Strasbourg, 11 March 2004
Bolkestein, Commission. Mr President, I am grateful for this opportunity to discuss with Parliament the issue of scientific and technological cooperation between Israel and the European Community. I would firstly like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Quisthoudt-Rowohl, and the members of the Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy for their work and constant interest in science and research matters.
The aim of this agreement is to enable continued cooperation with Israel in the field of science and technology. This relationship has been developing ever since Israel's participation in the Fourth Framework Programme for research. I would also emphasise the importance of this cooperation within the framework of the development of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, as well as in the implementation of the European Research Area. The present agreement is an extension of the one associating Israel with the activities of the Fifth Framework Programme for research and technological development. The latter is based on the fundamental principle of reciprocity, which takes into account the mutual interests of the two parties and covers all the fields suggested by the Sixth Framework Programme, with the exception of nuclear research.
Scientific cooperation with Israel has already resulted in numerous joint projects in the field of research and technological development. Under the Fifth Framework Programme, 623 projects were undertaken by European research teams in association with Israeli teams, who coordinated 149 of those projects. The public and private partners engaged in this cooperation have stressed the value of that cooperation and the benefits of it. This was emphasised during the evaluation of the impact of the agreement associating Israel to the Fifth Framework Programme.
I should also like to stress the value of this type of agreement for the development for Euro-Mediterranean regional scientific cooperation. For example, the Hortimed project associates Israel and neighbouring countries such as Egypt, the Palestinian Territories, Cyprus and Greece in the search for economic and sustainable solutions for the use of water in irrigated horticulture, particularly by using recycled and cleaned water.
Another major element, mentioned previously, is the contribution this agreement makes to the implementation of the European Research Area and its opening-up to the rest of the world. More generally, it also contributes to the development of a knowledge-based society.
In this context, the Commission is willing to promote international cooperation in scientific and technological matters with third country partners. The Cooperation Agreement with Israel fits naturally into this strategy, particularly in respect of the Middle East. The agreement should also enable scientists to continue their efforts for regional cooperation with the countries neighbouring Israel for the benefit of all, and this in the difficult circumstances currently prevailing in the Middle East. I am therefore convinced that Parliament should and will give its support to the conclusion of this agreement.