Tuesday

26th Jan 2021

Opinion

25 years on: what next for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation?

  • The Mediterranean Sea, as seen at night by NASA (Photo: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center)

Last week, we brought together the 42 member states of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) at its fifth regional forum of foreign ministers - which is a special one as it happens 25 years after the launch of the Barcelona Process.

In 1995, the Barcelona Declaration was a strong political statement taking a clear commitment and aligning efforts to set the Euro-Mediterranean region on a path of peace, stability and prosperity.

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  • Josep Borrell, high representative for foreign affairs and security policy of the EU. 'We should be open and honest to admit that, thus far, our efforts have not yet produced the results we hoped for' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

In 2008, we saw the launch of the UfM, a platform focused on promoting policy dialogue and operational cooperation in a wide range of areas to increase integration in a region which is rich in diversity and potential.

Across the Mediterranean region, people strive for a peaceful and dignified life, with access to jobs, quality education, in dignity and justice. We must give our young women and men the means to realise their potential and be actively part of building our common future.

Every country around the Mediterranean is confronted with the threat of terrorism, extremism and cultures of hate that seeks to divide us.

We stand together against terrorism and all acts feeding hatred. We are united in combating negative stereotyping, intolerance, culture of hate, stigmatisation, discrimination and use of violence based on religion or belief. We call for efforts to promote harmony and respect for the other.

We also need to manage migration and refugees issues in a humane and sustainable way, both for those on the move and for their host communities, observing the principle of shared responsibility.

Now is the time to redouble our efforts and find political solutions to the many crises that have plagued our region for too long: in Syria, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East that have caused far too much suffering.

We are determined to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution as the only path to comprehensive peace and security. We are committed to fully respect international law and to strengthen multilateralism and its institutions as we seek to improve their effectiveness.

The UfM wants to celebrate this anniversary by expressing a renewed commitment to the founding principles and values of the Barcelona Process.

We should use this occasion to look to the future at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is putting a heavy socio-economic strain on all of us. By working together, we can overcome the many challenges we are facing.

Now, we have to set the priorities for the coming years, in areas that are in our common interest and have a high potential for strengthening regional cooperation.

Top priorities include cooperation on action on climate change and the environment, sustainable development, the 'Blue' economy, digital transformation and civil protection.

Concretely, the UfM has supported the Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change (MedECC) and the first-ever region-wide report on the impact of climate change in the Mediterranean.

It is equipping policymakers to make science-based decisions whilst helping to reduce the North-South data gap.

The UfM is running the Med4Jobs programme, benefiting hundreds of thousands of young people and hundreds of SMEs.

The creation of Euro-Mediterranean Universities is helping to forge a more regional and open vision among younger generations, while the first-ever creation of an intergovernmental monitoring mechanism in the area of women empowerment in the region aims to gauge efforts in promoting women's rights and to help policymakers to tackle areas where progress is too slow, such as women participation in the political and economic spheres.

We should be open and honest to admit that, thus far, our efforts have not yet produced the results we hoped for.

North-South divide

The economic integration between North and South of the Mediterranean is still lagging and the gap in living standards is not reducing. Many other indicators in the region have not improved and the Covid-19 pandemic is aggravating social fragmentation and socio-economic inequality.

This is a reason to re-double our efforts, focusing on getting concrete results.

Challenging times like these, which affect us all on both shores, remind us of the importance of cooperation and solidarity among peoples.

Now, more than ever, we want to work on our commitments and come together to address common challenges and ensure a sustainable post-pandemic recovery that leads to more resilient societies and economies able not only to survive but to thrive.

Despite the current challenges, we have good reasons to be positive. The Mediterranean region has the potential to rise and recover if we put in the means and efforts to address them together.

The region is home to rich cultures that have been the cradle of modern civilisation; we have the insight of world-renowned thinkers and entrepreneurs, and the energy of a resourceful youth.

Investing in this human capital will be key. Let us learn the right lessons of the past 25 years, building on our region's inherent diversity and ensure no one is left behind.

We can only be stronger if we stand together.

Author bio

Josep Borrell is high representative for foreign affairs and security policy of the European Union. Ayman Safadi is foreign affairs minister of Jordan. Nasser Kamel is secretary-general of the Union for the Mediterranean.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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