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The Barcelona Process, launched by Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers in November 1995, outlined an innovative alliance based on the principles of joint ownership, dialogue and co-operation that brought together the 27 Members of the European Union and 12 Southern Mediterranean states. The main objectives of the partnership can be summarized in the building together an area of peace, security and shared prosperity. In this frame, since 1995 several efforts have been made by the two sides of the Mediterranean in the political and security partnership, the economic and financial cooperation, the socio-cultural and human partnership and the analysis of migration. These important efforts have been implemented through a long series of initiatives including those launched in the Barcelona summit in 2005 (http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/euromed/summit1105/five_years_en.pdf) and initiatives.

All these initiatives are framed within the concept of the European Research Area (ERA) and the 'fifth freedom', the freedom of movement of knowledge. These are important key priorities of the European Union that has extended the initiatives to third countries to establish joint S&T priorities and reinforcing bilateral cooperation.

On 13/14 March 2008 the European Council approved the principle of a Union for the Mediterranean and invited the Commission to present proposals defining the modalities of the “Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean” that was launched on 13th July 2008 during the Paris Summit for the Mediterranean.

In the last 20 years Mediterranean countries of Southern Europe experience increasing problems in agriculture, due to global warming and desertification. Several areas in the south of Spain, Portugal, South of Italy and Greece present soil characteristics comparable to those in the sub-Saharan and Saharan regions in North Africa. On a medium-term time scale, this can have major effects on all other human activities in these areas.

Among the Mediterranean countries of Northern Africa, Tunisia is one of the most active in developing research efforts to counteract the ongoing problem of desertification. Tunisia represents an important geographic bridge in the Central Mediterranean region between the Saharan North Africa and Southern Europe. Full gradients of drought and aridity can be traced from the south-south-west to the north of the country. For these reasons, Tunisia represents a unique country to study, predict and stimulate the progress of desertification in the outermost regions of Southern Europe.

The collaboration between the Mediterranean countries (southern Europe and North African ones) would help to overcome the problem of desertification and hence the problems that agriculture is facing due to the desertification and global warming in general. In deed exploitation of the activities of microorganisms that inhabit the extreme environments such as desert may offer new ways to help the plants to overcome different kind of stresses and would help to improve the agricultural productivity.

The overall objective of BIODESERT is to provide support to the Tunisian partner for developing high quality research potential for the microbial resource management in arid environments. We believe that this is an essential requirement for the development of safe and sustainable agriculture, and the improvement of the socio-economic needs of the country by addressing the strategies for the establishment of a bio-economy.