Euro partnerships for research
Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami addresses last weeks
eForesee international conference hosted by the Malta Council for Science
and Technology. Following are extracts from hios speech, in which he
urges that the drivers of competitiveness, research and innovation need
to be directed by the best possible synergy between policy approaches,
both on a national and on a regional level
Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami addresses last weeks eForesee
international conference hosted by the Malta Council for Science and
Technology. Folopowing are extracts from hios speech, in which he urges
that the drivers of competitiveness, research and innovation need to
be directed by the best possible synergy between policy approaches,
both on a national and on a regional level
The global aim of this Conference is to explore potential areas for
Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in the field of research and innovation.
The need for an exploratory discussion at this stage is clear: the drivers
of competitiveness, research and innovation need to be directed by the
best possible synergy between policy approaches, both on a national
and on a regional level by regional I am referring here to three
different perspectives, that is sub-national, European and Euro-Mediterranean.
The "open coordination" approach being encouraged by the European
Union addresses this rationale. It intends to improve Europes
global competitiveness through a closer integration of research and
innovation policies within the Member States. The successful development
of the European Research and Innovation Area depends on the extent to
which the related visions and policies of the Member States, as well
as the acceding states who will join the Union next year, can converge
and benefit from mutual learning.
Investing wisely in research and innovation has become a critical preoccupation
for governments worldwide. In Europe, within current budgetary constraints,
efforts are being made to develop realistic strategies with the aim
of meeting the Lisbon target of three percent Gross Domestic Product
spent on Research and Development by 2010.
Given these commitments, my Government is acutely aware of the need
to benchmark and coordinate Maltas policies in this area with
those of the other Acceding and Member States, while ensuring at the
same time that our national concerns and priorities are not compromised.
Current preoccupations relate to the need to review and streamline government
spending and subsidies and to reduce the national budget deficit to
a sustainable level. A viable pensions policy and the need to improve
productivity and efficiency are other major targets, since Malta can
no longer compete, and indeed does not wish to compete, on the basis
of cheap labour costs.
My Government is fully aware that the achievement of these economic
and social goals depends to a significant degree on incorporating a
sustained programme of research and development within Maltas
economic activity. The pace of change in todays global economy
demands this. In this light, we also believe that the best means of
ensuring a sustainable and effective outcome lies with the Unions
initiatives aimed at developing appropriate European and national R
& D strategies within a systematic and comprehensive framework.
In this context, Foresight is increasingly being recognised as a highly
effective tool for encouraging wider stakeholder involvement at both
a local and regional level, as well as for providing open, participatory
fora for consultation and discussion. Foresight helps to stimulate an
ongoing process of policy formulation and development that alerts policy-makers
to the critical policy concerns and relevant strategic intelligence.
Governments need to develop clearer visions of science, technology and
innovation futures upon which to base policies and strategies. For policy-makers,
Foresight can be an indispensable tool for exploring and defining the
feasible future scenarios feasible not only in the sense that
they are economically achievable, but more importantly, in ensuring
that they are socially acceptable.
Of course, the long-term dimension of Foresight is often at loggerheads
with the short three, four or five year time frames of elected Government.
However, in my view this only underscores the need for such exercises
to ensure long-term sustainable policy approaches. Foresight has an
important calibrating and structuring role to play, not only in designing
socially acceptable policies at a domestic level, but also in creating
an effective balance between national concerns, priorities and European
A further benefit of Foresight is the role it can play as an important
interface or bridging function between different interests. This aspect
is particularly relevant to my Governments opinion that the most
significant national economic and social issues are most effectively
addressed through a dialogue between the representatives of organised
civil society. For example, in Malta, Foresight can help to bridge the
gap between the public and private sectors. Foresight can also play
an important role in managing the Malta-EU interface, in terms of synchronising
the visions and policy approaches of the individual Member States and
the European Union institutions.
Ownership is a key issue here. We are all entitled to our individual
visions and approaches this is an important principle in a democratic
country. However, if we are striving to be competitive, we need to combine
our efforts and bring coherence to our policy strategies. Foresight
helps to draw out the overlaps and common interests that are so vital
in pursuing joint strategies.
This attribute is particularly relevant at this point in time, faced
as we are with the imminent prospect of the EUs enlargement. May
2004 marks a major transition, not
only for new members, but also for the existing Member States and the
European Union as a whole. Managing this transition effectively is a
prime policyimplementation concern. This relates to what happens within
the enlarged European Union and equally to relations with the rest of
the world, in particular, in Maltas case, with our immediate neighbours
in the Mediterranean.
The EU enlargement will have a major impact on the economies of the
neighbouring countries and, as a result, on their economic and trade
links with the European Union. Malta, with its central location in the
Mediterranean and at the southern periphery of the enlarged European
Union, is in a particularly privileged position to understand the concerns,
needs and aspirations of its southern neighbours.
As a new member of the EU, Malta is keen to encourage the development
of more systematic policy approaches, such as Foresight, to fully exploit
the potential of Euro-Mediterranean collaborative futures. It is for
this reason that this Conference regarding eForesee is being accorded
high priority by my Government.
There are a number of challenging sectors where the Euro-Med collaborative
futures can be pursued. A prime example is the marine sector. Malta
has in the past played an important role in the United Nations in promoting
the Common Heritage of Mankind Principle; an initiative with very similar
characteristics to Foresight that aims to protect the marine heritage
for future generations.
The European Science Foundation recently flagged an initiative to promote
the establishment of a European Marine Research Area. The European Strategy
Forum had also stressed the "strategic and economic importance
of the European marine resource" and the "need to coordinate
and plan better the use of existing marine RTD infrastructures and to
identify and plan co-ordination for future needs".
The rationale is clear - optimising efficiency of infrastructures, pooling
and sharing of ideas, learning from best practice and stimulating increased
opportunities for emerging Science and Technology developments. The
same rationale applies to the development of a Euro-Mediterranean Marine
Research Area. This idea is not meant to pre-empt or steer your discussion
it is simply an example of what comes to mind.