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Maltese Presidency Conference on Strengthening Euro-Mediterranean cooperation through Research and Innovation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SEMCRI 2017 (Maltese Presidency Conference on Strengthening Euro-Mediterranean cooperation through Research and Innovation)

Reporting period: 2016-11-15 to 2017-11-14

"During the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU, the Malta Council for Science and Technology held a conference with the participation of the Research Ministers of the EU Member States and non-EU Mediterranean countries on “Strengthening Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation through Research & Innovation”. The conference comprised a High-Level Technical Meeting on 3rd May 2017 that fed into a Ministerial Conference on 4th May 2017.
The conference resulted in the endorsement of the ""Valletta Declaration on Strengthening Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation in Research and Innovation"", which takes stock of progress made in Euro-Mediterranean R&I cooperation, while looking ahead towards the implementation of the major large-scale initiatives that are being rolled out in the region as well as sowing the seeds for potential future priorities during the final part of Horizon 2020 and beyond. These areas reflected the overall objectives of the conference:
1. Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area – PRIMA
2. Addressing the root causes of migration through R&I
3. R&I for blue jobs and growth in the Mediterranean
The conference resonated well with the three overarching priorities of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU, namely: Mediterranean, Migration and Maritime, and provided a logical thematic focus in research and innovation policy in these key selected areas.
A big part of the preparatory work coincided with the dissemination of information on this two-day event to create awareness and structure the necessary political and technical discussions within the appropriate EU and EU-Med fora: the Working Party on Research of the Council of the EU and the EU-Med GSO - Group of Senior Officials in Research and Innovation provided the appropriate platforms.
Information was also disseminated by MCST through SFIC - Strategic Forum for International Cooperation in R&I, GPC - High-Level Group for Joint Programming, the 5+5 Group of Senior Officials and the UfM Senior Officials Meeting (Ministries of Foreign Affairs) was also kept informed.
The EU-MED GSO was also instrumental in the finalisation of the Valletta Declaration, since the necessary consultations on the draft document were carried out through this forum and consensus on its content was timely reached ahead of the Presidency Event. Two EU-Med GSO meetings were convened (November 2016 and February 2017).
Great support in the identification of the right communication and diplomatic channels was also received from European Commission DG RTD (Dir. C – International Cooperation).

Save-the-date communications and official invitations were sent to delegations (Ministers of Research of all countries invited, European Commission, Council of the European Union, European Parliament, Union for the Mediterranean, keynote speakers, experts) several weeks before the event. MCST communicated on a daily basis with all delegations to make sure they would receive all documentation needed, as well as the necessary information on accreditation, registration, logistics, programme, etc. Almost all delegations were accredited and registered by the time the conference was held, late registration and accreditation (on the day) was provided too.

To give visibility to the event, two dedicated webpages (one for the Technical-Level Meeting and one for the Ministerial Conference) were created on the official website of the 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU. Such webpages were updated several times to display information on the event (background and aim, date, venues) and share relevant documentation (media background notes, Valletta Declaration, programmes), as well as multimedia (videos, interviews, photos). An information package (media background note plus media programme) was issued prior to the event to announce it to the press.

MCST was responsible for the on-site coordination of both the Technical-Level Meeting and Ministerial Conference which were held on 3 and 4 May 2017 respectively. MCST Team assisted all attendees, made sure venues were appropriately set-up and took care of all logistical and organisational matters. MCST Team also typed up accounts of the meetings’ proceedings.

MCST also took care of the preparation of delegate packs (programmes and background documents). A publication entitled “Strengthening Euro¬-Mediterranean Cooperation through Research and Innovation” highlighting R&I Cooperation in the Mediterranean in key priority areas (environment and climate, knowledge based bio-economy, security, energy, ICT) was also realised and distributed during the Ministerial Conference. The Valletta Declaration was then endorsed at the conclusion of the Ministerial Conference and a hard copy was distributed to Ministers of Research of the participating countries.

A press conference was held after the Ministerial Conference: the press was addressed by the then Maltese Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport - Hon. Chris Agius, the EU Commissioner for Research and Innovation - Carlos Moedas and EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries - Karmenu Vella. Moreover, a press release was issued soon after to share information on the outcomes of the event with the general public.

The last project deliverable was a Consolidated Conference Report which aims to maximise the impact of the event by building on its outcomes to further strengthen Euro-Mediterranean R&I cooperation. This publication was also uploaded online and presented during the EU-MED GSO meeting held in Brussels on 28th November 2017.

A close coordination between the Malta Council for Science and Technology - MCST and the European Commission DG RTD was maintained throughout the whole project lifecycle, which ensured its successful implementation.
The conference provided a key milestone in the direction of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in clearly defined areas of focus. Firstly it built on clear, documented data on R&I cooperation across funders in the region so as to enable informed decisions to be made on future prioritisation exercises, while considering an adequate scale and scope of actions being rolled out into the region. This approach is also expected to encourage close cooperation between structural financial and technical support provided by the EU in bilateral relationships with Mediterranean partners through the EU Neighbourhood and R&I priorities and competencies where relevant. The notion of impact will underlie the assessment to be undertaken of R&I cooperation efforts and this includes any complementarities, synergies or overlaps between different sources of funding.

The event will help approach the sustainable use of the resources within Mediterranean sea and migration as a common challenge taking both short-term and longer-term perspectives into account. Thus it will address phenomena deriving from migration flows impacting different social contexts while also looking at longer-term issues such as climate change related water availability and quality as well as pressures on value chains in food production and nutrition or sanitary impacts.
These areas of focus will give rise to:
• Commitments from Mediterranean countries towards addressing these challenges jointly at ministerial level.
• Recommendations to policy makers and funding agencies in the region.
• Opportunities for R&I cooperation and coherence with investments in R&I capacities.