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Cablegate: Science and Technology in Croatia

UNCLAS BUDAPEST 00056

SIPDIS

R 151452Z JAN 08 ZDK

FM AMEMBASSY BUDAPEST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2395
INFO RUEHVB/AMEMBASSY ZAGREB 1180
RUEHLJ/AMEMBASSY LJUBLJANA 0036

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BUDAPEST 000056

SIPDIS

EUR/NCE FOR MARC NORDBERG
ZAGREB AND LJUBLJANA FOR SCIENCE OFFICER

E.O. 12959: N/A
TAGS: TSPL HR HU
SUBJECT: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN CROATIA

Summary

1. The December 18-19 visit to Zagreb of the Regional ESTH Hub
Office's OES/STC TDYer provided a timely opportunity to discuss
Croatian S&T governmental infrastructure. Croatian officials
expressed a strong desire to continue and expand cooperation with
the United States on S&T issues. Croatian officials made it clear
they would be interested in broad U.S. representation when the next
joint committee meeting (JCM) is held to clarify the mechanisms on
how to make this agreement work to its fullest potential. Croatian
officials were also supportive of a combined Slovene-Croatian-U.S.
JCM because of strong scientific cooperation Croatia currently has
with Slovenia.

Background

2. The governments of the United States and Croatia first signed a
science and technology agreement on March 18, 1994. That agreement
entered into force on May 5, 2000. That agreement contained a joint
funds annex in which Croatia received part of the funds allocated to
the Yugoslavia Joint Fund Agreement. The fund was formally closed
in February 2003. A new science and technology cooperation
agreement was signed September 27, 2004, under which current
cooperation is conducted.

S&T Policy of Croatia

3. The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports conducts Croatian
science and technology policy. Current policy supports development
in the IT, natural, technical, biomedical, bio-technical, social
science and humanities fields. Croatia's S&T policy is EU focused
because of upcoming accession to the EU, but Croatian officials
expressed a strong desire to continue cooperation with the United
States.

Meetings with Scientists/Academics

4. Visiting ESTH Hub TDYer and Embassy Zagreb Economic Officer and
Economic specialist met with three scientists in three separate
meetings to discuss science technology in Croatia as well as current
cooperation: Professor Vladimir Paar, Croatian Academy of Sciences;
Professor Vladimir Taksic, Dean of Science and International Affairs
at the University of Rijeka; and Professor Hrvoje Babic, Croatian
Academy of Sciences.

5. Vladimir Paar described the current situation in Croatian
academia. He said there has been some movement in the education
system toward a more interdisciplinary and participatory format.
Paar also said Croatia needs more teachers and new equipment, as
current equipment is behind Western standards. When asked about
investment in science, Paar said that funding for science is too
low, but added that no reasonable project has been refused
government funding. He said the ministry has largely depoliticized
the funding process by implementing a system of scientific councils
to review proposals. In regard to the private sector, Paar said
industries support research and development in only a couple
sectors. He said current partnerships with Swedish pharmaceutical
companies have helped bolster research in that sector, and
biomedical research and chemical engineering are fairly strong
fields in Croatia. In Paar's opinion, a U.S.-sponsored workshop to
bring scientists and U.S. agencies together would do much to further
cooperation.

6. Vladimir Taksic had a number of questions about a cooperation
project that was accepted in 2003, but never moved forward. The
project was a psychological study to be worked with a professor at
the University of New Hampshire. Taksic then described the
University of Rijeka's newly- established Office of International
Collaboration. The office will focus on EU institutions but will
reach out to the U.S as well. The goal of the office is to support
researchers and students at the university in finding and pursuing
opportunities for international cooperation.

7. Our meeting with Hrvoje Babic focused on how S&T cooperation
works under the present agreement. Babic explained that his
department alone received 11 of the 20 grants awarded in the last
round of EU S&T funding. He said that because of this meeting his
scientists will pursue contacts they have in the U.S. to apply for
NSF grants. He also said he and his colleagues at the University of
Zagreb Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing need support
particularly for infrastructure and to cover the high fees of
accessing international databases.

Former Minister of Science and Education

8. Visiting ESTH Hub TDYer and Embassy Zagreb Economic Officer met
with Professor Milena Zic-Fuchs, the former Minister of Science and
Education for the Republic of Croatia. Describing current research
funding in Croatia, Zic-Fuchs said the main focus areas include
security, natural and technical sciences, and bio-medicine.
Zic-Fuchs expressed frustration with the inability of the Croatian
Academy of Sciences and Arts to adapt. She blamed this inability on
the preponderance of old members in the academy. She said the
academy has so many requirements that most academics cannot become
full members until they are in their 60s and 70s. When asked about
ways to increase cooperation, Zic-Fuchs supported the idea of an NSF
workshop or, alternatively, an Embassy science fellow to help in
grant writing. She also stressed the importance of the Fulbright
Program in facilitating connections and allowing Croatian academics
to experience the less hierarchical American academic culture.

Ministry of Science

9. Visiting ESTH Hub TDYer and Embassy Zagreb Economic Officer and
Economic specialist met with Marija Crnic, senior advisor for
international cooperation at the Ministry of Science, Education and
Sports. Crnic presented us a matrix detailing all cooperation
between the U.S. and the Ministry. The matrix includes 23 projects,
9 of which are current. These projects are in cooperation with NSF,
USDA, NIH and ONR. The matrix show a much healthier cooperation
than realized before the meeting. Crnic did say that Croatian
scientists could use more help with the application processes for
grants; in this regard an NSF workshop or an embassy science fellow
would be welcomed.

10. (SBU) When describing Croatia's international science partners,
Crnic said Croatia is EU focused because of upcoming accession.
Most cooperation is done with Croatia's neighbor to the north,
Slovenia. When asked if a JCM would be helpful, Crnic said she
thought it would. When asked if the Ministry would consider a joint
JCM with Slovenia, Crnic again responded positively and reiterated
the strong science relationship among the former Yugoslav republics.
(Note: ESTH Hub TDYer had hoped to visit Ljubljana as well, to
discuss science and technology issues prior to the upcoming JCM, but
this was not possible because of scheduling. There have been
problems scheduling the Slovene JCM and visiting ESTH TDYer is
hopeful that a joint JCM in which agencies can conduct business with
both Slovenia and Croatia would be a possibility.)

Conclusion and Where To Go From Here

11. (SBU) Cooperation with Croatia is very healthy. Some concerns
were raised about the application process and thus ESTH Hub TDYer
would recommend either an NSF workshop or the visit of an Embassy
science fellow to help with the application process. A JCM is
needed as there has not been a JCM since 2005. Considering the
problems setting up a Slovenia JCM, the prospects of a stand alone
Croatia JCM may not be good either, though the cooperation is much
stronger. As such, a combined Slovene/Croatian JCM with U.S.
technical agencies could be both more beneficial and more effective.
Considering the strong science relationship between Slovenia and
Croatia, this option may also help those two countries further
develop partnerships between them.

12. This cable was drafted by Embassy Budapest ESTH Hub TDYer and
cleared with Embassy Zagreb and Embassy Ljubljana.

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