Mid-Term Conference: cross-border cooperation confirmed as central feature of the Euro-Mediterranean relations
More than 450 people from the ENPI Med community gathered in Rome on 17th and 18th July 2012 at the occasion of the Programme Mid-Term Conference. Representatives of European institutions, governments, local authorities, the business sector and the civil society of both EU Member States and Partner Countries analysed the results achieved by the Programme and reaffirmed its importance as a tool to enhance cooperation in the Mediterranean region. The Conference was also followed live on the Programme website by over 700 viewers.
European Union’s response to deep changes in the Mediterranean area and new perspectives for the Neighbourhood Policy were at the centre of the first day of the Conference.
European Commissioner Štefan Füle described in a video message the approach that the EU adopted to support democratic transition and constitutional reforms in Southern neighbouring countries, in particular SPRING (Support to Partnership, Reform and Inclusive Growth) and the Civil Society Facility. As stated by Mr. Füle, “in recognition of the increased importance of the Neighbourhood Policy in the European Union's overall foreign policy, the Commission proposed a substantial increase in the budget allocated to the Neighbourhood in the next financial period 2014-2020. Our proposal is a little bit more than € 18 billion, a significant increase compared to the existing level”. In addition, the Commissioner responsible for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy confirmed his “determination to ensure that cross-border cooperation should remain an important feature of the cooperation in the Mediterranean region” and expressed his satisfaction for the strong interest in the ENPI CBC Med Programme.
During the opening speech, Mr. Giorgio La Spisa - Vice-President of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia - said that “the ENPI CBC Med Programme could be the way forward out of the economic crisis. The Programme represents a unique opportunity to spread shared values and support integration between all countries in the area”. In the opinion of Mr. La Spisa, the governance of such a complex multilateral initiative is also contributing to developing management capacities of local authorities, included the Autonomous Region of Sardinia itself. The Vice-President concluded his speech hoping that the continuity of the Programme will be ensured in the coming 2014-2020 period.
Shared prosperity, joint development and sustainable cooperation between the two shores of the Mediterranean were the key messages delivered by the high-level representatives from the governments of Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Malta, Spain and the Palestinian National Authority.
Mr. Mohammad Abu Ramadam, Minister for Planning and Administrative Development of the Palestinian National Authority, stressed that the Neighbourhood Policy and the Programme are essential tools to support concrete projects in crucial fields such as water management, environmental protection and local governance. Egyptian Ambassador Mr. Nehad Abdel Latif stressed the relevance of this jointly managed Programme focused on mutual benefits and urged the European Union to deepen its support to Mediterranean Partner Countries undergoing historic changes.
Spain’s Ambassador to Italy Mr. Francisco Javier Elorza Cavengt underlined that his country strongly bolsters the Programme and called for additional funds to meet the expectations of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. Mr. Naor Gilon, Ambassador of Israel to Italy, reasserted the full support to the Programme as a means to create new partnerships.
Mr. Carmel Inguanez, Ambassador of Malta to Italy, highlighted that “the multi-level approach to regional cooperation and integration remains crucial in achieving a stronger dialogue and higher levels of cooperation”. Ambassador Mr. George Poulides of Cyprus (speech read by his representative) emphasized the importance of complementarity among existing financial instruments, announcing that a joint event between ENPI CBC Med and the Med transnational programmes will be held in Nicosia next October in the framework of the Cyprus EU Presidency.
For the Italian Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Marta Dassù, “social cohesion supported by multilateral cooperation is a way to address all political and economic challenges in the Mediterranean region. […] The Mediterranean will be a top priority of the 2014 Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union”. Ms. Dassù added that the Programme was a “positive example” of cooperation in a moment when political and economic changes taking place in the Mediterranean area indicate that “the countries from both rims need each other”.
The regional authorities, municipalities, private sector, universities and civil society involved in the second session demonstrated that the vitality of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership also relies on non-state actors. In this regard, the contribution of the ENPI CBC Med Programme was “remarkable” according to Mr. Nader Ghazal, Mayor of Tripoli the second largest city in Lebanon. Mr. Alaa Ezz, Secretary General of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, added that trade relationships, investments and enterprise partnerships between the two rims of the Mediterranean largely benefited from cross-border cooperation.
The second day was fully dedicated to the results achieved by the ENPI CBC Med Programme and the future perspectives for cross-border cooperation (CBC).
Ms. Anna Catte, Director of the Joint Managing Authority (JMA), stated that “despite the different levels of experience in the cooperation area, the two main drivers of the Programme - common benefits and co-ownership - have been fully ensured”. While presenting the strategy of the Programme implemented trough adopted projects, Ms. Catte deemed essential to foster complementarity with other initiatives operating the Mediterranean area. The significant contribution of the ongoing management experience to the 2014-2020 programming period was also underscored by the Director of the JMA.
In view of the next 2014-2020 EU cycle, the delegates of the participating countries focused on three issues to be considered for building upon the current success of the Programme:
- the inclusion of countries that did not take part in the Programme, namely Algeria, Libya and Morocco;
- the increase of funds dedicated to the Programme taking into account the considerable deficit between the resources requested by project proposals and those actually available. The relevance of population criterion for the fund allocation between CBC programmes was stressed by many national delegates;
- more flexibility concerning the thematic framework in order to adapt it to the specific features of the cooperation area.
The Conference also provided ample opportunities for presenting projects under implementation in areas such as cultural dialogue, innovative water management, sustainable tourism and renewable energies. Project representatives insisted on the value of the Programme to efficiently address common Mediterranean issues and gave valuable feedback in terms of possible ways to improve technical and financial management rules.
In addition, the draft Regulation establishing a European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) and related cross-border Implementing Rules were outlined. The European External Action Service and the European Commission (Directorate-General “Development and Cooperation”) reminded that the consultation of stakeholders plays an essential role in the preparation of the future regulatory framework. Main envisaged changes concern geographical eligibility (major social, economic or cultural centres not part of eligible areas may be included), the simplification of implementation rules and programmes’ management modes.
According to the European Commission, ENI Regulation, the Programming document and CBC Implementing Rules should be adopted by 2013 allowing the start of programmes in 2014. The ENPI CBC Med Managing Authority acknowledged the efforts exerted by the European Commission to ensure the effective and fast implementation of CBC programmes. The JMA pointed out that some issues still need to be clarified in the new ENI legal framework, in particular the level of responsibilities of participating countries: this position was shared by the other CBC basin programme taking part in the Conference, the Black Sea.
Finally, seven programmes implemented in the Mediterranean area reflected on how to improve synergies and complementarities. Exchanges of best practices, regular meetings, common studies were identified as possible actions to increase linkages between EU internal and external instruments and reinforce the overall coherence of EU policies.
The Joint Managing Authority would like to express its deepest gratitude to all speakers and participants who made the Mid-Term Conference a successful platform for debating the state of the play in the Euro-Mediterranean relations and collecting the expectations of concerned actors in the prospect of the 2014-2020 period.
The Conference in the media
Al Ahram (Egypt)
El Nashra (Lebanon)
Ma’an News Agency (Palestinian National Authority)
Raya media network (Palestinian National Authority)
EU Neighbourhood Info Centre
TGR Rai Sardegna (report starting at 15’55)
Articles in English: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
Articles in Italian: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5
Articles in Arabic: 1 - 2 - 3