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On October 16th, 2018, the Honourable Mr. Nasser Kamel, Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean, visited CEI International Affairs in a colloquium about the new economic challenges in the countries of the southern Mediterranean, on the tenth anniversary of the intergovernmental organization’s inauguration.

 

This organization was founded based on the “Barcelona’s Process” of 1995, in which the 15 countries of the Union signed an agreement with the other 15 riparian countries of the Mediterranean to promote an area of stability and security, and furthermore to strength cooperation and social development.

 

Throughout this decade, the Union for the Mediterranean has been able to survive the economic crisis and the succeeding recession, a merit that the current General Secretary attributes to his predecessors. From them, stands out the ability to define the direction of the platform and to be able to carry out more than 50 projects that have been developed until now under the umbrella of the organization, with the final purpose of promoting dialogue, cooperation and the implementation of projects that reinforce, above all, the integration of youth and women.

 

Nasser Kamel

 

The Ambassador Kamel began his dissertation pointing out a few economic facts:

 

  • The growth rate of the southern region is getting closer to the previous rate of the “Arab Springs”, except for Libya and Syria. All the other countries have turned back to their usual growth path. It’s worth alluding that the only country that hasn’t displayed any ups and downs in this sense is Morocco, which has remained stable throughout the same period.

 

  • Energy is a highly important sector for the region’s relations, as Morocco and Egypt are leading countries in the renewable energy sector and are starting to export it to the European Union countries, such as Portugal. Besides, the last reserves of natural gas are placed in the Eastern Mediterranean, so it is mandatory to reinforce the relationships with the countries’ area.

 

  • Youth unemployment rate in the Southern region is around 30%, and even is an alarming cipher; it is also an opportunity to work on stronger cooperation.

 

In accordance with it, the General Secretary drawn attention to the role played by the Union for the Mediterranean as platform to mobilize funds with the purpose of working on projects, which helps to link in a cohesive manner the region, and at the same time make it safer. In addition, he highlighted the need not to confuse this rate of unemployment with the recent migratory movements, inasmuch as the countries of Southern Mediterranean are not less than a passage area and a bridge for the thousands of persons arriving from the Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Nasser KamelNevertheless, this bridge might be bidirectional and represent an opportunity for Europe in terms of trade, given that Africa has never ceased to be a continent in constant growth, with a middle class in arise with every time more necessities. Greater investment and cooperation in the area might help to appease the spotlight of the migratory movements’ reasons, specifically those related to climate change or unemployment. All of this entails a complex equation that the Union for the Mediterranean is trying to address. Regarding this, he insisted that the issue of migration must be faced as an opportunity. Throughout the debate it was also discussed whether, counting on the high rate of youth unemployment, a fresh new wave of Arab Springs was possible, forasmuch as the economic growth was reaching the same rates of previous years.

 

Despite of the different current situation (wealth is being more distributed and political leaders are more conscious of the need for this to be it), the political alternatives have proven to be inefficient to resolve the demands that encourage 2011’s protests. In any case, the stability of the region is tightly linked with economic growth, and in this direction, the Union for the Mediterranean aims to act.

 

Likewise, the possibilities of strengthening the trade relations between southern countries were exposed, of which was distinguished that they may improve a lot, so nowadays they represent less more than 1%. The main powers of the region, as Egypt and Morocco, have strongest economic bounds with the countries in the Golf or in Western Africa respectively, than between themselves. Therefore, that is also an acting space.

 

In conclusion, he stressed that to face the different challenges related to energy, migratory movements or unemployment, it is necessary to reinforce trade and human development relations, with a special attention towards youth and women, so with greater integration less will be the challenge for cohesion. In other words, it is trying to work to make the bound between both Mediterranean riversides as much organic as possible.  

 

 

Report elaborated by Belén Guàrner

Student of the Preparation to Join the Diplomatic Corps

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