KARACHI: Pakistani scientists could benefit from the Horizon 2020 programme under which funds of 300 million to 400m euros are available for research assistance, said acting EU ambassador to Pakistan Stefano Gatto at a seminar held at Karachi University (KU) on Wednesday.
The programme aimed at creating awareness of Horizon 2020 was jointly organised by a European Union delegation to Pakistan, Pakistan Science Foundation and the KU.
The biggest EU research and innovation programme ever with nearly 80 billion euros of funding available over seven years (2014-2020), Horizon 2020 is a financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness.
In his speech, Mr Gatto underlined the need for research and said it’s the key to progress and development. “Science and technology have no borders. Pakistan is a rapidly growing nation and we want to make it more vibrant in the field of science and research,” he said while acknowledging the services of Pakistani scientists and appreciating the research work being done at the KU.
He also spoke about the role of the EU in detail and said that it was a strong and diversified political institution.
The European Union counselor on scientific affairs, based in New Delhi, Denis Dambois, spoke through a video link, highlighting the importance of innovative research for developing nations.
“Europe is a highly diversified region that has the largest number of researchers in the world. The seven-year programme of Horizon 2020 is open for all researchers from any country,” he said.
The European Union, he said, was working in collaboration with Pakistan and 402 Pakistani students, 10 scholars, had received grants.
Welcoming the guests, vice chancellor of the KU Prof Mohammad Qaiser commended the EU for offering assistance to Pakistani researchers and said that it would provide many opportunities to explore new avenues.
Prof M. Ashraf of Pakistan Science Foundation talked about the aims of the organisation and said the basic purpose of the PSF, set up in 1973, was to promote and popularise science.
Later, Mr Gatto spoke to a select gathering at the university’s Area Study Centre for Europe. During his speech, he traced the history of the EU-Pakistan relations as far back as 1962 and recalled that it was his fourth assignment as EU ambassador.
He regretted that despite getting the award of GSP (Generalised Scheme of Preference) plus status, Pakistan had done little to meet the standards of quality assurance on the supply side.
Mr Gatto stressed the need for concerted efforts to take advantage of the trade concessions offered by the EU and said that there was a greater room for partnership with Pakistan.
The EU, he said, expected better performance on the fronts of human rights, rule of law and democracy.
“Human rights doesn’t mean lifting the moratorium on death penalty but rather protecting human rights and labour rights with special focus on child labour, eliminating it in its all forms,” he said, adding that Pakistan must try to create conditions favouring freedom of expression.
Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2015