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On 11 October 2011, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, and Gheorghe Duca, President of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Moldova, signed a memorandum of understanding for the association of the Republic of Moldova to the EU’s Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7). The agreement has been reached after a lengthy negotiation process.
‘Association’ is a specific mechanism allowing for stronger cooperation with third countries under the EU’s Framework Research Programme. It is based on specific science and technology cooperation agreements with the European Union and involves a financial contribution by an associated country to the budget of the framework programme. The EU’s Framework R&D Programme is in principle open for the participation of organisations) from other, non-EU countries, and some of them can even be funded by the EU. Beyond this basic provision, organisations from associated countries can enjoy the status of full participants equal to that of the organisations from the EU member states. For example, all themes and activities of four specific sub-programmes of FP7 are open for such participation; organisations within associated countries can also more easily initiate, build and coordinate project consortia.
Moldova is the 14th country associated with FP7; the others are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Faroe Islands, FYROM, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey. For Moldova, this may be a relatively short-term experience, however, given that the country will become formally associated with FP7 beginning 1 January 2012, and the last FP7 calls will be published in 2013.
There are also several questions about the future of the association path as such. The new Horizon programme will incorporate other research-related EU schemes – the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Technology and Innovation- which do not imply similar ’association’ options. The associated countries will most likely have to re-negotiate their special status under the new programme. In addition, geographic criteria of association are still unclear for the future. For example, Moldova is the first Eastern Partnership and the second European Neighbourhood Policy country to be associated with FP7. And while aspirations to association with FP7 have been expressed from near (Russia) and far (Australia), they have not brought fruit.European Commission, association of Moldova to FP7 European Commission, countries associated with FP7