Commissioner Hahn: “the Programme is an important tool to stimulate projects that can provide common solutions to the Mediterranean region's needs”

"The Programme is an important tool to stimulate projects that can provide common solutions to the Mediterranean region's needs." These are the words of Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations while addressing the NextMed Conference. The event, which took place in Bruxelles at the Committee of the Regions on 28th of May 2015, gathered over 100 participants from both sides of the Mediterranean with the objective of discussing the role of cross-border cooperation in the framework of the consultation on the new the European Neighbourhood Policy.

Reinforcing ownership

The first session of the Conference highlighted the central role that stronger ownership should play in the revised European Neighbourhood Policy. Gianmario Demuro, Regional Minister for Institutional Relations, Human Resources and Public Administration Reforms of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia (the institution hosting the Joint Managing Authority of the ENPI CBC Med Programme), said that "Mediterranean neighbours’ sense of ownership requires a deeper co-decision about the objectives of the partnership with the EU." He added that more flexibility is necessary taking into account the deep changes which the Mediterranean region is experiencing. Gianmario Demuro also stressed the importance of adequate financial resources to properly address the ambitious objectives of new Programme and the expectations of the huge number of potential beneficiaries across the Mediterranean area. The importance of the empowerment of civil society organizations and local and regional authorities was depicted by Commissioner Hahn as a key objective of the Neighbourhood Policy. "The strength of the ENPI CBC Med Programme is that actors from EU Member States and Partner Countries participate on equal terms which fosters ownership," he said. "Cross-border cooperation is a must for Euro-Mediterranean relations; stronger economic ties are key to peace and stability," told Commissioner Hahn during his address to the ARLEM Bureau of the Committee of the Regions following his participation to the NextMed Conference.

The commitment of Mediterranean Partner Countries to cross-border cooperation was confirmed by Moufida Jaballah and Ambassador Raouf Saad, representatives of Tunisia and Egypt in the Programme. "We should have a 'preventive' development to fight against terrorism, illegal migration and human trafficking. Cross-border cooperation is part of the solution," stated Ambassador Saad. Moufida Jaballah pointed out that the "trust among stakeholders" should be supported by a greater "mobility of people participating in  rojects", highlighting the importance of the visa issue.

Delivering common solutions to the Mediterranean region’s needs

During his visit to the exhibition on some of the 95 funded projects, Commissioner Hahn said that he was "impressed by the successful projects" displayed. "It is necessary to support projects from people to people in order to serve people and give them a sense why cross-border cooperation is so important."

The second part of the NextMed Conference was dedicated to the Programme and funded projects. Bodil Persson, Head of Sector 'Cross Border Cooperation' of the EC's DG NEAR and Anna Catte, Director of the ENPI CBC Med Programme’s Joint Managing Authority, confirmed the endorsement of the new Joint Operational Programme by participating countries and its submission to the European Commission by the end of June. "A more targeted strategy, more responsibilities for all participating countries and simplified implementation procedures are the main innovative features of the Programme for the 2014-2020 period," said Anna Catte.

The positive impact of projects on people and businesses was discussed by the beneficiaries of RUWOMED and LACTIMED. Kirsten Sutherland, manager of Middle East Desk Office at Spain's Assembly of Cooperation for Peace, explained that "RUWOMED empowers Lebanese and Palestinian women of local agri-food cooperatives and help them create a stable income for their families, allowing them to live in dignity." Her presentation was completed by the story of Suad Aruri, a Palestinian mother of 10 children. "The RUWOMED project has literally changed my life giving my family new hope and possibilities for the future."

In addition, Aurélien Baudoin, project manager at Anima Investment Network, and Kamel Mabrouki, director at 'Banque Nationale Agricole' of Tunisia, highlighted the momentum initiated by the LACTIMED project. "LACTIMED supports the integrated development of 5 local value chains of dairy producers in Egypt, Greece, Italy, Tunisia, and Lebanon," said Aurélien Baudoin. "Under LACTIMED, the 'Banque Nationale Agricole' has created new financial tools to help small dairy producers develop their business", stated Kamel Mabrouki.

The importance of diffusion and capitalization of good practices was the key message of Alaa Ezz, Secretary General of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers in order to foster the long term sustainability of the results achieved by the Programme. 

List of participants

Gianmario Demuro, Regional Minister, Autonomous Region of Sardinia
Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner

Kirsten Sutherland: RUWOMED
Bertold Fridlender: BIO-XPLORE (could not attend the Conference)
Aurélien Baudoin: LACTIMED
Kamel Mabrouki: LACTIMED