Handover Ceremony: The EU’s Commitment to Higher Education and Research Cooperation with the MENA Region

© Ali Zaraay

Europe is a central partner in the MENA region for bilateral academic cooperation. Through various funding schemes provided by a plethora of european institutions such as the DAAD, regional academic competencies are being fostered and further developed – not only for the benefit of societies of the MENA region. The DAAD Regional Office Cairo therefore offered insights into the current situation revolving their collaborative relationship with the European Union and pointed at prospective challenges by inviting important Egyptian as well as European stakeholders to a panel discussion on 12th March 2023 on the premises of the DAAD Regional Office Cairo. On the same occasion, a ceremony was conducted for the official handover of the responsibility for the DAAD Regional Office Cairo from its former Director – Ms. Isabell Mering – to its new one – Dr Carsten Walbiner.

© Ali Zaraay

Only recently, the Mediterranean Initiative under Horizon Europe (Work Programme 2023- 2024) was launched, a regional initiative aiming at fostering international cooperation in research and innovation for Mediterranean resilience. These programmes and initiatives effectively support academic cooperation by promoting mobility of students and academic staff, but also for capacity building and the creation of strategic partnerships and knowledge alliances. On the occasion of the visit of Dr Kai Sicks, DAAD Secretary General, to Egypt, the DAAD Regional Office Cairo had the honour to invite its strategic partners for a panel discussion on EU cooperation efforts in the MENA region, with a focus on Egypt.

Under the moderation of the DAAD Regional Office’s current acting Director, Dr Carsten Walbiner, the panelists shared their insights and opinions on the topic. As part of the panel, Prof. Mohamed El-Shinawi (Ministry of Higher Education and scientific Research), Prof. Dr Abdel-Meguid Kassem (Cairo University), Mr Domenico De Martinis (Italian Embassy in Cairo), Ms Gina El Feky (Academy of Scientific Research and Technology), Lorena Mohr (German Embassy in Cairo) and Ms Heba Gaber (EU delegation to Egypt), discussed their stances on the relationship between the EU’s funding entities with the Egyptian stakeholders and recipients and concluded the necessary steps and measures in order to overcome potential obstacles. As part of the conclusion drawn from their insights, the panelists asserted that the successful implementation of funding measures also strongly depends on the pre-existing structural conditions present in the region and can e.g. be hindered by a lack of understanding for the quality of successful research and grant proposals, stressing the responsibility of institutions such as the DAAD which is active in the area of scientific capacity building for example thorugh its training institution DAAD Kairo Akademie (DKA).

In general, the panelists stated the great need of the regional research landscapes for external funding and thus shed a positive light on the past as well as future endeavours. The DAAD Regional Office Cairo appreciates their great support for the panel discussion and the large benefit that they create in the field of Egyptian-European collaboration.

© Ali Zaraay

The ceremonial part of the event addressed the recent managerial change in the DAAD Regional Office Cairo by conducting its official hand-over from its previous Director, Ms Isabell Mering, who left the position in September 2022, to its new Director, Dr Carsten Walbiner. As its official representative, the Secretary General of DAAD, Dr Kai Sicks, officially conducted the handover by thanking Ms Mering for her long-lasting loyalty and expressing his deep gratitude. In her farewell speech, Ms Mering expressed her appreciation for the various contacts and friendships that she made in Cairo which tie her to the country and the region. Dr Carsten Walbiner added to the event with some words of gratitude for his installment into the position as the new Director and the welcoming athmosphere he was greeted with upon his arrival. The DAAD Regional Office Cairo is looking forward to many years of successful activities for the academic exchange between Europe, Germany, Egypt and Sudan under the supervision of Dr Walbiner and is thankful for Ms Mering’s great leadership and work during the past four years.

© Ali Zaraay

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