EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, during his visit to SESAME in Jordan, April 2015. (Image credit: 2015-2016 CERN)
At the 28th SESAME Council held in May 2016 in the premises of the European Commission, the EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, gave an introductory talk on SESAME as an example of cooperation in the Middle East through science diplomacy.
SESAME, as a model of scientific cooperation in the Middle East, is part of the European Union priority to ensure that European Research and Innovation are “Open to the World” and was an inspiration for the book on Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World – a vision for Europe, published by DG Research and Innovation in May 2016. Science diplomacy has been one of the priorities of Commissioner Moedas and three science diplomacy pillars have been set up: (i) building bridges and improving international relations; (ii) addressing global challenges through sound scientific advice; (iii) embracing globalization through enhanced STI cooperation. For example, Carlos Moedas gave the initiative of FP7 CESSAMag project as an example and a trigger, and his visit to CERN and the CESSAMag laboratory in January 2015 was the beginning of the first pillar with SESAME bridging divides in the Middle East.
In the framework of this first pillar historical agreements were signed associating some countries to Horizon 2020, such as Ukraine and Tunisia in 2015 and Armenia and Georgia in 2016. Another example of a bridge-building activity is the PRIMA initiative (Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area), a cooperation in the Mediterranean region, bringing neighbours at odds together, on how to ensure the sustainable provision of vital resources such as water and food.
In the context of the second pillar, a high-level group of seven scientific experts for scientific advice on specific policy issues in Europe was set up. In addition, a Science4Refugees programme was launched to help refugees with a science background find suitable jobs in universities and research institutions in the EU.
With respect to the third pillar, progress has been made towards the creation of a Global Research Area based on the development of a Common Research Area for the EU, Latin America, and the Caribbean. This has been manifested by the decision of the 28 EU member states to make scientific papers freely available by 2020 or the setting-up co-funding mechanisms with China and Mexico.
To conclude, the EC Commissioner, informed participants that €2M had been earmarked for SESAME in the 2016-2017 Horizon 2020 Work Programme and stressed the fact that he has become emotionally involved in this project and would continue to be the SESAME Ambassador and an advocate on scientific cooperation in the Middle East through SESAME.