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Speech of H.E Dr. Ahmad Masa'deh, Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean

posted Oct 4, 2010, 11:15 PM by Denis Curcic | EMUNI   [ updated Oct 7, 2010, 3:19 AM ]

At the Launching of ENPI-EMUNI, 3 October 2010, Amman, Jordan.

Your Excellencies, Dear Professors, Distinguished Guest, Ladies and Gentlemen.

As Aristotle taught us, "Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity". In order to build together in the Mediterranean a common space of prosperity, we must make everything possible to raise it as an ornament. That is why it gives me great pleasure to take part in the launching of the ENPI (European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument) program for EMUNI (Euro Mediterranean University) that constitutes a great step towards the construction of a common space for Higher Education, Research and Knowledge.

We always talked about the cultural and historical boundaries of the Mediterranean basin countries and it is now the challenge of the UfM and its secretariat along with the EU, the member states, the civil society and transborder organizations such as the EMUNI, to enhance today this solidarity with a pragmatic approach and concrete projects. This program proves once again that hand in hand, people and organizations of the two banks of the Mediterranean basin can put their energy together to build their future on their common interests and challenges.

Economic and social development these past twenty years have been characterized by their dependence on knowledge production and innovation. Education and research are consequently taking a growing part in international relations today. So far, European countries are aware of the benefits of economic integration, but economic integration won't be possible without enhancing cooperation in higher education, research and transfer of knowledge. 

The importance of exchanges, of travels and research between both shores of the Mediterranean is not a new agenda. Mathematics, medicine, astronomy, philology and many other sciences and knowledge have been developed and mastered thanks to great Scientifics, explorers or writers since the Middle age, who did have the curiosity to learn what the others had to teach by sailing through the sea. As for today, in our globalized world, our communication technologies and culture must give to each one of us the opportunity to develop his / her curiosity and knowledge.

The awareness of this heritage and this flourishing pluralism has grown a strong political will to forge an area of perpetual multicultural dialogue and exchange through a common project, which gave birth to the Barcelona Process and to the Union for the Mediterranean. Our promising youth and intellectual innovators are the keys to this engagement and we must not underestimate this potential for a sustainable development.

That is why fostering cooperation in higher education and research has been defined as one of the six priority areas in the "UfM" in 2008, and the building of a new Euro-Mediterranean university, was one of the initial projects recommended and is a concrete success. And it is now the responsibility of the Union for the Mediterranean, its institutions and its partners to dare baring the construction and the success of a "highway of knowledge and innovation", in order to build the prosperous future of our civilizations.

By encouraging university partnerships, collaboration between teachers as well as Euro-Mediterranean trainings and programs, the ENPI project for EMUNI is a concrete step towards a common knowledge and multicultural approach of the future, allowing young generations to think and work in an environment of cultural diversity. Moreover, the secretariat wants to reiterates its support to a program that will reinforce not only the credibility and the visibility of the UfM in a long term approach but also young people's interest for the Mediterranean basin as an opportunity of cooperation.

A solid Academic cooperation in the framework of the Euro Mediterranean University at the benefice of southern scholars is thus necessary. But let us not forget the challenge that represents students and scholars mobility between both shores. The capacity to attract foreign students, researchers and skilled young professionals is a factor of cultural and technological influence, which is an important issue for Mediterranean and European countries and can create an environment of competitiveness and economic dynamism. That is why EuroMediterranean governments must work together to facilitate free boundaries for scholars and promising students and give the access to a diverse Mediterranean space of knowledge and skills.

The scholarships and programs for students and scholars mobility are multiple but not always coordinated nor multilateral. The program Erasmus Mundus for the European Union is an important step in this matter giving the chance last year to 40 students  from the southem Mediterranean to study in Europe: And the Averroes program is going further giving the chance to 237 students and academics from North Africa to study in Europe and to 55 European people to study and pursue their research in North Africa ; but those numbers must not be satisfying, considering that nearly one of five people in north Africa and the Middle East is between the age of 15 and 24 years old and a little less than 18% in the European Union . Moreover, according to the European commission, last year, from a total of 487 000 doctoral candidates in the EU universities, only a little more than 12 000 came from Mediterranean countries 

It is a challenge ahead of us to foster southern-southern mobility as well as Northern-Southern academic exchanges, following the example of the Erasmus program that changed the academic face of Europe allowing more than 180 000 European students last year to study in another European country , and which contributed to tightening relations between countries such as France and Germany.

Thanks to The European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument and its financing, Euro-Mediterranean projects for higher education and research cooperation can become a reality. In order to achieve an even deeper academic and technological cooperation the UfM governments and institutions must go further hand in hand with the already existing tools, the public sector and the private sector to develop multilateral initiatives in this important area. 

Finally, I want to underline that hosting this meeting in Jordan and the presence of the minister himself, reiterates the commitment of this country and its government to build a strong and sustainable partnership with the European countries and other Mediterranean countries, with values of exchange, solidarity and democracy.

Thank You.