Commission lauds Jordan for bringing Middle East scientists together

A view of the SESAME synchotron in Jordan. [SESAME]

Research, Science and Innovation Commissioner Carlos Moedas said yesterday (13 October) that one of the best project in the world in terms of science diplomacy was the particle accelerator SESAME in Amman, Jordan, launched in 2003 under the auspices of UNESCO.

Announcing the investment of €16 billion in funding for research and innovation over next two years, Moedas singled out the EU-supported SESAME project as a place where scientists from countries in conflict with each other were “building bridges” for better relations between nations.

 “I wish you could go at some point there”, Moedas told the press, adding “Because you would see in that part of the world, scientists from Israel, from Iran, from Palestine, sitting together and talking about science”.

“You would be amazed how science is by itself the language of the world”, Moedas said, who said he had seen for himself that when scientists talk science, there were “no other topics on the table”.

“If Europe wants to be a global leader, it has to be a leader in steering this kind of projects that make people talk together”, the Commissioner said, mentioning new plans for scientific cooperation with Ukraine and Tunisia.

Moedas said that Horizon 2020 (see background) was more than just a tool for research, science and innovation. “It’s a tool for science diplomacy. I think it’s probably underestimated in the world, the power of putting scientists taking together, because they create bridges. And when you have those bridges, then you can have relationships and people open their mind to the world”, he said.

SESAME aims to build the very first synchrotron particle accelerator in the Middle East. The idea for the project dates from the 1994 Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestine, when Italian Professor Sergio Fubini from CERN, Israeli Professor Eliezer Rabinovici and others launched the idea of creating a synchrotron in the Middle East.

SESAME was established under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Alongside its scientific aims, which are to foster scientific excellence in the Middle East, the project also aims to promote peace in the region.

Today, the members of this unique joint venture based in Jordan has as members Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Palestine and Turkey. The following states are observers in SESAME: Brazil, China, Japan, Kuwait, Switzerland, Russia and the US, as well as EU member states France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Already now there are more than 200 scientists from the region using SESAME. The project is expected to come into full operation in 2016.

European Union's research and innovation funding programme Horizon 2020 was launched on 1 January 2014. Over seven years €77 billion is being invested in research and innovation projects to support Europe’s economic competitiveness and extend the frontiers of human knowledge. The EU research budget is focused mainly on improving everyday life in areas like health, the environment, transport, food and energy. Research partnerships with the pharmaceutical, aerospace, car and electronics industries also encourage private-sector investment in support of future growth and high-skilled job creation.

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