In addition to Germany's close relations with the Russian Federation and Ukraine, there are a wide range of scientific collaborations at individual and institutional level with partners from other CIS member states and Georgia (Georgia withdrew from the CIS in summer 2008). The countries of Central Asia in particular (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) are becoming increasingly important in European and international politics. Against this backdrop, the Federal Government initiated the EU Central Asia Strategy during Germany's EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2007. It provides the first political guidelines for increased European commitment in Central Asia. Scientific and technological cooperation with Central Asian countries plays a particularly important role.
Some countries, such as Kazakhstan, have a high level of economic growth and will start investing more in the development of their national research systems. The BMBF would like to take advantage of this opportunity to increase its scientific cooperation with the region. The BMBF is also very interested in intensifying its scientific cooperation with CIS members that are target countries of the Eastern Partnership (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Belarus).
The basis for Germany's cooperation with the CIS and Georgia is an STC agreement that was concluded in 1987 between the Federal Republic of Germany and what was then the Soviet Union. Joint declarations with Belarus in 1996 and Uzbekistan in 1998 confirmed Germany's willingness to cooperate with these two countries on the basis of the agreement. In 2008, the BMBF signed a memorandum with the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Moldova in which an intensification of cooperation in the areas of research and education was agreed. A first joint call for proposals for joint projects between German and Moldovan researchers was also issued in spring 2008.
Applications in the following priority subject areas are especially likely to receive funding:
The environment and sustainability
Health research and biosciences
In Kazakhstan, the BMBF, together with the Federal Foreign Office, is supporting the German-Kazakh University (DKU) as part of the "Courses offered by German universities abroad" programme. The DKU currently offers 14 degree courses, most of them in the fields of economic and social sciences as well as engineering. Federal President Horst Köhler also paid a visit to the DKU during his state visit in September 2008, which focused on "Educational bridges to the heart of Central Asia". The BMBF is providing €3 million in funding to the DKU. Nine bachelor's and master's degree courses are being run at the DKU between 2008 and 2011.
The BMBF supported the First German-Kazakh University Forum in Almaty in October 2008 in order to strengthen university cooperation between Germany and Kazakhstan. The university forum was organized by the University Rectors' Conference (HRK) and the association of universities of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Since spring 2009, the BMBF has been in charge of a twinning project on the subject of "Capacity Enhancement for Implementing Bologna Action Lines in Georgia", which is being funded under the EU's Neighbourhood Policy.
The BMBF is currently funding the third phase of a collaborative project (2007-2011) in the field of development research / sustainability for the economic and ecological restructuring of land and water use in the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan. The project is being carried out in cooperation with the University of Bonn (ZEF), the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and UNESCO. The aim of the project is to lay the foundations for modern and environmentally friendly agriculture in the Aral Sea region, thus counteracting the shortage of drinking water resulting from the increasing desertification of the area.
The first German-Uzbek workshop on plant biotechnology took place in October 2008. The aim of the workshop was to exchange information on research priorities and identify potential subjects of future collaborative projects between individual institutes. Central Asian flora features a large number of plants with great potential for the production of pharmaceutical components, many of which have yet to be researched in depth. Central Asia is also the place of origin and the diversity centre of numerous globally cultivated plants and boasts a large reservoir of plant genetic resources (older varieties of useful plants and related wild varieties) that can be used for the development of new cultivars. Central Asia's specific climatic conditions (precipitation, aridity, temperature, soil humidity) are ideal for research into new plant varieties.
Further examples of cooperation projects that are funded by the BMBF are:
Furthermore, it should also be mentioned that the BMBF is involved in the coordination of multilateral cooperation projects with Central Asian countries at European level. Through its International Bureau, the BMBF is involved in the EU project "S&T International Cooperation Network for Eastern European and Central Asian Countries" (IncoNet EECA). The central goal of this IncoNet is to establish a political dialogue between the EU Member States and their Eastern European and Central Asian neighbours in the areas of research and development and to improve the integration of scientists from this region in the European Research Area.