| Meeting of Ministers and
Senior Officials Responsible for
Science Policy in Central and
The proposal to organize a Meeting of Ministers and senior officials responsible for science policies in Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries within the framework of the World Conference on Science (WCS, Budapest, 26 June 1 July 1999) was formulated in a letter addressed on 27 April 1999 to the Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences of UNESCO and Secretary-General of the Conference, Mr Maurizio Iaccarino, by the Permanent Delegates to UNESCO of five Member States: Albania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine. They called his attention to the opportunity offered by the WCS to bring together the representatives of the Governments of the CEE countries having responsibility for the planning and financing of public research at the national level, the Presidents of leading research institutions and learned societies: such as national science academies and major universities, and representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and agencies promoting research and development. The usefulness of sharing ideas on good practices and positive achievements during the transition process in the CEEC was underlined as a main argument in favour of the meeting.
The Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences of UNESCO replied positively to this request, inviting former Ambassador of Bulgaria to France and former Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Mr Simeon Anguelov, to co-ordinate and assist the countries and UNESCO in the preparation and organisation of the meeting.
The major themes and objectives of the meeting were defined in consultations with the concerned countries as well as with the UNESCO Secretariat including the UNESCO Venice Office, the Regional Office for Science and Technology in Europe (UVO-ROSTE). Two explanatory notes were circulated informing the participants about the aim of the meeting, its structure and organization, and the topics to be addressed. The information thus gathered provided the basis of a background information paper and the provisional programme of the meeting.
The local Organizing Committee and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences kindly offered the Presidential Room of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as the venue of the meeting.
The meeting was opened at 2:30 p.m. with a welcome address by Professor Laszlo Kevicky, Vice-President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The host gave some valuable details on the structure, organization and goals of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as a public body of scientists responsible for the long-term strategies for science in Hungary. Serving as chairman of the introductory part of the meeting, Professor Kevicky gave the floor to Federico Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO, for his inaugural speech.
Mr Mayor congratulated the participants on their will to consolidate regional and sub-regional co-operation in science and development in Europe. He shared his experience as former Minister of Science of Spain where a special law obliged industrial companies working in the country to contribute financially to the development of research and higher education. Furthermore, he underscored the role played by UVOROSTE in promoting scientific co-operation throughout the continent, and declared his most sincere interest in and support to all initiatives aiming at a better use of the scientific potential in the CEEC.
After the inaugural speeches, the Representative of Bulgaria, Mr Ch.Balarev, proposed Chairpersons for the two parts of the meeting: Her Excellency the Minister of Science and Technology of Croatia, Mrs Milena ic-Fuchs, for the first half and Her Excellency the State Minister for Higher Education and Science of Latvia, Mrs Tatjana Koke, for the second half. The proposals were approved by acclamation.
After taking the Chair, Mrs ic-Fuchs proposed the meeting co-ordinator, Mr Simeon Anguelov, as rapporteur.
During the first half of the meeting, three European Union (EU) member states (Austria, Finland and Germany) and three CEE countries (Hungary, Poland and the Russian Federation) made ten-minute presentations. There was one modification to the planned programme: the Representative of the Russian Federation spoke before those of Hungary and Poland because of a scheduled speech in Forum III of the World Conference on Science.
Additionally, Mr Routti, Director-General of Directorate XII, Science, Research and Development, of the EU, Mr A. Fischli, representative of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and of research in the pharmaceutical industry, and Mr V. Kouzminov, Deputy-Director of UVO-ROSTE, each presented in 10-minute speeches the policies and the views of their respective institutions.
During the second half of the meeting, chaired by Mrs Koke, the representatives of the following countries spoke: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine and the observers from Greece and Israel. Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Moldova decided not to speak, but to deliver written contributions later.
The main result of the meeting was the acknowledgement of the need for regular consultations of Ministers and senior officials on the problems of science policies in the CEE countries and Europe as a whole.
For example, the Austrian representative underlined that Austria, during the EU presidency in 1998, initiated meetings of those persons of governments responsible for national science policy, secretaries of state or directors general. The meeting of 29 June 1999 continues such meetings begun in 1998...it is useful and most instrumental to bring together these representatives for exchanging experiences, for discussing developments, for sharing successes and bench marking. We believe that the European Commission, together with UNESCO, could facilitate such meetings.
The Lithuanian delegation suggested establishing a regular (once a year) consultative meeting of senior officials responsible for science policies in order to discuss common problems and organize regional and sub-regional co-operation, and underscored that it would be of great importance if support for such meetings could be realized through the regular UNESCO programme.
According to Slovenia, in todays fast developing world it is important to act flexibly, therefore any pre-prepared and fixed programme of co-operation would not be able to meet changes and interests. Therefore, the cooperation in the implementation of the main documents of WCS should be based on the interests of Member States and issue-oriented meetings.
The representatives of Bulgaria, Croatia, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Turkey, to refer to only to a few speakers, also expressed explicit support for the idea of regular consultations at Ministerial and expert levels.
Mr Routti congratulated the initiators of the meeting and undescored its importance for a better understanding of the problems facing the different groups of EU non-member countries. With the means of the EU favouring networking, one could facilitate the process of consultations within the CEE countries and with the EU.
Outlining the specificities of the countries in transition and the difficulties they faced in preserving their scientific potential, Mr Kouzminov emphasized the importance of regular consultations and promised the support of the UNESCO Office in Venice.
Discussing the organizational charts of public research, the majority of the countries (Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Romania, among others) underlined the role of the Parliaments in fixing national priorities and allocating budgets. Despite the fact that no one explicitly spoke about it, it seems rather natural to keep in mind the need to invite to a next meeting of this kind the Presidents of the Parliamentary Commissions responsible for science and science policies. In this respect, collaboration with the Council of Europe would be very precious, taking into account the special skill this institution has in networking Parliaments in Europe.
The discussion highlighted two more important points:
For example, Estonia announced the initiative of the National Academies of Baltic States to create a task force on the national strategies of research in small European countries, while Albania called attention to the successful work of the Balkan Union of Physicists.
Concerning the lowering of barriers between Western and Eastern Europe, Poland proposed a series of seminars on European Partnership in Science which would aim to find ways of accelerating the bridging of the gaps between EU member and non-member states.