Minutes of the Union of European Academies for Science Applied to Agriculture, Food and Nature (U E A A) Steering Committee Meeting

09 11 2020

by Zoom meeting from Tbilisi
Tuesday 6 October 2020, from 10.00 a.m. Paris time

Attendees: Guram Aleksidze (Georgian Academy of Agricultural Sciences), Michel Thibier (French Academy of Agriculture), Ioan Jelev (Rumanian Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences), Kerstin Niblaeus (Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry), Iaroslav Gadzalo (National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine), Stefan Mihina (Slovak Academy of Agricultural Sciences).
The following members of the Steering Committee did not attend the Meeting:
Vilem Podrazsky (Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences), Baiba Rivza (Latvian Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences), Andrew Lazenby (Royal Agricultural Society of England)
Zenonas Dabkevičius (Lithuanian Academy of Sciences).

  1. Welcome by Vice President Professor Guram Aleksidze
    • The Visio conference meeting started at 10.05 a.m. Paris time. The Vice President of the UEAA, as acting President, Professor Guram Aleksidze welcomed all members of the Steering Committee. He addressed in person each member attending the meeting and thanked them for their participation. A special welcome was given to Professor Stefan Mihina from the Republic of Slovakia, Director of Slovak Academy of Agricultural Sciences attending this meeting for the first time as candidate to the Steering Committee of UEAA.
    • G. Aleksidze also thanked V Podrasky, B Riza and Z Dabkevicius for sending him their apologizes due to some commitment in their Universities at the same time.
    • He then extended his deep regret regarding the death of the 2018- 2020 President of the UEAA, Professor Antonio Michele Stanca, who became a victim of coronavirus infection spread in Italy in early 2020. The attendees also expressed their condolences (1).
    • Each of the attendees welcomed the meeting participants and expressed their contentment regarding meeting their colleagues and their readiness to work on the issues proposed on the Agenda of the meeting. M Thibier asked the acting President to add on the Agenda on the “other issues” section at the end of the meeting, two points: one related to the need to send a letter to ALL members of the UEAA, and one on the necessity to set one S C meeting in early 2021, agreed.


  2. Formal approval of the postponement of the General Assembly until Spring 2021 (May),
    G. Aleksidze proposed that the General Assembly (G A) due to stand in autumn 2020 according to the statutes, be postponed because of the current circumstances of the Covid 19 pandemic. He proposes that that this G A be organized in spring (most likely in May) 2021 and back-to-back to the International Conference “Agricultural Mechanization and Technologies in Europe and Perspectives” in Tbilisi, Georgia by the time when hopefully Corona Virus will not be an obstacle any more.
    The UEAA Members unanimously agreed to hold the General Assembly and the International Conference in spring 2021.

  4. Election of new S C members.
    Acting President G. Aleksidze presented the proposed candidates to the meeting participants and asked Professor. Stefan Mihina to introduce himself.
    Prof. Stefan Mihina mentioned his contribution into Agrarian sciences and about his academic achievements and career development. He made emphasis on one of the projects he is working on: Effect of Animal Production on Environment.
    G. Aleksidze addressed the meeting participants to express their opinion regarding the proposed candidate to become a member of the Steering Committee.
    All members present at the meeting unanimously supported his candidacy to be elected as a member of the Steering Committee and so voted for him.
    The second Candidate Prof. Simone Orlandini was not attending the Meeting. His candidacy will be discussed at the next meeting.

  6. Election of the President of the UEAA.
    One of the key issues on the Agenda was the election of the President of UEAA. Prof. Guram Aleksidze, the President of Georgian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, who is currently an acting president of UEAA is to be officially elected by the meeting.
    Prof. Michel Thibier was asked to present G Aleksidze’s candidacy. M Thibier indicated that G. Aleksidze has assumed this position for several few months due to the fact that Corona Virus took the life of the UEAA elected President M Stanca and that G. Aleksidze has been filling this position successfully since then and thanked him for this excellent job. He entirely supported his candidacy for the presidency of the UEAA
    K. Niblaeus and other members stressed the difficulties the candidate had to face during this very peculiar period when he assumed the position, and how successfully G. Aleksidze managed the publication and delivery of “An open letter to the UN, G-20, and National Governments on COVID-19 and Agriculture for Food and Nutrition Security » then posted on the UEAA website.
    Therefore, all members expressed their full support to elect Prof. Guram Aleksidze as President of UEAA, unanimously elected. The new President said he would sustain the progress of the Union in many ways with active support of his colleagues.

  8. Election of the Vice president of the UEAA.
    Candidate: Prof. Stefan Mihina, the President of the Slovak Academy of Agricultural Sciences. The meeting participants voted for the named candidate and Prof. Stefan Mihina was unanimously elected as Vice President of UEAA. In his final speech, he promised to cooperate fruitfully with other members and strive for further success of the UEAA.

  10. Current questions
  11. 6.1 The UEAA web site
    The President G. Aleksidze raised the issue of UEAA internet website effective management. He suggested the renovation of the website, so that it should reflect the work done by the Union and demonstrate its official position regarding agricultural issues.
    As with regards to the web-site, he mentioned that technical assistance provided by Marek was instrumental, but the problem is that we have very few contributions from the members which is clearly seen from the site. The letter which will have to be sent to all the members (see below) should remind them that the website is open and that they should contribute by sending scientific articles and other relevant information to be presented on the UEAA website.

    • In his presentation, M Thibier mentioned the excellent work and help done by the Czech e-fractal company and the dedication of Marek which is a very positive point for the UEAA web site but in regards to this, he restated his position that :

    – the website needs renovation;

    – and more active participation of the UEAA members is badly needed.

    He mentioned that due to various factors close contact with all members of the UEAA these last two years has been lost. Yet the S C under the leadership of the President should make every effort to re capture this link and this would provide among other advantages, an opportunity to get regular contributions from these Academies.
    The S C should now think how to reinitiate a renovation of this site and discuss the matter at its next meeting in 2021.
    Regarding the finances, M Thibier is not aware of the way, the Italian Academy managed with e-fractal but his own experience when the French Academy had the Presidency (2016-2018), is that a moderate fee was paid to e-fractal on a monthly basis for the work done on the web site. He also stressed the advantage of having a continuation along the years with one unique e-company as some ten years back there were great difficulties when those companies were changing every other year, with new presidencies, to the extent that all the keys and keywords were eventually lost with no means to retrieve our initial web system. For history, it should be reminded that thanks to the Swedish Academy while its Presidency of UEAA, it financially contributed to reset a new web site, with the help of the Czech Academy. Then e-fractal from Prague following the specifications written by the SC of those years, reinitiated from scratch a new site which is now operating technically with great success for 5 years.
    Mention was made of a possible financial support of private companies. However, this should be taken with great precaution as UEAA wants to remain independent and not to depend on private interests.
    Finally, he expressed hope that Georgia will set up contacts with Czech representatives, and in particular with Marek from e-fractal, to maintain the website active and possibly investigate further about its possible renovation and to what cost.
    G. Aleksidze agreed that it was very important to be clear on this issue.

    • The President G. Aleksidze raised the issue about the Membership fee, which would be very helpful as it could be used for different purposes. For example, some scientific awards could be organized for the UEAA members for their outstanding contribution. To be discussed at the next S C meeting.
    • K Niblaeus supported the idea that it is necessary to renovate the website. She stated that it is important that the members make contributions to it with relevant content related to what is being discussed in each member’s Academy. She suggested for example that it is time to express support and to influence opinion about the genetically-modified products related to genome editing (2) because the E U will lay this problem on the table in spring 2021(3). She also spoke about some scientific contributions to the website, such as Report on Climate and Forest, prepared by the Swedish Academy.
      K Niblaeus made an important suggestion in asking each member of the S C to start with, to contribute to send some documents to be posted on the web site in the coming weeks. It was reminded that all documents to be sent to the UEAA web site should have first the green light from the current President G Aleksidze.
    • I. Jelev, Romania stated that the Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences will make a contribution to the website in this respect. It will be interesting to discuss the EU proposal – Green Deal Policy. It could be very helpful if we shared our opinion about this problem – What will be the role of scientific contribution in regards with The EU Green Deal Policy?”
    • France supported the opinion expressed by his colleagues. As an example, he presented the most recent publication by French Academy Covid 19 and Agriculture,(September 2020) and he will send the English summary of the book to be posted on the UEAA website.
    • G Aleksidze in conclusion said the he remembers the topic of genetic resources was one of the central problems in Prague meeting, but now, as the time is up for the present zoom meeting, it should be closed and discussion on the problems will continue at our next meeting.
      6.2. Other issues: letter to the members and next SC meeting
      M Thibier firstly proposed that a letter should be sent to all members of the UEAA,

      – delivering necessary information to them, including information about the zoom meeting to be held in January

      – and in addition explaining to them the interest to contribute to the information of the UEAA with its European range both within the E U and out outside of the E U and hence post some information about the work done in their respective Academies.

      He also suggested that the S C should have a meeting – most likely another Visio conference – in early 2021. The group agreed and the President will inform us about a meeting taking place most probably in early January.
      6.3. Closure
      Finally, all participants once again congratulated Professor Guram Aleksidze for his election. He as President expressed willingness to make the website more active so that it could become a strong vehicle for exchange of positions, opinions and scientific achievements among the UEAA members.
      The meeting was closed at 11.00 a.m. Paris time.

      1 Because of this very sad event, the minutes of the meeting held in Prague in December 2019 which were due to be edited by Professor Stanca have been lost and hence will not be published.

      2 See recent Nobel Prize 2020 to Emmanuelle Charpentier (Fr) et Jennifer Doudna (USA) on gene editing and Crispr Cas9.

      3 The French Academy has made a statement and written a position paper on this topic in January 2020 which is posted on the UEAA web site since then.