The European Commission has published its long-awaited strategy for taking forward its relationship with its southern neighbours. It proposes "a new, ambitious and innovative Agenda for the Mediterranean, drawing for the first time on the full EU toolbox and the ground-breaking opportunities of the twin green and digital transitions, in order to relaunch our cooperation and realise the untapped potential of our shared region". The document says that the "perspective of the postCOVID-19 recovery offers a rare opportunity for Europe and the Mediterranean region to commit to a common and people-centred agenda and the actions necessary for its implementation".
The "Joint Communication: Renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood - A new agenda for the Mediterranean" prepared by the European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy now goes for the consideration of the European Parliament, the European Council and other EU bodies.
In a press release announcing the new document, the Commission said that "twenty-five years ago the European Union and the Southern Mediterranean partners committed to turning the Mediterranean basin into an area of dialogue, exchange and cooperation, guaranteeing peace, stability and prosperity. The 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration reminds us that a strengthened Mediterranean partnership remains a strategic imperative for the European Union, as the challenges the region continues to face require a common response, especially ten years after the Arab Spring. By acting together, recognising our growing interdependence, and in a spirit of partnership, we will turn common challenges into opportunities, in our mutual interest."
The proposed plan has four main strands:
- Human Development, good governance and the rule of law
- Strengthen resilience, build prosperity and seizing the digital transition
- Migration and Mobility
- Green transition: climate resilience, energy, environment.
Peace, security and prosperity
The document also highlights the close connection between peace, security and prosperity:
The protracted conflicts in the Mediterranean region constitute a key obstacle to political stability and sustainable development. Joint efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts, promote security cooperation, mitigate the consequences of conflicts and address their root causes are paramount priorities in order to protect people and allow them to thrive.
The document says that the EU and its Member States and partners should renew efforts to reach a settlement in the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP). I
n this regard, the EU will seek to encourage and build upon the recent establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and a number of Arab countries, with a view to enhancing the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution based on the internationally agreed parameters as well as regional peace and security.
The EU, as convenor of the Syria conferences, and southern partners should step up efforts to resolve the devastating and now decade-long conflict in Syria in support of UN-led efforts. They should also continue to support Lebanon’s own efforts to resolve its domestic economic, social and political crisis.
The EU and its partners should cooperate more closely in addressing peace, stability and development challenges in the Sahel region.
The EU and its southern neighbours should also intensify their support for efforts to reach a solution to the issue of the Western Sahara within the UN-led process. Finding a sustainable and inclusive political solution to the long-lasting crisis in Libya is also a priority.
The EU will continue to be actively engaged within the framework of and in support of the UN-led Berlin process, including at operational level through Operation IRINI and other contributions. It will explore possible additional support to the implementation of the ceasefire, and support the country’s constitutional and electoral process and long-term stabilisation.
In seeking solutions to the crises in the region, the EU will continue to support United Nations (UN) efforts and engage with regional actors and organisations, notably the League of Arab States (LAS), the 14 African Union (AU), and relevant sub-regional groupings34 . In the Eastern Mediterranean, the EU will support peaceful dialogue based on international law, including through a multilateral conference that could address issues on which multilateral solutions are needed. The EU and Southern Neighborhood partners should engage constructively to safeguard the stability and security of the wider region too.
New Economic and Investment Plan for the Southern neighbours
In order to support the implementation of the themes highlighted in the new Agenda for the Mediterranean, the Commission proposes an “Economic and Investment Plan (EIP) for the Southern neighbours” which includes a series of preliminary flagship investments and projects that could be financed under the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), and will only require part of the allocation for the Southern Neighbourhood. The Plan’s objective is to support partners in their recovery efforts, contribute to increase competitiveness and support sustainable and inclusive growth.
Flagship projects will help address challenges and opportunities at the national, local, multi-country and regional levels. The flagships should be developed in the context of Joint Programming or Team Europe Initiatives. The Economic and Investment Plan is indicative and non-exhaustive. It may evolve depending on progress on policy and political issues and in relations with partner countries and is subject to the entry into force of the relevant legal bases under the next Multi-annual Financial Framework and without prejudging the outcome of the programming process. To this end, the EU will be ready to explore further regional, sub-regional or trilateral cooperation and joint initiatives between partner countries across the board, including in light of the recent normalisation of relations between Israel and a number of Arab countries.
Outreach to partner countries and all relevant stakeholders, including civil society, the private sector and financial institutions, will continue after the adoption of this Communication and will guide programming efforts at the bilateral and regional levels. Programming of EU cooperation should take place within the framework of the EU’s overall relations with the partner countries, and in line with subsequent Partnership Priorities. Due diligence, environment and cost benefit assessments will be carried out to ensure that proposed projects contribute to the objectives set in the Joint Communication. Financing could also be contingent on governance efforts, in order to ensure initiatives’ sustainability and access for all.
source: commonspace.eu with the press service of the European Commission (Brussels)