Public consulation on the future of PRIMA

On 1 February 2016, the European Commission (EC) launched a public consultation on the future of PRIMA – the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area. The consultation will run for 12 weeks – running from 1 February 2016 to 24 April 2016 – and  persons wishing to have their say in the consultation process are invited to visit the following website:  http://www.ec.europa.eu/research/consultations/prima/consultation_en.htm.

All citizens and organisations are welcome to contribute to the consultation. Opinions are particularly sought from research organisations, universities and academic institutions, public authorities, local communities, large businesses, small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), business associations (including farmer associations), inter-governmental organisations, non-governmental organisations and individual citizens.

The purpose of the consultation it to gather opinions about and analyse the need for an EU action in the area covered by PRIMA as well as evaluate the potential economic, social and environmental impacts of the alternative policy options. The consultation particularly seeks input in relation to the preparation of a potential EU contribution to PRIMA through Art. 185 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) under Horizon 2020.

A summary report on the consultation, outlining the collected views, will be prepared by the EC by 20 of May 2016.

PRIMA and Art 185. of the TFEU – Background

PRIMA is a joint research and innovation programme aiming at addressing challenges of sustainable food production and water resources management in the Mediterranean region.

Preparation of the PRIMA initiative started in 2013, preceded a by a long-standing cooperation (almost 20 years) between the Mediterranean countries, aimed at establishing in the Mediterranean region an area of peace, stability, sustainability and prosperity supporting dialogue among cultures of the region. The cooperation process included, inter alia, the creation of the Union for Mediterranean in 2008, renewal of EU’s Neighbourhood policy in 2011 and the “Euro-Mediterranean conference on Research and Innovation” held in 2012 in Barcelona where the EC gave a decisive impetus by indicating the potential of using Art. 185 TFEU for implementing the partnership between EU and non-EU countries of the region.

Art. 185 TFEU enables the EU to participate in research programmes undertaken jointly by several Member States, including participation in the structures created for the execution of national programmes. As such, the use of Art 185 TFEU contributes to the reduction of fragmentation between Member States’ national RDI national funding programmes and consequently will allow for a more coherent and integrated approach towards tackling agricultural, food and water challenges in the Mediterranean region.

In this context, on 22 December 2014, nine Member States – Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain – submitted a proposal for the participation of the EU in PRIMA under Art. 185 TFEU. The following seven non-EU countries are taking part in the programme: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. The launch of first calls for PRIMA proposals is foreseen for 2017 and a total of two hundred million euros have been committed for this initiative for an over ten years period.  Those commitments are subject to the use of Art. 185 TFEU and therefore the application of this article is deemed to be critical for the successful implementation of the programme.

Following the Council Conclusions on PRIMA, adopted on 5 of December 2014, the EC organized the mentioned public consultation. Based on the results of the consultation, the decision concerning  the use of Article 185 TFEU will be taken, subject to the legislative co-decision procedure by the European Council and the European Parliament.

If the EU decides to use Art. 185 TFEU to implement the PRIMA programme, the participating countries will be required to  respect the three levels of integration (scientific, management and financial). In addition, the programme will need to be implemented in accordance with the Rules for Participation and dissemination of results of Horizon 2020, with one derogation: research entities established in countries not contributing to PRIMA could take part in a research project only if they bring their own funding, in order to avoid the “free-rider” phenomena.