Steering Platform on Research for the Western Balkan countries successfully held in Sarajevo
The Steering Platform held on 1 December in Sarajevo, BiH, was co-chaired by the Polish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina – on behalf of the Western Balkan Countries - who hosted the event – and the European Commission. The Platform heard the introductory statements from the co-chairs, who highlighted in particular that efforts for the next Research and Innovation Framework Programme 'Horizon 2020' are high on the political agenda of the EU, as well as efforts undertaken at bi-regional level to strengthen the research and innovation capacity-building. The Platform welcomed, in particular, Poland’s commitment towards Eastern Europe, including the Balkan region.
From the presentations of the Progress Reports, the Platform took note that all Members are further contributing to strengthening the research and innovation capacity in the region. The Platform was also encouraged by the different actions and measures taken by the Balkan countries to improve their participation in the Seventh EU Research Framework Programme (FP7) in preparation for Horizon 2020.
Increasing participation in the Seventh EU Research Framework Programme (FP7) in preparation of Horizon 2020 is a major topic. The success in calls of Work Programmes 2012 and 2013 is of crucial significance. Several stakeholders participated in the exchange of information - which is also an objective of the Platform, namely: the Central European Initiative (CEI) emphasizing their activities to launch a regional project on Next Generation Bio Fuels, EUREKA intensifying activities with the region, OECD and their “Regional Competitiveness Initiative”.
The Platform also welcomed the actions of other stakeholders and donors, such as the USAID/SIDA supported project “FIRMA” which contributes to the implementation of national strategies in line with EU Innovation Union objectives.
The need to continue the support for all enlargement countries with the Steering Platform was called upon, building on the existing projects such as SEE-ERA.NET PLUS and WBC-INCO.NET. Analytical results from the project have been presented and specific recommendations discussed - in particular some that have also been identified as relevant for the enlargement countries under the Innovation Union.
An additional topic, in order to fulfill the commitments of the Innovation Union, is the need to develop better S&T statistics and the importance of international comparability in line with EUROSTAT, OECD and UNESCO. To this aim the UNESCO Office in Venice will take up this issue and further support the process.
The Platform welcomed the launch of the project “Regional R&D for Innovation Strategy for the Western Balkans” (Belgrade, November 2011) and underlined the importance of establishing, as soon as possible in this process, key actions and measures to strengthen the regional co-operation on research and innovation and in turn regional competiveness. The study on innovation capacity was seen as a useful tool for the regional dimension of R&I cooperation.
A key presentation of the day was 'Horizon 2020', the day after its adoption by the European Commission. The Platform took note of the very ambitious goals of the new instrument. In particular accession possibilities for enlargement countries have been discussed. As Horizon 2020 draws very much on the "Synergies with the Structural Funds" (for EU Member States), the synergies with the next IPA II (Instrument for Pre-Accession) were another hot topic, they are welcomed but several questions were raised on its effective implementation.
An expression of interest was made by Albania to host the next meeting in 2012, together with the upcoming EU Danish Presidency.