Professor Nicholas Ashford, director of the Technology and Law Program in the School of Engineering, is one of three Americans appointed to the six-person joint Greek-US council charged with implementing the Initiative for Technology Cooperation in the Balkans (ITCB).
Top priorities of the council of academic and business members, which had its inaugural meeting on February 20 in Thessaloniki, Greece, are bilateral efforts to improve the environment, information and communication technology, food processing and agricultural infrastructure in the region, with current emphasis on Albania, Bulgaria, and the former Yugoslav republics of Macedonia and Romania.
The ITCB will engage private and academic institutions to use technology transfer to help stabilize the region through meeting the essential needs of its people. The council will provide contact between US and Greek institutions and their various Balkan counterparts and will also serve as a forum for new ideas about enhancing the region's technological capabilities.
Greece, although an active member of NATO, chose not to participate in the NATO-led Kosovo campaign. As a result, Greece is in a unique position to assist in building confidence measures with both the Albanian and Slavic peoples to its north.
The council was jointly proposed by President Bill Clinton and Greek Prime Minister Costa Simitis as a result of direct negotiations over the last several years.
Among the key points emphasized about the ITCB initiative by Professor Ashford -- whose current research interests lie in technology, law and public policy and in globalization, technology and sustain-
ability -- are involving all stakeholders vs. an exclusively top-down approach; education; focusing on capacity-building and self-reliance rather than promising specific projects; strengthening public and private-sector infrastructure; coordinating with existing EU efforts; and emphasizing technology for sustainable development.
The first activities of the ITCB will be to conduct a technology needs assessment for the people of the region and a technology audit of firms in the region. A second meeting is anticipated within a month.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 1, 2000.