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IP/07/816

Brussels, 13 June 2007

3 Western Balkans countries and Turkey join EU research programme

Today, the Republic of Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Serbia will sign Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with the European Commission to enable them to participate fully in the EU's Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7). "Associated status" allows these countries, as well as Turkey, which signed a similar MoU on 1 June, to participate in all calls for proposals and compete on an equal footing with the EU Member States for research co-operation and support actions funded by FP7. As such, this agreement is an important part of the process of applying to join the EU, allowing scientists, universities and companies to create links with their counterparts across Europe and build up their scientific expertise, including in scientific fields crucial to implementing the body of EU legislation. Croatia and Turkey had already participated as associated countries in the Sixth Framework Programme; for Serbia and FYR Macedonia this is the first time they will participate in the programme in this way.

“I am pleased to see the doors of the European Research Area are wide open for all the Western Balkan Countries,” said Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik. “Research cooperation with Europe's scientific community is a tool which can smooth the way for the integration process of candidate and potential candidate countries into the European Union.”

The signatories are:

  • For the European Commission: Science and Research Commissioner, Janez Potočnik;
  • For Croatia: Minister for Science, Education and Sports, Dragan Primorac;
  • For FYR of Macedonia: Minister of Education and Science, Sulejman Rushiti;
  • For Serbia the newly appointed Minister for Science, Dr. Ana Pesikan.

The Seventh Research Framework Programme is the biggest EU programme with a budget of more than 50 billion Euros over a time span of 7 years (2007-2013). It allows for funding of collaborative research in strategic areas such as health; energy; information technologies, nanotechnology or transport. FP7 also stimulates the mobility of researchers through Marie-Curie grants and has special programmes to support capacity building such as research infrastructure, research for small and medium sized enterprises, Science in Society, Research potential with special calls for the Western Balkan Countries and international cooperation actions aiming at improving the dialogue among regional partners.

Association to FP7 means that these countries compete in FP7 on the same basis as EU Member States. It opens up research opportunities for the European scientific community. Traditionally the Balkan countries have a solid scientific base and deeper research cooperation with the EU will allow for a greater flow of ideas, people and transfer of technology.

The signing of the MOUs is the last step in a long procedure starting with: the request to become associated; discussing the terms and conditions of the association to FP7 and completing the respective internal adoption procedure. Croatia was associated to FP6 in its last year (2006) and thanks to this association Croatian participation in EU research projects substantially increased. The same is now expected under FP7 for Croatia, FYR Macedonia and Serbia. The June 2003 meeting of the European Council in Thessaloniki had already invited the candidate and potential candidate countries to participate in Community programmes, such as the Research Framework Programme, so that their citizens and administrations could become more familiar with the policies and working methods of the EU.

The Memorandum of Understanding enters into force today and is applied as from 1 January 2007. This means that research entities from Croatia, FYR of Macedonia and Serbia are eligible for participation and funding as Associated Countries for all calls for proposal since 1 January 2007.

Montenegro has requested FP7 "associated status" and as soon as the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Montenegro is adopted, the internal decision-making for the MOU with Montenegro will be launched. Albania and Bosnia & Herzegovina are also expected to join soon. The Association Agreements with Israel and Switzerland are also moving ahead and signature should take place in the coming weeks.

For more information on international science and technology cooperation: www.ec.europa.eu/research/inco


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