Cooperation on research with the Eastern Partnership countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova is of exceptional importance to Germany in the search for solutions to the global challenges of the 21st century. The political framework is based on interlinked strategies at both European and national level to intensify cooperation:
The Eastern Partnership is intensifying relations between the EU and its strategically important near neighbours – which are located between the East and West but look towards the EU on many issues – and putting them on a new basis. The resulting strengthening of these regions and their links to the West, including in research and education in particular, are shared goals of Germany and European Neighbourhood Policy.
The Federal Government defined policy guidelines for a stronger involvement in developing and emerging countries in the areas of education and research under its Strategy for the Internationalization of Science and Research, which it adopted in 2008, and these guidelines are also embedded in the current government coalition agreement. The countries concerned include those of the Southern Caucasus.
The principal basis for scientific cooperation between Germany and the region is an intergovernmental agreement on scientific and technical cooperation with the former Soviet Union, which took effect in 1987 and is considered valid by the successor states. Additional, bilateral agreements have been signed with individual countries (e.g. Belarus in 1996, Moldova in 2008, and Armenia in 2011).
Key Areas of Cooperation
Many Eastern Partnership countries provide excellent research expertise, and in some cases an attractive research infrastructure for collaborations as well as well-trained young talent. All sides benefit from a greater harnessing of this potential in research collaborations with Germany.
Agriculture and Nature Conservation in Focus
The Ministry has been supporting smaller research cooperation projects with countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) (including the Eastern Partnership countries) with annual calls for proposals for scientific and technological cooperation (STC) since 2008. The open-topic funding covers exchanges of experts and young scientists as well as workshops with partners in the region. The projects funded by the Ministry address regional needs such as improvements in agricultural production, integrated nature conservation planning or the monitoring of changes to the landscape.
Broad Spectrum of Research
The various agreements and declarations of intent were brought to life by the publication in autumn 2012 of bilateral STC calls for proposals coordinated with Armenia and Moldova to jointly support project-related mobility and meetings of experts as well as thematic project planning workshops. The funded projects cover a very diverse array of research fields. The spectrum of topics ranges from health and nutrition to energy and climate and communication and key technologies.
The Ministry regularly publishes calls for proposals to promote partnerships for sustainable solutions to problems in developing and emerging countries under the title of 'Research for Development' as a key instrument for promoting cooperation between research institutions in Germany and the Eastern Partnership countries. The most recent projects, which started in late 2014 and early 2015, focus on health and medicine, climate, energy, food production, and communication.
Cooperation Within the Framework of EU Projects
The Ministry's bilateral research collaborations are supported by the bi-regional policy platform within the EU project 'STI International Cooperation Network for Eastern Partnership Countries' (IncoNet EaP). The latter's aim is to establish a political dialogue between the countries of the EU and the Eastern Partnership in the areas of research and development and to facilitate access for researchers from the region to the European Research Area.
The Federal Research Ministry is also involved in the EU projects Black Sea Horizon and Danube.INCO.NET. Last, but not least, the commitment of the Ministry at European level is expressed by its participation in the EU Commission's Eastern Partnership Panel on Research and Innovation (EaP-Panel).