Science ministers pledge to rebuild cooperation after decade of Balkan conflicts

12 August 2002 The Ministers of Science of ten Southeast European countries have acknowledged that open conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s ‘have affected scientific exchanges in the region so adversely that a relaunching of scientific co-operation in the area can hardly be expected without special effort [from all governments concerned], on the basis of a mutually acceptable approach.’

The Ministers were speaking from a Roundtable of Ministers of Science organized by UNESCO’s Venice Office in Paris on 24 October 2001.

In their Final Communiqué, the Ministers identify seven areas for action. To combat brain drain, they vow to mobilize resources for the purchase of equipment and research grants for scientists who have made successful careers abroad and wish to return to their home country.

To further training, they agree to promote exchanges of young scientists, visiting professors, research workers, engineers and technicians within the region and between the countries of the region and the rest of Europe.

To upgrade and strengthen research infrastructure, they pledge to facilitate networking of existing research infrastructure and to build up new research facilities at the interregional level. The existing National Research and Education Networks are to be upgraded to make them both mutually compatible and compatible with the pan-European networks.

The Ministers are determined to encourage electronic networks among research institutes and universities in Southeastern European countries. These are to be doted with connections to vital scientific and academic institutions in the European Union (EU) and in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The Ministers also vowed to support the digitising of data and information, and electronic publishing.

By promoting renewed co-operation in social and human sciences and by launching collaborative research projects in strategic fields, the Ministers plan to revitalize regional research capacities, stabilize human resources and solve important regional problems. These strategic fields are the life sciences, agriculture, environmental sciences, computer science and information technologies, materials science, civil engineering and sustainable development.

All measures are to be funded on a cost-sharing basis among the countries directly involved, with external donor support.

In addition to the Ministers of Science from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey and Yugoslavia, six representatives of the EU and CEE attended the one-day meeting (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Russian Federation and Poland). Other speakers represented four intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, namely the European Commission, European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST), Euroscience and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

The October meeting followed up the Venice Conference of Experts (See the WCS Newsletter of …. 2001).

For further information, contact the Director of the UNESCO Venice Office.