Brussels, 04 May 2005
By providing 2.5 million euro over the next four years to the European Polar Consortium, the European Commission is laying the foundation stone of a future European polar entity.
Polar research tackles some of the major concerns of society and it is, therefore, essential for Europe to benefit from an efficient advisory and policy support mechanism dealing with the Polar Regions, says Gérard Jugie, Director of the French Institut Polaire Paul Emile Victor.
'Until now,' Dr Jugie told CORDIS News, 'cooperation between European countries occurred on a case-by-case basis depending on a specific scientific project. On the EPICA project for example, ten nations got together to recover the oldest ice in the world. The collaboration only lasted the duration of the project. Neighbouring countries tend to know very little about what each other are doing in terms of polar research. Now, however, we want to bring all the European countries together so they can get to know each other better,' he explained.
The European Polar Consortium is a coordination action funded under the ERA-NET priority. It comprises 25 partners from 19 countries, including the Russian Federation and Greenland's Home Rule. The consortium aims to deepen cooperation and levels of integration while bringing together Europe's assets in terms of vessels, aircrafts, infrastructures and human capital.
Work has already started on an inventory of all the assets that exist in Europe. As Dr Jugie explained, scientific research in the Polar Region requires expensive infrastructure, a lot of know-how and calls for tailor-made technologies and logistics. 'It is a shame to duplicate everything. It makes more sense to share what we have. The Nordic countries already share their air transport, so why cant we all do the same?' he asked.
As Paul Egerton, the Executive Director of the European Polar Consortium explained, to date this is the most significant action to structure the landscape of European polar research, contributing directly towards the implementation of the European Research Area (ERA).
'This is the first time that collaboration in this field reaches this level of importance where ministries and funding agencies work together,' he stated. 'There are lots of international organisations and bodies dealing with this topic but until now there had been no focus at European level. Today we are setting up a framework for cooperation between national programmes, which all have their specific identity, in order to identify common priorities and common approaches,' Dr Egerton explained.
At the moment, Dr Egerton continued, it is not possible to provide information on environmental threats on a European scale because individual countries cannot pull the information on polar related issues together.
'The European Polar Consortium wants to develop the ability to advise the European Commission and Member States on emerging threats in the Polar Regions. We will address this issue through the establishment of a 'polar alert system',' he added.
'Basic research in the Polar Regions is essential in terms of understanding climate change, the ozone layer, biodiversity and the ecosystems. A European polar organisation will enable Europe to maximise and direct is critical mass at the global level,' concluded Dr Jugie.
It is hoped the organisational structure required to establish the European polar entity and framework for cooperation will be ready by 2009.