EU dashes hopes of Gulf academic exchanges

February 19, 1999

An academic co-operation project linking Arab and European universities is facing collapse after EU ministers refused to agree its E432,000 (Pounds 300,000) budget.

Gerd Nonneman, senior lecturer in international relations and Middle East politics at the University of Lancaster, has been pressing the European Commission not to drop the scheme and wants it to ask the Council of Ministers for cash again late this year.

He has been head of an EU working party that since 1996 had developed the project into a viable plan, involving visiting lecturers, fellows-in residence, postgraduate prizes and seminars.

Preparations for the launch of a two-year pilot were so far advanced that Qatar University had agreed to stage its opening event: a seminar this April involving more than 30 academics from Europe and the Gulf, who were to plan future collaborations as well as swapping papers.

But only weeks after the project had been given official approval at a joint meeting of the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council, funding was refused by Parliament. Hopes that the budget might be reinstated by the Council of Ministers were dashed.

"It was embarrassing that we had to say 'sorry, we won't get the money after all'," said Dr Nonneman, executive director of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies.

The idea was that EU money should fund European studies lectures in the Gulf, while Gulf state money would pay for Arab studies in the European Union. The Gulf Cooperation Council has not yet agreed to the cash although universities were geared to help.

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