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Dr Joe Borg

Member of the European Commission
Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

The contribution of Mediterranean regions and cities to successful cross-border and maritime cooperation: a new approach under in the Euromed partnership

EUROMED Regions and Cities Conference
Barcelona, 26 November 2005

Honourable President of Catalonia,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a pleasure to be here today to represent the European Commission on this important occasion where the role of cities and regions, in the future of the Euro-Mediterranean region, is being discussed. I am grateful to the Catalonian president, Mr. Maragall, for organising this timely event just before the first Euro-Mediterranean Summit which will take place here on the 27-28 November. This cosmopolitan city of Barcelona offers us the possibility to view the Euro-Mediterranean partnership from not just a historic perspective - in a city that is two thousand years old - but also with a sense for the future.

Today, ten years after launching the process that took the name of our host town, the Euro-Mediterranean partnership has become a success story in many different ways. I have been fortunate to witness much of it personally, both in my previous capacity as Foreign Minister of Malta and since May last year, as the Commissioner in charge of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs within the European Union.

Why do I call the Barcelona process a success?

Well, firstly, the instruments are working. Almost all the Association Agreements are now in place, and the EIB loans and the MEDA programme grants are bringing funds in excess of 3 billion euro per year to the region.

Secondly, the process has successfully created its own institutions. Since 1995 we have set up three very important joint bodies in the framework of the partnership: the Euromed Parliamentary Assembly; the FEMIP which is the financial instrument of the European Investment Bank which has already proved to be successful and one of the most powerful investment promotion mechanisms in the world; and, finally, in the cultural chapter, the Anna Lindh Foundation for the dialogue between cultures.

While these steps are in themselves pretty significant, they only tell part of the story. Much more importantly, the real achievement of the Barcelona process has been the impact it has on the lives of millions of men and women living and working within the Euro-Mediterranean region.

More than any institutional or financial achievements, what the Barcelona process has served to create is an enormous variety of governmental and civil society networks. Many of them are directly related to co-operation between cities and regions: as for example in the case of EuroMesco, an independent policy research institute network bringing together the intellectual efforts of both sides of the Mediterranean; FEMISE, the economic research institutes network; SEMIDE, a network of experts in the field of water, which is of vital importance in the region; the SMAP network, dealing with the environment; ANIMA, covering investment promotion agencies; the Energy Euromed Forum and the Transport Forum.

There are also those that deal directly with cultural issues and involve civil society. In particular I should like to mention the network created recently under the framework of the Anna Lindh Foundation for dialogue among cultures, the Euromed Non-governmental Platform that organizes the Civil Fora, and, finally, the Euromed Youth Platform.

In addition, there are further networks - both formal and informal - of officials and experts from ministries, local and regional administrations and other levels of government, working together at regional and bilateral levels on joint Euromed cooperation programmes.

These are the people who are building the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, brick by brick. They are the ones bringing the benefits of cooperation and increased mutual understanding to millions of citizens around the Mediterranean basin and beyond.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me a few minutes now to delve into my responsibilities as European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. As you are no doubt aware, the fisheries sector, which is one of my main portfolio areas is vital for our people. It is an important source of employment for many coastal regions and cities, it supplies a significant amount of the protein needs of our citizens and more visibly, is an integral part of coastal life and character.

My responsibilities are however not limited solely to fisheries. They also include the broader maritime sphere and the need for us to take a holistic view of the oceans and seas alongside which we live.

Of particular interest to you is of course the need for a “clean Mediterranean”. Following an initiative launched by the European Commission in April this year, thirty-five partners will be asked to decide at the Euromed Summit meeting in just two days to develop by the end of 2006 a road map with the objective of completely de-polluting the Mediterranean by 2020. The European Union and its Mediterranean partners will therefore be working together, at both a multilateral and bilateral level, in order to achieve the objective of a “clean Mediterranean”. We will be using the necessary financial, institutional and political instruments to this end.

While management and enforcement rules will be agreed upon at a Euro-Mediterranean level, implementation of what is agreed upon, will fall to the cities and regions most concerned. It will be here that we will be counting upon your support.

This action in the Mediterranean is but one example illustrating the need for us to recognise that the sea is more than simply a space where any type of activity can go on unhindered. Today the need for an integrated vision for the sustainable management of the oceans and the seas, is apparent more than ever. Coupled with this vision, is the need for more modern forms of governance.

It was this realisation that prompted President Barroso to ask me to chair a Maritime Affairs Task Force, with the express purpose of looking into a Maritime Policy for the European Union. This Task Force and other related bodies, have now been set up with the first objective of preparing a Green Paper on an all embracing Maritime Policy by the first semester of 2006. This will form the basis for a broad consultation of interested parties, and I expect that the coastal cities and regions of the Mediterranean will be amongst the first to participate in this dialogue.

The Green Paper will seek to address the economic, environmental, social, and governance challenges relating to the oceans and the seas in a holistic manner. Needless to say, both the twin Lisbon Strategy goals to stimulate economic growth and create new jobs, and the Sustainable Development Strategy, will be prime motivators for us in our work.

Within the ambit of this comprehensive approach to the oceans and seas, we hope to bring together a variety of interests both in relation to EU waters and internationally, in fields such as transport, energy, fisheries, industry and enterprise policy, regional policy and research and technology - to name but a few.

Environmental concerns, and in particular the protection of the marine environment, are essential components in this discussion on the sustainable use of the oceans and seas. In fact the European Commission’s recent proposal for a “Thematic Strategy on the Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment” will constitute one of the major building blocks of the Green Paper.

Insofar as the Mediterranean Sea and its de-pollution are concerned, we are already consulting with different partners, such as the Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environmental Programme. Maritime safety and security is also a major issue on our agenda. We in the Commission have just adopted the Third Maritime Safety Package which seeks to complete the legal system for a European Maritime Safety area. We would strongly encourage our Mediterranean partners to also subscribe to this process.

One of our tasks will also be to ensure that the proposals made in connection with the preparation of the Green Paper, fit in perfectly with the existing efforts and work underway both at an EU level and at a Member State level, most particularly in the affected regions. The joint work between the EU and its neighbours, in the Barcelona process, will thus be taken into account and contribute to the new approach.

I am looking forward to an active engagement of cities and regions around the Mediterranean in the consultations on a future all-embracing maritime policy. I am quite certain that the Green Paper and the many activities related to the sea and the development of coastal regions around Europe, will provide fertile ground on which to exchange best practices and ideas as to future policies to the benefit of all involved, especially those in the Mediterranean region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to present to you now some new cooperation possibilities, which the European Commission has developed in the framework of the MEDA financial cooperation programme. Building on the consensus reached at the Conferences of the Euro-Med Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Valencia in 2002 and Naples in 2003, the preparation and launching of these new co-operation programmes has been strongly encouraged by the EU Committee of the Regions.

On this basis, between 2003 and 2005 a series of pioneer municipalities have implemented a pilot project called “MED’ACT” (i.e. “Med-Europe, Actions of Cities and Towns”). This project allowed four city groupings from both sides of the Mediterranean Sea to initiate joint activities in the areas of culture and environment.

Following this experience, this year the Commission approved a new programme of 5 million euros entitled “MED-PACT”[1]. Thanks to this programme, it is expected that municipalities will be in a position, from early 2006 onwards, to increase their planning and management capacities in key urban areas, through the exchange of knowledge, targeted assistance and networking. Particular emphasis will be put on the formulation of sustainable urban development strategies, support to the implementation of priority sector policies, and the improvement of the management capacities of municipalities’ personnel.

In addition, we have made available MEDA funds to launch several other cooperation programmes, which will directly or indirectly benefit Euromed regions and cities.

One of the more important ones concerns energy cooperation where we are endeavouring to facilitate the establishment of a common electricity market in the Maghreb countries, create a connection to the EU grid, establish a gas market in the Mashrek which is linked also to Europe, and help develop co-operation initiatives between Israelis and Palestinians in several energy-related domains.

A second sector that I would like to mention concerns the Euro-Mediterranean airspace. Here particular emphasis is being put on the promotion of air safety and security in the beneficiary countries and the enhancement of regional co-operation in air traffic management.

It is important that regions and cities around the Mediterranean take part fully in building a common neighbourhood. This is one of the guiding principles of the European Neighbourhood Policy, which addresses the “ring of friends” in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe which are close to the borders of the EU. This Policy offers them an increasingly close partnership with the EU involving a significant degree of economic integration and a deepening of political cooperation.

The Neighbourhood Policy builds on the achievements of the Barcelona process. It emphasises the importance of creating a framework for co-operation between local and regional authorities and, in particular, the importance of cross-border co-operation. The cities and regions, both in the EU and in the partner countries, are invited to play an important role in this context, together with governments and civil society.

The Commission also envisages mobilising the necessary funds to support this policy through the “European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument”. This support could take different forms such as :

  • bilateral cross-border programmes with respect to sea crossings on the one hand, and
  • a multilateral sea basin approach on the other. This would allow border regions around the Mediterranean Sea to co-operate with each other on topics of common interest that will be identified in the future through a joint programme for cross-border co-operation.

Cross-border co-operation programmes such as these will bring together regions of the EU and neighbouring countries which are sharing a common border or are grouped around a common sea. They would contribute to our objective of avoiding new dividing lines and would operate across external borders. Through these programmes, community assistance will strengthen co-operation at territorial level aimed at promoting sustainable regional development, addressing common challenges, ensuring efficient and secure common borders and promoting people-to-people actions. We are convinced that this novel approach based on partnership, multi-annual programming and co-financing will provide a unique framework for promoting co-operation between regional and local authorities in border areas.

Ladies and Gentlemen, by way of conclusion I would like to make one final remark.

The future of the Barcelona process is the shared task of us all: public authorities and civil societies alike. You, representatives of the cities and the regions, should play a vital role in this process. While you represent public authorities, you are also particularly close to the needs of our societies and citizens.

I am convinced that we will enlist the help of local and regional bodies to find new pillars for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation. This will, over time, lead to substantial and effective links across borders, promote common interests, strengthen civil society and have beneficial effects on the local economy in our common Euro-Mediterranean region.

Thank you.

[1] Acronym which stands for: Programme de Partenariat entre Collectivités Territoriales en Méditerranée.

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