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The EU`s Foreign Policy in Development: Player or Payer?



Before analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of European Union (EU) foreign policy in development, it is imperative to understand the conceptual link of EU’s foreign policy with development, and various evolutionary stages of EU’s foreign policy in development.

Since EU’s foreign policy has been associated with the developmental policy, it is, therefore, important to assess the impact of developmental policies internally and externally. Because both the levels provide it with the legitimacy to make decisions and contribute to global cooperation policies.

Broadly speaking, the development policy or stress on development came to prominence after the end of the Cold war. The early 1990s were the time, which not only saw the transition of the geopolitics from bipolarity to unipolarity, rather it was the time that exposed the vacuum in the development sector or the helplessness of global leaders to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Rwanda and Kosovo. In other words, the power vacuum and absence of a proper mechanism to avert crisis brought the attention of European leaders to formulate a policy on development in form of Millennium Declaration of 2000. In simple words, the critical analysis of EU’s foreign policy would involve the understanding of the developmental policy as well. Therefore, understanding the merits and demerits of development policy would directly inform understanding of foreign policy as well.

Evolutionary Stages of EU’s Foreign Policy in Development

An in-depth study of the European Union’s developments can be divided into following sub-stages for the conceptual clarity. In Carbone’s viewpoint, the time period between the United Nations International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in Monterrey, Mexico in 2002 and the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Paris in 2005 can be marked as the major years in terms of the redefinition of the development goals by the leaders of European Commission. The formulation of Brussels consensus can be defined as the essence of European policy on development. It was bolstered by the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (OECD, 2005) and the European Consensus on Development (EPCC, 2006).[1]  Although the formulation of Brussels consensus did provide a European perspective on development, however, the coordination of the sub-facets continues to pose a challenge to EU. Therefore, addressing the obstructions in the way of success or achieving the desired developmental goals remains a matter of concern for scholars and policy analysts.

The European Union as a Player

In order to know whether European Union (EU) has been a player or payer when it comes to its foreign policy in development, it is pertinent to go through the merits and demerits of the development policy to provide an objective analysis.

For advocates, European Union (EU) is not merely a union of twenty-eight nations, rather it one of the significant donors of developing countries and a major trading partner. Its development assistance budget amounts to over 6 billion Euro annually, including 1 billion Euro for emergency and humanitarian aid[2].  Most of the development funding goes to Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of states. The funding is usually provided by the member states. The relevance and impact made it a prominent actor, which is not only limited to Europe, but it plays a paramount role in global politics. The sheer size and success of EU impart it with resources and tools that facilitate the conduct of a stronger foreign policy.

According to the advocates of those who view the merits of EU’s development policy or consider EU as a foreign policy player, the unquestionable commitment of EU members to democracy, peace, rule of law and respect for human rights clearly reflect the resolve to promote and uphold the global norms and principles for all the global actors. Similarly, the overlooked role of women in building economies of the developing world has also been one of the areas of focus for the developmental leaders. To cite an example, global poverty has been halved five years ahead of the 2015 time frame; ninety percent of children in developing regions now enjoy primary education.[3]  Despite the viewpoint of critics, The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) associated with health have shown or resulted in positive success. For instance, the mortality rate for children under five years of age in 2012 was almost half that in 1990. Similarly, maternal mortality rate has decreased by 45 % between 1990 and 2013. The target on Malaria can also be fully met with a decline in malaria mortality rates of 42 % between 2010 and 2012. [4]

The European Union as a Payer

The critics or those who perceive the European Union as a payer of developmental policy mostly focuses on the demerits of the developmental policy. It is, therefore, important to take an overview of the arguments or critique. In Carbone’s viewpoint, the European Commission’s effort to “produce a statement on EU development policy (Brussels consensus) was to counter the Washington consensus“. [5] European Union (EU) as a humanitarian actor is another significant pillar of EU’s development policy, this function comes under the emblem of ECHO (the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office). It was created in 1991; the legal status was given in 1996 in form of an approval by European Commission.[6]  The idea was to safeguard it from political influences by ensuring objectivity and unbiased approach. However, the recent extension of the role played by EU foreign minister in ECHO could raise questions regarding the autonomy and credibility of ECHO.

The scholars and analysts of Africa and other areas of the world in need of development are critical of the conditions associated with developmental projects. In this context, the mechanisms of providing aid or grants via bureaucratic means are considered as an obstacle or ineffective, as it becomes the cause of the delay. Moreover, the proliferation of non-state actors and terrorist organizations, particularly after the Paris attack has given rise to a debate on the prospects of the European project. In simple words, the new wave of fear is the precursor for deepening tensions along the lines of nationalism versus globalization. Furthermore, the management of refugee or migrant influx towards Europe is another obstacle that will continue to be a matter of concern for leaders. Interestingly, the migrant issue is directly intertwined with the humanitarian assistance and the nationalist tendencies of European states to safeguard territorial boundaries. For instance, United Kingdom is another case study that illustrates one of the challenges for the EU internally.

In addition, the repercussion of Euro-zone crisis is something that continues to be a matter of concern for some of the European actors. It represents the proliferation and demerits of an interconnected world in terms of multiplying the implications and impact of the crisis on not only the European but the other interconnected economies. In this context, the mismanagement of the crisis represents questions about the crisis management mechanisms, particularly for the twenty-eight member states.[7]  According to the Reflection Group on the Future of the European Union report, aging populations, hostility to immigration, relatively low levels of investment in research and development, and a foreign policy that is feeble and non-coherent continue to increase the likelihood of the European Union becoming an irrelevant actor. In other words, the chosen response is deemed insufficient, particularly, with respect to the economic crisis.[8]  The very factor is seen as the variable which could accentuate the divisions of European states.

Analysis and Conclusion

To sum up, the capacity of EU to achieve MDG goals for development is questioned by some of the critics. For them, it has the potential to be used for objectives or goals other than the development. The very argument is often cited by the analysts of developing countries as well. For Carbone, the achievement of European Commission in the sector of poverty reduction, particularity, the Sub-Saharan and south-East Asia is questionable. In his view, the aid to the middle-income states has been increased at the cost of funding to underdeveloped states.[9]  For others, EU development aid to countries like Turkey and India is another point of objection. It means that the development and policies of EU should be more synchronized or coherent. Another argument of critics focuses on the association of development with the trade. The aid for India, for instance, is seen as a mean for EU to achieve the economic opportunities. However, it can also be deemed as a case of horizontal coherence, which links development with the trade to enhance relations between EU as an actor and India.

After carefully surveying the arguments of those who view EU as a payer (critics) in pursuit of a developmental and foreign policy, it would be implausible to completely undermine the merits of EU’s achievement as the global player in the developmental sector. That being said, one cannot neglect the critique of European Union’s (EU) role as a developmental actor, because it provides analysts and scholars with areas of improvement for the developmental policy. Keeping in view the fluidity of global environment in terms of increasing space for new kinds of actors and diffusion of power, it is pertinent to highlight the role of actors in attaining global progress and the influence of actors on EU and its relations with states in form of cooperation. Therefore, it would be plausible to suggest that the merits of EU as a development player is important to consider or acknowledge, however, the significance of demerits or the critic’s viewpoint needs to be explored further to understand the root causes of demerits and areas of improvements for the future of EU’s developmental policy.

[1]Veit Bachmann, “The EU as a geopolitical and development actor: views from East Africa,” Online Journal of Political Geography and Geopolitics, January 2013, xx,

[2]  Laz`r Com`nescu, “THE EUROPEAN UNION AS A GLOBAL PLAYER: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES,” Romanian Journal of European Affairs 2, no. 2 (2002): xx,…/RJEA_Vol2_No2_The_European_Union_as_a_Global_Pla…

[3]European Commission, The EU’s Contribution to the Millennium Development Goals, (Brussels: European Commission, 2015),

[4] European Commission, Annual Report 2014 on the European Union’s Development and External Assistance Policies and Their Implementation in 2013 – European Commission, (Brussels: European Commission, 2014),

[5] Carbone , Maurizio, The European Union and International Development The Politics of Foreign Aid, (London: Routledge, 2007),

[6]Shaping policy for development, “The EU as a Humanitarian Actor | Event | Overseas Development Institute (ODI),” Home | Overseas Development Institute (ODI), last modified October 8, 2003,

[7] European Commission, The European Union in a changing global environment, (Brussels: European Commission, 2014),…/eu-strategic-review_strategic_review_en.pdf.

[8]Zornitsa S. Yerburgh, “The European Union: Still a Global Player?,” Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, last modified October 15, 2010,

[9] Ravi Sodha, “Atlantic Community:Open Think Tank Article “Benefits and Uses of EU Development Aid”,” Home – Atlantic Community, last modified March 1, 2012,


Who did fight for liberation of Bulgaria in 1877-1878?



Russian professor, Doctor of History Sergey Perevezentsev has touched upon a hidden historical and political motive of the scandal caused by the speech of the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at the celebration of Bulgaria’s liberation from Ottoman oppressors.

It would seem that Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said everything correctly in his speech – he called to keep memory of the warriors of many nations killed on the fields of those old battles: Russians, Romanians, Finns, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Polacks, Lithuanians, Serbians and Montenegrins. “Historical tolerance” is preserved, and principle of “multiplicity of truths” is not broken.

However, as the historian explained, in 1874 military service became obligatory in Russia. In regular military units comprised soldiers of different nationalities, but a regiment included mainly Russian soldiers. In addition, very often the name of the regiment would not match its permanent location.

Some subjects of the Russian crown, in particular the habitants of the Great Duchy of Finland and the North Caucasus at the beginning of the Russian-Turkish war were free from military service. But in these regions there were military units comprised of volunteers from the locals.

So a question arises: why is the number of the nationalities mentioned in the Bulgarian president’s speech so limited? In fact Chechens, Avars, Kumyks, Kabardians, Ossetians, Ingushes fighting in the Russian army brought a big contribution in that victory over the Ottoman Empire. And if we recall that the officers of the Finnish battalion were Swedes, then it is necessary to add them too to this list. And also Baltic Germans, in the large number represented in the officer corps of the Russian army. And many others.

Then another question: why is there self-contradiction in this list? In fact besides Polacks battling with Turks in the Russian army, there was the Polish Legion that, vice versa, participated in fights on the side of the Ottoman Empire.

So why was it necessary to distinguish certain nationalities, ignoring the merits of others? Why was it impossible to say the simply “multinational Russian army”?

Answer for these questions Sergey Perevezentsev finds not in the past, but in our times: the Bulgarian president mentioned exactly those people that once were a part of the Russian empire, but today are title nations of independent states. Otherwise speaking, this list has a hidden “anti-imperialistic” meaning: commemorated should be only those people, who “broke out” of the “Russian imperial burden”. Historical events are used first to underline the rightness of the “European civilization choice” and, second, to minimize the role and value of the Russian state in history and in today’s events.

As Doctor of Political Sciences Alexander Shchipkov noticed in his article Bulgarian speech of Patriarch, the western politicized historiography constantly promotes the idea that “not Russia took part in all its important historical victories, but individual nations being a part of it”. And the aim of such a manipulation with history is to “deprive Russia of its right on its own great history and, as a result, the rights on the modern big politics”.

His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill also stood against this hidden anti-Russian rhetoric. “Russia did not look at Europe: moved by her love of the Bulgarian people, still weakened by the previous war and having no political support in the world, she began her struggle for the liberation of the Bulgarians. It was a great example of how spiritual, cultural and religious solidarity overcomes political pragmatismBulgaria was liberated by Russia, not Poland, nor Lithuania, nor any other countries but Russia. I would like to say frankly that for me it was difficult to hear references to the participation of other countries in the liberation of Bulgaria. Neither the Polish Sejm, nor the Lithuanian Sejm made the decision to start a war against Ottoman Turkey. We stand for historical truth; we won it by our blood and there can be no political and pragmatic reasons for which this truth should be hushed up or interpreted falsely “, he said

According to Professor Perevezentsev, the polemic flamed up after these words, and the speeches of some Bulgarian politicians saying loathsome and embarrassing things unacceptable for a decent person only confirmed the presence of that hidden meaning.

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The foreign policy proposals of the various Italian political parties

Giancarlo Elia Valori



While, in the so-called “First Republic”, Italian foreign policy was an essential tool in the practice and activity of the various political parties, exactly the opposite happens in the current so-called “Second Republic”.

After the Cold War, it seems there is no longer a need for foreign and defence policies –  a bit like that US senator who asked for closing the CIA after the USSR fall.

Just think that – as the former Italian President of the Republic, Francesco Cossiga, used to say – 50% of voters rooted for the East.

Aldo Moro was the leader who actually led the intelligence services politically – the services with which, for example, we could afford to secretly deal with Arafat and the countless movements of the Palestinian insurgency to be spared terrorist actions on our national territory.

It is also worth recalling that the so-called “Lodo Moro” -an unwritten agreement introduced by Aldo Moro while Foreign Minister, which permitted Fatah and the other Palestinian resistance movements to move personnel, arms and explosives through Italy on condition that the Italian territory was spared attacks – was well-known also by Israel, who appreciated the Lodo and used it.

A diplomatic and intelligence masterpiece that the current  childish leaders in power would not even be able to understand, let alone conceive and put in place.

Currently the Italian politics has seen the materialization of the play written by Roger Vitracin 1929, namely “Victor, or Power to the Children”.

In the programs of the 42 political parties that run for the 2018 general elections, there is obviously much talk about  migration, but no one even thinks that this problem is related to foreign policy.

There are also apparently specific and analytical programs on international cooperation but, once again,the link between development cooperation and foreign policy is not understood – and indeed, even a child could understand it.

Do the drafters of many electoral programs probably think that there is no connection at all?

“Second Republic”, or rather parochialism, provincialism and demagogic incompetence.

In fact, one of the typical features of our current Republic is moralism, i.e. the evaluation of national or international political phenomena according to the distorting lens of  supposedly superior ethical standards.

Precisely in his own country  Machiavelli is definitely dead and buried. Vacuous political narratives – often originated in North America -are rife on Kim Jong-Un  being “crazy” or Putin manipulating the US elections won by  Donald J.Trump.

Putin is also supposed to make his “populist” friends win in Italy, too.

Whoever, like us, read the CIA-NSA-FBI documents on the issue of Russian pressure on the US elections can hardly not understand how the alleged Russian manipulation of the US presidential election is a huge fake.

A power like the Russian Federation certainly has its agents of influence and its specific relations with the  American power, but the issue is not as the intelligence documents tell us.

What if all this happened to us? What would happen with the heirs of Vitrac? In fact, Italy no longer has a foreign policy. Neither right nor wrong.

Obviously this huge issue of Italy’s future foreign policy is not at the core of the average voter’s interest, butit is anyway the soul of a State’s practice, even though it is still hard to be turned into empty propaganda.

Let us now analyse the programs submitted to voters  before the general election of March 4 last.

Deafening silence on the United Nations, which is also called into question at every turn, when needed.

There is no mention of the United Nations in the centre-right coalition program, while the Democratic Party (PD) speaks about Italy’s one-year mandate in the Security Council as non-permanent member in 2017, where it has been replaced by the Netherlands in the current year. Italy had not sat on the Security Council since 2008.

However, Italy’s presence in the Security Council is regarded by the Democratic Party only in relation to the conflict in Syria and Libya.

For the time being,as far as we know, no miraculous results have been reached thanks to Italy’s mandate in the Security Council.

The Five Star Movement calls for the full implementation of the UN Charter, as well as of international law that is not as unambiguous and unequivocal as the draftersof the Five Star Movement’s program may think.

Conversely, More Europe, the liberal and pro-Europeanist coalition led by Emma Bonino, thinks about the  establishment of a National Autonomous Agency for the Protection of Human Rights.

It should be noted, however, that there is already an organization known as European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, established in 2007 and based in Vienna.

No electoral programmentionsthe Council of Europe,  OSCE (except for a minor reference in the program of Free and Equal, the left-wing coalition led by the former Speaker of the Senate and anti-Mafia prosecutor, Piero Grasso) and other international organizations.

Hence we wonder what prospects and guidelines our future representatives will have in those structures.

With reference to torture, the centre-right coalition proposes a law putting aside this type of crimespossibly perpetrated by the law enforcement agencies, but torture is an international crime that is precisely so if it is perpetrated by public officials.

Furthermore the rule published in the Official Journal in July 2017 has been criticized by the United Nations itself.

Hence a foreign policy that seems to be the result of a rock concert, devoid of any realism and continuously having a guilty conscience: we are the “rich” (but you can rest assured that soon this will no longer be the case) who  exploit the “poor” – without considering the impact of Article 11 of the Constitution.

Rules and regulations that would not allow our “peace-keeping  missions” abroad – not even in strictly legal terms – or probably not even the reaction to an attack.

While the “repudiation of the war” enshrined in Article 11 of the Constitution is the foundation of Republican Italy’s adhesion to the UN and the other international peace alliances, Article 11 does not distinguishes between defence war, resistance to the forces of a possible invasion, Italian action taken jointly with allies, defence of the territory and, even worse, defence of national interest.

Former Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema shall be given credit for having considered this constitutional tenet “outdated and old-fashioned”.

Even the repression of terrorism can hardly fall within the scope of Article 11.

In the Constituent Assembly of 1948, Luigi Sturzo said that war was a crime in itself and obviously the Communists  skilfully manipulated the Constituent Fathers’ strategic ignorance and the fully specious union between Fascist warmongering and ordinary and effective military defence.

The wording of Article 11 was good for a Constitution at a time when the Communist Party and the Catholic and liberal forces gloweredat each other with hostility, but certainly not today, when the rules and regulations pursuant to Article 11 jeopardize even our participation in actions in Libya.

A treatment implicit in the “repudiation of war”, which implies reducing a country to the servile state.

In fact, before Italy, it was put in place only with the Japanese Constitution, dictated by General Mac Arthur in 1946 after two nuclear bombs being dropped on the Japanese territory.

Indeed, also Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution speaks about “renouncing the sovereign right of belligerency”, but since 2013 Shinzo Abe has developed the Japanese Self-Defence Forces significantly, so as to clearly oppose China.

The United States haseven been happy with this new proactive Japanese pacifism combined, however, with a resurgence of national pride and imperial traditions.

Still today, albeit secretly, young officers of the Japanese “Self-Defence Forces” go to the Yasukuni Shrine to worship not only their ancestors, but also the heroes who fought against Westerners (and the Chinese).

Still today, the red-ray flag that General MacArthur had forbidden – is secretly sold.

If the Cold War ends, you must also think that there is no longer the Big Brother rescuing you from an invasion.

Hence you prepare for not giving in and for creating a strong deterrent.

If you are still a State and you have a just decent ruling  class.

Incidentally, it is worth recalling the sibylline, but witty remark by former prime Minister Giulio Andreotti when he was accused of having declassified “Operation Gladio”.

“If I had not declassified it, the others would have done so”.

Which others? Easy to imagine. But here we are still in the  Republic of Adults, not in the Republic of Children  – just to paraphrase Vitrac’s play.

However, let us revert to the electoral programs: in  Silvio Berlusconi’s opinion, common defence would make us “save billions of euros” and the EU go back into the mainstream of world’s great powers.

Unfortunately, defence is not made only of money, but also of doctrines, technologies and political will – and I doubt that this pot pourri of European defence could develop a common policy line.

France looks to a European Army because it takes Italy’s  weakness and the new alliance with Germany into account.

Let us also think about the role played by France for peace in Libya, with a truce declared during the meeting held between Macron, Fayez Al-Sarraj and Haftar at the end of July 2017.

A role stolen from Italy, but Italy has no one to blame but itself.

Therefore Berlusconi thinks that NATO should be strengthened and that we should side with the new Franco-German axis.

A defence policy that does not necessarily combine our economic interest with the interest of the new Franco-German axis.

In the foreign policy program outlined on January 18 last, the current Forza Italiaparty also speaks about rising  military spending, to 2% of the GDP,which has long been a key political goal of NATO and the United States led by Donald Trump.

Nevertheless, unlike what happens in Hegel’s philosophy – quantity does not automatically turns into quality.

More Europe, the coalition created by Emma Bonino, believes that Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defence(PeSCo) – which inevitably leaves a great deal of autonomy to national governments – must be strengthened significantly.

More than this? And how? Where is Italy’s national interest in this choir of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9?

More Europealso wants the denuclearization of the whole Europe and the universal abolition of nuclear weapons.

Military inventions, however, can be never disinvented and we wonder what would happen if terrorist groups or minor States were to use “dirty” nuclear bombs or threaten the use of a nuclear weapon – albeit small – to reach a specific political or economic goal.

In the Mediterranean region alone, which should be the perfect theatre for testing PeSCo, the countries which plan to have  nuclear weapons are currently Algeria, Egypt and probably Morocco.

Are we sure that, in this case, it is enough to sing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, “You millions, I embrace you”?

Obviously Brexit is a unique opportunity to build a new hegemony in Europe, but everyone is playing a new national role. Only Italy is stuck to the old Cold War and asks for others’ help, which is never disinterested.

The Five Star Movement does not even talk about a specific electoral program for foreign and defence policy.

Nevertheless, considering their Parliamentary positions, we must mention the difference existing between the group in the House of Deputies and the group in the Senate with reference to Italy’s NATO membership: the former is quite favourable while the latter is fully opposed to it.

With specific reference to the mission in Niger, someone said that we are going to “patrol the desert”, not considering the fact that the desert there is currently very populated.

The Free and Equalcoalition  deems it necessary to further reaffirm the constitutional principle of repudiation of war, also in relation to international terrorism, and to sign the Nuclear Weapon Prohibition Treaty. Also the More Europe coalition agrees on this latter point.

The aforementioned Treaty was adopted on July 7, 2017 at the United Nations and was supposed to come into force after 90 days with the ratification of at least 50 States.

Fifty-three States have already ratified it and it was already adopted – God forbid -by the Italian Parliament on July 18-24, 2017.

God forbid we miss the new Manzoni-style edict described in his novel, The Betrothed,boiling down to empty gestures, as well as all talk and no action.

Hence there is no need to include it in an electoral program.

In short, a collection of platitudes and ultra-pacifist clichés typical of the late 1968 protest movement.

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Is Croatia Closing the Gender Gap in Science?

MD Staff



Today, on International Women’s Day, we would like to introduce you to four Croatian women. These women are inspiring, because they spend their days pushing the boundaries of knowledge in artificial intelligence, IT, reproductive biology, ecology, biochemistry and enzymology. They are female researchers working in the male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) – fields where women account for onlyjust 28% of the world’s researchers.

While some of these scientists are already recognized beyond Croatian borders, others are just starting out their careers. What they also have in common is that their research is being financed through World Bank loans that support the Unity through Knowledge Fund (UKF). This fund finances collaborative projects for Croatian scientists, and scientists of Croatian origin, who are working for international research institutions, focusing on the career development of young scientists and researchers.

The UKF provides an excellent example of how employing an unbiased, transparent, and competitive selection process can allow women researchers to excel. Of the 130 grants, awarded, 64 were given to women applicants.

Dr. Gabriela Vuletin Selak, of the Split Institute for Adriatic Crops, has dedicated most of her scientific research to the reproductive biology of olives. She is currently studying the Olea europaea L. – one of the most commercially important fruit species in the Adriatic area of Croatia. With its growing commercial importance, olive cultivation has been increasing over the past three decades, while the genetic structures of orchards have been undergoing changes with the constant introduction of foreign varieties.

Through her work, Gabriela is providing invaluable information to Croatian olive growers about which cultivars to plant together, so that their mutual pollination and fertilization provide optimal results. Her work is so appreciated by olive growers that the Association of Olive Growers and Olive Oil Producers of the Split-Dalmatia County gave her an award for scientific research and publishing in the area of growing olives.

Gabriela’s love for science started at a young age. She was a curious girl, spending hours exploring the outdoors and the shores of the Adriatic to see what wonders she could find. She loved asking questions about the world around her. For her, science is about working hard and playing around with the most interesting “toys” in order to answer those questions. The Mediterranean landscape played a decisive role in her career path. Olives have become her scientific choice; olive orchards her lab.

The Zagreb-based professor, Dr. Bojana Dalbelo Bašić, shapes intelligent systems through inspiration from human reasoning and learning patterns. Bojana leads several international and domestic projects in the field of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data and text mining, and has published over 100 scientific and professional articles and papers. Her research landed her a spot on the list of the 50 most influential women in the Croatian IT industry.

Bojana, who works at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing, is leading the UKF financed project “Event Retrieval Based on Semantically Enriched Structures for Interactive User Tasks (EVERBEST),” together with another female researcher – Prof. Nataša Milić-Frayling from the University of Nottingham.

Through EVERBEST, the two researchers and their team are focusing on researching event-focused information needs of the general public and professionals. With the availability of tremendous amounts of news online, the technical challenge lies in providing event-oriented search and recommendation capabilities that meet diverse information needs. Bojana’s team has developed novel techniques and models for event-oriented searches and recommendations grounded in event consumption habits – which will ultimately change information-seeking task models and will provide a valuable service to journalists, news analysts, and the general public.

“Science gives you an opportunity to remain a child and continue exploring with wide open eyes, asking questions and seeking answers each day, hoping that one day this will lead you to new discoveries perfecting the picture of the world as we know it.” This is the motto of young Dr. Daria Ezgeta Balić, from the Split-based Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries.

Daria is passionate about the biology and the ecology of mollusks (marine bivalves). Daria and her all-female team of six researchers are working on the UKF-funded project, “Competition between native Ostrea edulis and invasive Crassostrea gigas oysters in the Adriatic Sea – effects on the ecosystem, fisheries and aquaculture.”

The Pacific oyster – C. gigas – entered the Mediterranean sea in the 1960’s as a response to a decrease in the production of the native Ostrea edulis, caused by parasitic diseases. The non-native, invasive C. gigas started reproducing and spreading outside aquaculture sites, endangering the native O. edulis. The research of these seven young women is the first step towards the establishment of management strategies for C. gigas in the Adriatic Sea and will help estimate the economic impact of the invasive oyster on fisheries and aquaculture.

Prof. Ita Gruić Sovulj, Associate Professor at the Chemistry Department, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb, tells us that she has a great love for enzymes, since, to her, they are “the marvelous molecules that provide the foundation of life and are the enduring motivation in my scientific life.”

Currently, Ita is leading a project concentrated on how the cellular error-correction mechanisms evolved to ensure accurate protein synthesis (translation). She works on enzymes aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs), that attach amino acids to their cognate tRNAs. This is a crucial step in recruiting amino acids for building proteins.

She explains that errors in protein synthesis are toxic to bacteria and are related to neurodegeneration in mammals. Understanding how cells control the fidelity of this process and prevent translational errors, as Ita attempts to do through her research, is therefore highly relevant. Ita’s work provides clues on how to create antibiotics that will compromise the fidelity of protein synthesis and kill bacteria.

Ita’s research was published in seven papers in respectable journals. For her achievements in strengthening the understanding of aaRS error-correction mechanisms, she received the National Annual Science Award of the Republic of Croatia for 2014 in the Field of Natural Sciences (Chemistry). Ita’s scientific knowledge and enthusiasm are shared with many students while she teaches biochemistry and enzymology courses for students of both chemistry and molecular biology.

In summary, the experiences of these inspirational women show that the STEM fields, which, globally, are still mostly dominated by men, are now increasingly becoming a place for women as well. Statistics corroborate these improvements, as Eurostat data shows that Croatia’s distribution of engineers and scientists by gender was almost 50 percent each in 2016, while the EU average is 40 percent female.

Nonetheless, much remains to be done with regard to gender balance in science. There are still great barriers that discourage women from entering these professions and obstacles continue to block progress for those already in the field. Women have to work harder to get recognition. Hopefully, by talking and spotlighting accomplished women in STEM fields, more young women will be inspired to take on this challenge and become scientists who may change the world through their research and discoveries.

World Bank

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