Kosovo may soon be allowed to take a greater part in EU research funding programs after the country signed an EU-brokered reconciliatory deal with Serbia last month (19 April), following years of conflict, reports Science Insider.
After the signing of the deal, the European Commission formally proposed to let Kosovo participate in 22 EU programmes, including the €55 billion Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for R&D, which is expected to also apply to its successor, Horizon 2020.
If EU member states agree, Kosovo will move up from taking part in research programs as a ‘third country’ to becoming an ‘associated country’ – the status currently given to non-EU countries such as Norway, Switzerland, Croatia and Serbia, Science Insider reports.
In return for paying a fee to the EU, Kosovo’s representatives will be able to take part in program management committees, and its organizations and proposals will receive the same treatment as those from EU member states.
Yet so far, Science Insider says, the EU has financed only three research projects through FP7 involving five Kosovo-based organizations to the tune of just €286,000.
Whether Kosovo’s future funding will exceed its contribution as an associated country will partly depend on how much Kosovo invests in research and innovation itself, a commission official told Science Insider.
With the new science law decreed last month promising that a fixed proportion of Kosovo’s budget will go to research, hopes are high that funds will go up.
But Klaus Schuch, strategic research manager at Austrian Centre for Social Innovation, who is involved with policy advice and aid to Kosovo, tells Balkan Science Beat that Kosovo can participate in FP7 “anyway on a project-related basis irrespectively of the agreement signed with Serbia”.
“Even if Kosovo does not request an association to Horizon 2020 it can continue to participate on a project-related basis as a ‘third country’,” he says.
Both he and Dukagjin Pupovci, executive director of the Kosovo Education Center and former secretary of the National Research Council, question the country’s scientists’ preparedness to take advantage of EU research funds, though.
And both say more needs to be done to improve the number of excellent researchers who can get such funds and to provide administration support to researchers applying for such grants.