Middle Eastern and European experts at ESADE: “The flow of refugees can be an opportunity to build bridges”

  • Javier Solana (ESADEgeo): “Trust can be recovered through scientific evidence; if we cooperate well scientifically, we will also do so politically”

  • Muhammad Shatanawi (Jordan): “The Dead Sea is evaporating a rate of 1 metre per year. Saving it will not only affect Jordan, Iran and Palestine. This should be an international duty.”

13th May 2016 — “Trust can be recovered through scientific evidence; if we cooperate well scientifically, we will also do so politically,” declared Javier Solana, President of ESADEgeo, during a conference – attended by more than 140 people from 33 Euro-Mediterranean countries – whose purpose was to foster cooperation between Europe and the Middle East in science, technology and innovation. “I consider myself an example of the combination of science and diplomacy,” Dr. Solana continued. “I studied physics, I lived through the Spanish transition and I’ve worked in international politics. I’m aware of how much science and technology can do to improve quality of life for humankind.”

The conference was organised by ESADE and the Euro-Mediterranean University of Slovenia (EMUNI) as part of the Middle East Research and Innovation Dialogue (MERID) project, within the framework of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. Held in Barcelona, the event featured speakers from EU countries as well as Iran, Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Palestine and elsewhere.

The importance of intercultural dialogue in addressing the refugee crisis

Abdelhamid El-Zoheiry, President of EMUNI, commented: “Although the flow of refugees can seem like a barrier to intercultural dialogue, it can also be an opportunity to build bridges.” Octavi Quintana-Trias, Principal Adviser on Migration in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation, highlighted the need to combat prejudice against migrants – for example, the idea that they saturate our social structures. “In Spain, there are 1 million citizens of the United Kingdom who use social services, and they are an aging population,” he commented. “But there’s no conflict about that.” Mr. Quintana-Trias noted that the phenomenon of migration is “highly complex”, adding: “Addressing the problems of poor countries won’t necessarily mean the end of migration. Although migration tends to be caused by unfavourable situations, extremely poor people do not have enough resources to emigrate. And we mustn’t forget that most migration flows are ‘South-South’.”

The conference also highlighted the importance of education and communication, both for migrants and for the societies they join. “Intercultural dialogue is the essential power that will make it possible for us to become responsible citizens,” commented Hatem Atallah, Executive Director of the Anna Lindh Foundation. He added that dialogue will help to “keep young people away from pernicious ideologies”.

Water desalination and energy efficiency: opportunities for cooperation

The speakers noted that renewable energy and water resource management provide a unique opportunity for cooperation and for finding solutions to global environmental challenges such as population growth and climate change. Saadi Kadhim Al-Naseri, Director of the Water Research Centre at the Ministry of Science and Technology, Iraq, argued that addressing the issue of water desalination is “inevitable”. Lucila Candela Lledó, from the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC), noted that Spain is “known for its expertise in desalination” and described the challenge as “a unique opportunity for cooperation”. Ayman Rabi, Executive Director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group, commented: “We need to get companies involved in producing the type of technology that we need.” The speakers also highlighted the need for strategic research plans and the importance of networking among countries. Muhammad Shatanawi, Professor of Water Resources from the University of Jordan, commented: “The Dead Sea is evaporating a rate of 1 metre per year. Saving it will not only affect Jordan, Iran and Palestine. This should be an international duty.”

The speakers agreed that the management of water resources is closely linked to technology and to energy efficiency research. Nesreen Ghaddar, Qatar Chair of Energy Studies at the American University of Beirut, argued that the effects of global warming in the Middle East need to be addressed through research into innovative and efficient cooling systems.


about ESADE

Founded in 1958, ESADE Business and Law School has campuses in Barcelona and Madrid and a presence in São Paulo, Lima, Mexico City, Bogotá, Santiago and Buenos Aires. It has partnership agreements with more than 100 universities and business schools worldwide. Each year, more than 11,000 students participate in its programmes (MBA and Executive Education, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes in business administration and law). ESADE Alumni, the school’s alumni association, is 56,000 members strong, including more than 17,500 members in management positions at enterprises around the globe. Through its 64 professional groups, the association promotes continuing education, professional development and entrepreneurship. The network includes members of 126 different nationalities located in more than 100 countries around the world, and it has been organising the project ‘Alumni Giving Back’ since 2007 – the first of its kind in Europe –, through which more than 1,500 alumni have voluntarily contributed their talent, experience and management skills to 170 third-sector companies. Additionally, the association’s investors’ network, ESADE BAN, was named the country’s best business angels network by the Spanish Business Angels Association. ESADE Business School also participates in the ESADECREAPOLIS business park, a pioneering innovation centre that brings together academia and the world of business. With a clear international orientation, ESADE is consistently ranked among the world’s top business schools by the leading rankings (Financial Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Economist and América Economía). ESADE is a member of Ramon Llull University (www.url.edu).