'Nous sommes tous des citoyens de la Méditerranée' : découvrez le récit complet de la conférence #WEMED

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Over 350 participants coming from the 13 countries involved in the ENI CBC Med Programme took part in the launching conference #WEMED (Athens, 16 of December). Discussions shed light on the importance of developing impactful and long-lasting cooperation to address crucial challenges and make a positive contribution to the lives of men and women across the Mediterranean region.

"I express my support to the work that you are doing in this extremely important area of our cooperation. The impact achieved by Cross-Border Cooperation programmes is considerable and makes a real difference for citizens living and working in border regions. In view of the political and economic turmoil of the last years in the Southern Neighbourhood, I am convinced that Cross-Border Cooperation is one the most powerful tools we have to contribute to the stabilization of regions". These were the words of Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, in a video-message aired during #WEMED, the launching conference of the ENI CBC Med Programme.

Moderated by Alberto Negri (special correspondent of Italian newspaper "Il Sole 24 Ore"), the event had the objective to showcase inspiring Euro-Mediterranean cooperation stories and present the funding opportunities offered by the ENI CBC Med Programme.

"I could not have done this on my own"

The impact of funded projects on people was at the heart of the first session of the conference "Stories of Mediterranean cooperation: experiences of final beneficiaries from funded projects under the ENPI CBC Med Programme". As told by Ziad Hassan Abu Ayyash, young start-upper from Jordan who created a safe way, through the support of NET-KITE project, to deal with blood transfusions and injections: "I could not have done this on my own".  The core of the project is the invention of a new cannula with a 3D printer.

Other stories included: Omri Duev, student from Israel who had the opportunity to collaborate, under the BIO-XPLORE project, with Palestinian researchers on the use of native plants from the Mediterranean area to create new drugs in order to combat diabetes, cancer, hypertension and other diseases. "I have a 10 months old son and my hope is that kids from different religions and cultures will be friends and play together in a simple way," said Omri; Dimitris Kissas, cheesemaker from Greece, explained that thanks to the LACTIMED project he was able to improve the quality of the feta he produces, selling it at a higher price on the market. Dimitris is currently establishing a joint venture with an Egyptian company to expand his business abroad;  finally, Needa Salama, beekeeper from Palestine and mother of 5, told that through the RUWOMED project and together with other women from her village, she now runs a  small company  and contributes to the needs of her family. "We had no idea about bees before starting the project. We were afraid of bees. Now bees are our family. Many people bet on our failure but with our hard work, we succeeded."

Watch the session 

Regional issues, cooperative solutions 

The second session focused on the growing challenges in the Mediterranean region - including security, migrations, impact of climate change, economic growth, youth unemployment - in view of highlighting the shared priorities and approaches which can help build new momentum in Euro-Mediterranean relations. Ambassador Raouf Saad, Chairman of the National Steering Bureau for the implementation of Egypt-EU Partnership Agreement, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said that "the EU has become a frontrunner in the Mediterranean region. We strongly believe that the EU-Egypt partnership is an irreplaceable strategy for bilateral and regional cooperation, particularly after it has been enriched by the revised European Neighborhood Policy which strengthens the partnership with necessary elements such as co-ownership and differentiation."

Discussions were also contributed by Efisio Luigi Marras, Ambassador of Italy to Greece, who highlighted the mutual advantages of the cooperation among neighbours in order to strengthen positive and stable relationships and Hani Abdelmasih Al-Hayek, co-President of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) and mayor of Beit Sahour (Palestine), who underlined the strategic role of the local and regional authorities that are the main actors directly facing the challenges of the cooperation area.

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ENI CBC Med Programme, a new tool for better cooperation in the Mediterranean 

During the conference, the Managing Authority presented the strategy and priorities of the Programme as well as the main elements of the first call for proposals (see presentations below), approved by the representatives of the participating countries two days before WEMED. Anna Catte, director of the Managing Authority, explained that the call will be published in 2017 following the signing of the Financing Agreements between the European Commission and each of the 6 Partner Countries which have adhered to the Programme. A key message delivered by speakers is the aim to simplify project applications in order to allow a faster evaluation process and smooth implementation phase.

As representatives of countries in the Programme, Lamia Chamas, Program Manager, Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Lebanon, and Carmen Dalli, Director Programmes and Projects, Funds and Programmes Division, Ministry for European Affairs and Implementation of the Electoral Manifesto, Malta, discussed the impact of cross-border cooperation at national level and their expectations concerning the new funding opportunities for Euro-Mediterranean projects. Both Ms. Chamas and Ms. Dalli insisted on the encouraging participation of Lebanese and Maltese organizations in the Programme and mentioned that the success of cross-border cooperation is connected to the fact that the implemented projects are consistent with national priorities. "We have differences and we acknowledge them. But those differences are what makes our region rich. We have so much in common and the ENI CBC Med Programme is exactly responding to this," added Ms. Chamas.

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Working together

Complementarities among EU and international initiatives implemented in the Mediterranean area were discussed by Luca Palazzo, Managing Authority of the ENI CBC Med Programme, and Patrizia Busolini (INTERREG MED Programme), Gaetano Leone (UNEP/Mediterranean Action Plan), Epaminondas Christofilopoulos (Horizon 2020) and Gianandrea Villa (EU Delegation to Lebanon). As the reinforcement of synergies is one of the key objectives of the ENI CBC Med Programme, this session was of particular importance to pave the way for enhanced exchanges and joint work among the strategies, initiatives and instruments acting for the development of the Mediterranean region.

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Connecting people

The afternoon was entirely dedicated to networking. The “Connect” session allowed participants to share their project ideas and find potential partners/consolidate existing partnerships based on the Programme Thematic Objectives and Priorities. Networking was also facilitated by the "Cooperation Wall", a 4 meter large board on which dozens of project ideas and requests for partners were posted. 

The Managing Authority would like to sincerely thank all speakers, participants, national delegations and the Greek authorities for their contribution to the great success of the #WEMED conference.

• Presentations: ENI CBC Med Programme (strategy, functioning and governance) and main features of first call for proposals
List of participants
• Illustrations of the conference (by Alex Hughes from Drawnalism)
Slide show (all pictures will be available soon our Flick account

Video message of European Commissioner Johannes Hahn