The biggest challenges confronting humanity necessitate countries work together. At the Marseille Conference on 8 March, Europe explored the path forward for international collaboration in research and innovation.
Now more than ever we bear witness to the achievements made possible in research, when countries collaborate closely and gain access to the right tools and expertise to get the job done. Years of international research collaborations in academia and industry underpinned the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the development of vaccines.
At the same time, geopolitical developments in the past decade have shown that collaboration sometimes needs to be modulated. The illegal Russian military aggression against Ukraine is a clear example of such developments. The EU has strongly condemned the invasion and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that sanctions would include limiting Russia’s access to crucial technology, such as semiconductors or cutting-edge software. The Commission has suspended cooperation with Russia on research and innovation and Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Mariya Gabriel, issued a statement.
However, with those countries that respect fundamental values, the EU is committed to keep an open approach. This is not just beneficial, it is necessary.
Fostering mutually beneficial international cooperation in research and innovation
‘It is not possible for one country alone to tackle challenges such as climate change or pandemics, which know no borders,’ said Dr Frédérique Vidal, French Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation. ‘Pooling efforts, knowledge and capacities is essential to tackle these global challenges.’
The minister addressed the Ministerial Conference on a Global Approach to Research, Innovation and Higher Education. Held in Marseille on 8 March, the event highlighted the global nature of science and how the EU continues to stretch out a hand of cooperation to countries around the world, but also strives to ensure that collaborations are mutually beneficial and fair. It comes a year after the European Commission’s own strategy paper on the “Global Approach to Research and Innovation”.
The conference was jointly organised by the French Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, and the French Ministry for European and Foreign affairs, the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) and the European Commission.
‘The message of this conference to third countries is that the European Union is open, and will remain open, to international collaboration in the fields of higher education, research and innovation,’ noted Minister Vidal.
The French Presidency is set to draw up the ‘Marseille declaration’ on international cooperation in research and innovation. According to Minister Vidal, the Marseille declaration will promote reciprocity and a level playing field, but also respect for basic values to ensure that researchers and innovators experience the right working conditions.
‘Humanity has lots of crises right now. Not just the pandemic, but climate change for example,’ said Dr Mostafa Moonir Shawrav, young researcher and chair of the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA). ‘And we haven’t decided how to tackle these challenges yet.’ He notes that despite the existential threat from Covid-19, there were no pre-existing coordinated efforts from governments ready to deal with what was an acknowledged risk – a devastating pandemic.
He described the rapid development of Covid-19 vaccines as the fruit of 20 years of basic science and collaborations between industry, policymakers and researchers. ‘Whatever we enjoy today is because of investment in research and work done over the past decades,’ he said.
Rebalancing global cooperation
The conference in Marseille was a step towards allowing European countries to adapt to significant changes in the international situation since 2012, when the previous strategy on international research and innovation collaboration was drawn up.
‘Global challenges require a global response, and in particular, consultations between Europeans,’ said Minister Vidal, ahead of the conference. ‘On the other hand, the scientific and technological environment has become increasingly competitive, with some countries exploiting science or limiting the ability of researchers, students or innovators wishing to collaborate with them.’
Some countries have closed access to certain research infrastructures, for example. This is why it is necessary to rebalance international cooperation, Minister Vidal explained, so that it remains reciprocal and mutually beneficial, but also respects the rights of researchers, academics and students.
Having the right structures in place will ensure fair and productive collaborations. Dr Shawrav stresses that science diplomacy is one way to encourage beneficial cooperation between nations, and to allow scientists to work together on grand challenges.
One example is CERN, the European research organisation that runs high energy physics experiments in particle colliders beneath the Swiss-French border. It is run by 23 Member States and involves many non-European countries too. CERN scientists won the Nobel prize in physics in 2019.
Horizon 2020 projects often mandate that researchers from three countries take part. ‘It is really eye-opening for early career researchers, who join and go to different workshops,’ said Dr Shawrav. ‘And understand, okay, the world is much bigger than I thought before, and the topics and challenges are bigger, but then they see that the opportunities are much greater because you can collaborate with others, even globally.’
For the Marseille conference, the construction of a common approach at the European level is something that the French Presidency of the Council of the EU is keen to promote, said Minister Vidal. It will allow for the future implementation of work begun by a communication sent out on 18 May 2021, on the global approach to research and innovation, bolstered by the conclusions adopted by the Council of the European Union on 28 September 2021.
Promoting principles and values
The update is seen as necessary at a time when geopolitical tensions are rising and human rights and fundamental values are being challenged, with concerns about threats to academic freedom, about gender inequality, around intellectual property rights issues and about an uneven playing field.
At the same time, the greatest global challenges demand that European countries and others pull together and leverage their scientific know-how to develop solutions.
‘The Union distinguishes itself by the general openness to the world of the Horizon Europe programme and the opportunities offered by the Erasmus+ and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programmes,’ stated Minister Vidal. Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe.
‘We see the Marseille conference as an important step toward the launch of a multilateral dialogue on the basis of key principles and values discussed between Member States during the conference, such as freedom of academic research, ethics and integrity, and research excellence, third countries should be encouraged to respect these conditions,’ Minister Vidal added. ‘Thereafter, it will be necessary to ensure the continuity of this dialogue.’
She said that the negotiation of roadmaps between the Union and its partners is also an interesting instrument, as shown by the dialogue currently underway with the People’s Republic of China.
The research in this article was funded by the EU. This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
Assad-Xi Jinping meeting: China-Syria strategic partnership
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday jointly announced the establishment of a China-Syria strategic partnership, Chinese Xinhua Net informs.
The two presidents met in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, ahead of the opening of the 19th Asian Games.
Syria was one of the first Arab countries that established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, and was one of the countries that co-sponsored the resolution to restore the lawful seat of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations, Xi said.
Over the 67 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the China-Syria relationship has stood the test of changes in the international situation, and their friendship has grown stronger over time, he said.
Xi noted that the establishment of the strategic partnership will be an important milestone in the history of bilateral ties.
China is willing to work with Syria to enrich their relationship and continuously advance the China-Syria strategic partnership, Xi said.
Xi emphasized that China will continue to work with Syria to firmly support each other on issues concerning the two sides’ respective core interests and major concerns, safeguard the common interests of both countries and other developing countries, and uphold international fairness and justice.
China supports Syria in opposing foreign interference, rejecting unilateralism and bullying, and safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said.
China supports Syria in conducting reconstruction, enhancing counter-terrorism capacity building, and promoting a political settlement of the Syrian issue following the “Syrian-led, Syrian-owned” principle, Xi said.
China also supports Syria in improving its relations with other Arab countries and playing a greater role in international and regional affairs, he added.
China is willing to strengthen Belt and Road cooperation with Syria, increase the import of high-quality agricultural products from Syria, and jointly implement the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative to make active contributions to regional and global peace and development.
Assad said that in international affairs, China has always aligned itself with international fairness and justice, and upheld international law and humanitarianism, playing an important and constructive role.
Syria highly appreciates and firmly supports the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative, and will actively participate in them, Assad added.
The Syrian side thanks the Chinese government for its invaluable support to the Syrian people, firmly opposes any act of interference in China’s internal affairs, and is willing to be China’s long-term and staunch friend and partner, he said.
Assad said Syria will take the establishment of the Syria-China strategic partnership as an opportunity to strengthen bilateral friendly cooperation and step up their communication and coordination in international and regional affairs.
After the talks, the two heads of state witnessed the signing of bilateral cooperation documents in areas including Belt and Road cooperation, and economic and technological cooperation.
Seymour Hersh: “Zelensky’s army no longer has any chance of a victory”
Next Tuesday will be the anniversary of the Biden administration’s destruction of three of the four pipelines of Nord Stream 1 and 2. There is more I have to say about it, but it will have to wait. Why? Because the war between Russia and Ukraine, with the White House continuing to reject any talk of a ceasefire, is at a turning point, writes Seymour Hersh, a famous American investigative journalist.
There are significant elements in the American intelligence community, relying on field reports and technical intelligence, who believe that the demoralized Ukraine army has given up on the possibility of overcoming the heavily mined three-tier Russian defense lines and taking the war to Crimea and the four oblasts seized and annexed by Russia.
The reality is that Volodymyr Zelensky’s battered army no longer has any chance of a victory.
The war continues, I have been told by an official with access to current intelligence, because Zelensky insists that it must. There is no discussion in his headquarters or in the Biden White House of a ceasefire and no interest in talks that could lead to an end to the slaughter. “It’s all lies,” the official said, speaking of the Ukrainian claims of incremental progress in the offensive that has suffered staggering losses, while gaining ground in a few scattered areas that the Ukrainian military measures in meters per week.
“There were some early Ukrainian penetrations in the opening days of the June offensive,” the official said, “at or near” the heavily trapped first of Russia’s three formidable concrete barriers of defense, “and the Russians retreated to sucker them in. And they all got killed.” After weeks of high casualties and little progress, along with horrific losses to tanks and armored vehicles, he said, major elements of the Ukrainian army, without declaring so, virtually canceled the offensive. The two villages that the Ukrainian army recently claimed as captured “are so tiny that they couldn’t fit between two Burma-Shave signs” — referring to billboards that seemed to be on every American highway after World War II.
Zelensky’s message this week to the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York offered little new and, the Washington Post reported, he received the obligatory “warm welcome” from those in attendance. But, the Post noted, “he delivered his address to a half-full house, with many delegations declining to appear and listen to what he had to say.” Leaders of some developing nations, the report added, were “frustrated” that the multiple billions being spent without serious accountability by the Biden administration to finance the Ukraine war was diminishing support for their own struggles to deal with “a warming world, confronting poverty and ensuring a more secure life for their citizens.”
President Biden, in his earlier speech to the General Assembly, did not deal with Ukraine’s perilous position in the war with Russia but renewed his resounding support for Ukraine.
Biden, with the support of Secretary Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan — but diminishing support elsewhere in America — has turned his unrelenting financial and moral support for the Ukraine war into a do-or-die issue for his re-election.
The American intelligence official I spoke with spent the early years of his career working against Soviet aggression and spying has respect for Putin’s intellect but contempt for his decision to go to war with Ukraine and to initiate the death and destruction that war brings. But, as he told me, “The war is over. Russia has won. There is no Ukrainian offensive anymore, but the White House and the American media have to keep the lie going. The truth is if the Ukrainian army is ordered to continue the offensive, the army would mutiny. The soldiers aren’t willing to die any more, but this doesn’t fit the B.S. that is being authored by the Biden White House,” Seymour Hersh concludes.
Biden UN speech: no Ukraine compromise, negotiation
President Joe Biden gave an address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 20th. The speech was a disaster, stresses Stephen Bryen at Asia Times. Putting aside Biden’s slurred words, the message from Biden is there will be no compromise at all when it comes to Ukraine.
By saying that the US will “not allow Ukraine to be carved up” Biden is claiming that there can be no territorial compromise in respect to Ukraine.
Virtually every peace plan put forward by numerous parties has foreseen territorial compromise as the only way a solution can be found. Even the Minsk Agreements, which Ukraine signed in 2014 and again in 2015, allowed for compromise on territory.
Ruling out territorial compromise is a message that already is understood in Russia. Russia is fighting the Ukraine war because, in its view, it wants to (a) protect the Russian speaking population of Ukraine and (b) to keep NATO out.
NATO’s presence in Ukraine is a Russian red line.
In respect to the first, protecting the Russian speaking population, this applies to the recently returned to Russia parts of Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaphorize and Kherson. Previously Russia returned Crimea as its historic part and held a plebiscite.
As a practical matter, there is no chance that Ukraine has any ability to retake any significant part of these annexed areas. Almost all the fighting along the contact line, especially since the start of Ukraine’s counter-offensive, has been about a Ukrainian attempt to break Russia’s first line of defense protecting these territories. Today there is a consensus that the counter-offensive has failed to achieve any meaningful results other than to kill tens of thousands of Ukrainians and chew up billions of dollars of western military assistance.
Biden had nothing to say about NATO and Ukrainian membership, even though for Russia this has been a red line from the start, and it was NATO’s buildup of Ukrainian forces that triggered the Russian special military operation in the first place. The Russians declared many warnings to the United States and NATO about NATO’s presence in Ukraine, as late as more than a month before Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory. The US and NATO refused to have any discussion with Russia on the subject.
Biden did not discuss any peace process other than saying that Russia can do what Zelensky has demanded, namely leave Ukrainian territory and accept punishment of its military and civilian leaders for alleged war crimes.
Meanwhile the US and its allies have been working overtime to destabilize Russia by promoting attacks from Ukraine on Russian territory, assassinations and bombings in Russia, and sabotage inside Russian territory. These measures have triggered calls in Russia for the use of nuclear weapons as a way of terminating the Ukraine war and erasing Ukraine from the map.
Russia continues its military buildup, including enlarging its army and producing more weapons and ammunition. NATO and the United States’ massive support for Ukraine has changed the strategic landscape in Europe. From Russia’s point of view, it is involved in a war against NATO with Ukraine as the proxy. There is, unfortunately, a point where the proxy fails and where the war’s backers decide to put their own troops on the front line. There already are NATO “advisers” in Ukraine, as US “advisers” once were in Vietnam before the US sent in the Marines and the Army.
If Biden is reelected, it is almost a certainty he will send in US troops to try and “save” Ukraine. In turn that will mean war in Europe.
One of the questions is how long Russia can accept attacks on its territory. The US wants to step up these attacks, as Victoria Nuland has made clear. Such measures are not going to tame the Russians. To the contrary, the Russians will put even more pressure on Ukraine, and may start to strike US and NATO assets elsewhere.
Unfortunately Biden’s speech was a disaster from the point of view of finding a peaceful solution for Ukraine. Probably the speech was intended to help his reelection, notes Asia Times.
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