In gaining 'associated status', the signatory countries will now be able to participate in all the FP7 calls for proposals, including those opened since the beginning of the year. The agreement offers researchers form these countries the same rights for participation as EU Member States in all the research cooperation and supported actions funded under FP7.
Acting as signatory on behalf of the European Commission, Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik said he was pleased to see 'the doors of the European Research Area (ERA) open wide to the Western Balkan countries'.
The Commissioner also noted the importance of the agreement in view of these countries' application to join the EU. 'Research cooperation with Europe's scientific community is a tool which can smooth the way for the integration process of candidate and potential candidate countries into the European Union,' he said.
This is not the first time that some of these countries have been associated with the EU research framework programme. In 2006, Croatia gained associated status, enabling them to participate in the last year of FP6.
Montenegro has also requested to become associated with FP7 and it is expected that a decision will be taking once Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) negotiations have come to a head. Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Israel and Switzerland are also expected to join soon.
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