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President of the European Commission
EuroMed University inauguration
Ladies and gentlemen,
I'd like to begin by thanking Prime Minister Janša for inviting me here today. I'd also like to congratulate the Slovenian government. It is your hard work and commitment which has brought us to this historic event: the inauguration of the Euro-Mediterranean University.
Someone once said that the purpose of education was to replace an empty mind with an open one. So I can think of no better way of strengthening the EuroMed partnership and dialogue than by bringing our peoples together in academia: the ultimate place for an open-minded exchange of ideas and the pursuit of understanding.
I believe the university deserves the financial support of the European Commission, so we have decided to make a financial contribution in the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.
As the university finds its feet, other avenues of support from existing programmes will become available, like TEMPUS, Erasmus Mundus, the 7th Framework Programme and our cohesion policy.
Of course, today's inauguration does not take place in a vacuum. From the very beginning, in the Barcelona Declaration, the leaders of the EuroMed area recognised the importance of education, cultural exchange, contacts between young people and dialogue – all things which this university will help to stimulate. Indeed, developing human resources and promoting exchanges is one of the three pillars on which EuroMed co-operation has been built.
The creation of the Anna Lindh Foundation for dialogue between cultures in Alexandria in 2005 was another important milestone. It represented a recognition of the importance of universities as the best place to strengthen the North-South dialogue, to promote mutual understanding and to create co-operation in those fields which will help the knowledge society to expand beyond European borders.
Finally, the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean initiative represents a major upgrading of our relationship, which will bring fresh impetus to our co-operation, including in the field of education and dialogue. I look forward to the July Summit gathering in Paris which will certainly reinforce this initiative.
Throughout this period, the European Commission has invested heavily in cooperation in education and culture. And this will continue.
In fact, €400 million have been earmarked for education and cultural activities for 2007-2013, ranging from bilateral education projects with our Mediterranean partners, the regional Heritage programme and the Anna Lindh Foundation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In Europe, we have learned that inter–university cooperation is a very valuable tool. Promoted by the EU through the Erasmus programme over the past 20 years, it has lead to the creation of university networks and partnerships and the emergence of tools which encourage academic mobility, transparency and recognition of qualifications. Little wonder that there is a demand to extend this model to third countries.
Thanks to the co-operation in education which has already developed in the context of the Barcelona Process, this university can aspire to be a visible player in the Euro-Mediterranean Area of Higher Education and Research, by cultivating academic excellence and by networking with existing institutions both within and outside the EU.
It is significant that, as its first endeavour, the university has chosen to promote, together with the Commission and the EU Presidency, the High Level Conference on Maritime Policy in the Mediterranean Sea. This emerging, new policy has a strong potential to unite the regional interests of this maritime basin.
For me, today's inauguration of the Euro-Mediterranean University is the crowning achievement of the 2008 European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.
I wish it all the best.