Saturday

10th Dec 2022

Opinion

Union for Mediterranean scorecard? - 'must do better'

  • An Ottoman-era map of the Mediterranean. A new OECD report on progress at integrating the Middle East and North Africa with the EU shows room for improvement (Photo: Flavius Belisarius)

The tight grip the virus has held on our movement and on the economy has given us food for thought. The global fight against Covid-19 has highlighted the limitations of the international community's capacity to coordinate a global response to some of the other crises and challenges facing our world today.

Previously championed supply chains were unable to adapt to restrictions. The reliance on distant sources of production made us vulnerable to shortages and ill-equipped to respond accordingly. The circular migration some industries thrive on all but came to a halt.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) has long vouched for the need to enhance regional cooperation and integration in the Mediterranean, as detailed in the UfM Roadmap for Action, adopted in 2017.

That is why the publication of the first progress report on Euro-Mediterranean Regional Integration is so timely.

Commissioned by the UfM and prepared by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the report focuses on five domains of regional integration – trade, finance, infrastructure, the movement of people, and research and higher education – presenting key findings, clear indicators to follow future progress, and policy recommendations for each of these areas.

Critically, it is driven by data that allows us to draw some stark conclusions. The good news is that integration has advanced in the region.

Slow, and below potential

Dig a little deeper, though, and the truth is that progress has been slow and remains below its potential in terms of capacities and resources.

Uneven integration across and within sub-regions helps explain this in part.

The European Union is still responsible for over 95 percent of the region's internal merchandise exports and 93 percent of the external merchandise exports.

The majority of financial exchange in the region involves at least one EU member state, and most scientific cooperation in the region is characterised by North-South interactions, though there are South-South exceptions.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, trade agreements within the Euro-Mediterranean region were perhaps too narrow in scope and lacked the conviction that now drives our ambitions for the sustainable development of our communities.

No services?

They focused mainly on reducing existing tariffs in the trade of manufactured goods, while not covering trade in services. This is a lost opportunity, as trade in services accounts for 25 percent of global trade flows today.

Two further important challenges to regional integration are the inadequate infrastructure for transport and energy connectivity, as well as the lack of a common vision on human mobility as a driver of innovation and growth in the region.

Solar energy farms

Indeed, the World Bank estimated in 2020 that over the next five to 10 years the Middle East/North Africa region will require an investment of over seven percent of its annual GDP in the maintenance and creation of infrastructure; while concentrated solar power plants in the region could generate 100 times the combined electricity consumption of MENA and Europe together.

Though some progress has been made to facilitate human mobility in the region, further cooperation such as softening visa requirements could enable countries to fully leverage the potential of different forms of mobility, such as tourism, student and researcher exchanges.

On top of these priorities, we must not lose sight of the importance of digitalisation, and the opportunities it unlocks for regional cooperation.

Digital transformation is changing global production, trade and foreign investment, and offering more ways to collaborate and participate virtually in science and education.

It can be used to lower the cost of remittances – an important part of GDP in many southern and eastern Mediterranean economies – as well as improve e-commerce. In 2017, studies reported that only eight percent of SMEs in the wider MENA region had an online presence and only 1.5 percent of the region's retailers were online.

As we recover, we must leverage the opportunity to create new inclusive societies that ensure young people and women can fulfil their potential as agents of development and contributors to the region's economy as a whole.

Regional integration is of common interest to all and to see meaningful change, we must start to show what we really mean by building back better.

As always, at the UfM, we believe that ever more committed cooperation is the only way forward.

Author bio

Nasser Kamel is the secretary general for the Union for the Mediterranean.

Disclaimer

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

Mediterranean security lies in Europe's hands

Here is the unhappy truth: Europe's Southern neighbourhood is a security mess, and no-one is going to come to the rescue. The neighbourhood is Europe's geopolitical Achilles' heel.

Southern Europe needs a 'V4' equivalent

The Visegrád Group, the New Hanseatic League, the Benelux or the Nordics have frequently worked together — however, southern European member states have frequently found themselves in loose cooperation or, worse, competition.

A plea to the EU from inside Tehran's Evin jail

As a result of my peaceful civil activism, I have been arrested 13 times, undergone five trials, and been sentenced to 34 years of imprisonment and 154 lashes in total. I am currently in Evrin prison, without the slightest regret.

No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU

The European Commission has asked the member states' leaders assembling in Brussels next week for the customary end-of-year European Council to approve EU candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doing so would be a mistake.

No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU

The European Commission has asked the member states' leaders assembling in Brussels next week for the customary end-of-year European Council to approve EU candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doing so would be a mistake.

The military-industrial complex cashing-in on the Ukraine war

From the outset, arms manufacturers eyed this war as a profitable business opportunity. Structural changes took place across the EU, not only to fast-track arms to Ukraine, but also to make more public finance available to the highly-lucrative arms industry.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU Commission silent on Greek spyware sale to Madagascar
  2. A plea to the EU from inside Tehran's Evin jail
  3. EU lets Croatia into Schengen, keeps Bulgaria and Romania out
  4. Energy crisis costs thousands of EU jobs, but industrial output stable
  5. Illegal pushbacks happening daily in Croatia, says NGO
  6. No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU
  7. EU takes legal action against China over Lithuania
  8. EU Commission shoring up children's rights of same-sex parents

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us