idea behind opening the ERA beyond Member States and candidate countries.'

Mr Deniozos also stressed the importance of involving countries as early as possible in European consortia so as to avoid exclusion, promoting dialogue and facilitating links between research teams in these countries and representatives from Member States and the accession countries.

The conference highlighted opportunities for these regions in all of the thematic priorities, as well as participation within the international cooperation (INCO) activities of FP6.

Much emphasis was placed on the new instruments under FP6, such as integrated projects (IP) and networks of excellence (NoE). However, according to Mr Deniozos 'Balkan businesses and universities may initially have difficulties in participating in these types of initiatives' due to their complex structure.

This view in relation to IPs was also shared by other participants at the event: Representatives from the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) felt however that opportunities are readily available through the INCO programme in the areas of health and water management.

Violeta Ataanasouska from the FYROM Ministry of Education and Science also expressed interest in hearing more about how the thematic priority on sustainable development, global change and ecosystems could specifically assist the countries in the Balkan and Black Sea regions, who have experienced economic and political upheaval in recent years.

Ms Ataanasouska also said that representatives from the regions were anxious to hear more about the upcoming Western Balkan call and to find out how the region can be helped by FP6. According to Ms Ataanasouska, the motivation among FP6 applicants in these regions is currently low; many among them are reluctant to prepare a lengthy project proposal when there is no certainty that it will be accepted for funding.

However, Ms Ataanasouska expects that the conference will enable her and other representatives to disseminate the information needed to reassure and encourage potential FP6 applicants. 'There are several centres of excellence [in FYROM] that can really participate on an equal level with their European partners and we will encourage them to do so,' she said.

A high level group that will take place from 20 to 22 February in Thessaloniki is expected to explore further the instruments and other methods that will help the West Balkan countries to participate in building the European Research Area.

For further information on the Greek Presidency's activities in the field of research, please visit:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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