Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Karim Amellal: "Civil society has the capacity to carry a positive agenda for the Mediterranean

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Monday, January 31st 2022 à 16:43 | Read 225 times

The Forum of the Mediterranean Worlds organised by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs at the initiative of the French President will be held on 7 and 8 February 2022 in Marseille. On this occasion, Karim Amellal, French ambassador and inter-ministerial delegate for the Mediterranean since August 2020, talks to about the ambition of this event and the future of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership.

Karim Amellal invites Mediterranean civil society to meet in Marseille in early February 2022 (photo: DR)
Karim Amellal invites Mediterranean civil society to meet in Marseille in early February 2022 (photo: DR) Why organise a Forum of Mediterranean Worlds and who will be the actors?

Karim Amellal: Our ambition, in very difficult conditions, in terms of health and traffic, is to bring together actors of good will from civil society around what brings us together. Committed citizens under the age of forty from around the Mediterranean will be able to discuss and, above all, propose solutions around federating themes: environment and biodiversity; education, training and mobility; inclusion and solidarity; employment, innovation and entrepreneurship; culture and heritage; territorial action and sustainable development.

The 2019 Summit of the Two Shores did not keep its promises, a structure for monitoring commitments was to be set up and an assessment made after six months, but this has not happened. How will this new edition be different?

K.A.: The Two Shores Summit was a first step, a starting point with a hybrid format hosting heads of state and government alongside civil society. With the Mediterranean Worlds Forum, we are continuing and acting in the same process, but expanding to the whole Mediterranean.

President Emmanuel Macron has organised this event to honour civil society and the commitments made in Marseille at the Summit of the Two Shores, which focused on several themes. It will be a moment of dialogue, with fifty associated partners and the presence of French, Marseilles and of course Mediterranean people around twenty-five round tables, a dozen workshops, an employment village centred on sectors that recruit in the Mediterranean and a village of projects.

We want to show everything positive and ambitious that civil society is doing, to show that we can work together. We need politics, even if it is very complicated because of the tensions, competition and rivalries between countries. But it must be done with actors who are moving forward, those of civil society, which has the capacity to carry a positive agenda for the Mediterranean on certain subjects.

A Mediterranean of solutions

Why did you change the name of this meeting?

K.A.: The Summit of the two shores was in the format of a 5+5* dialogue, but today we involve all Mediterranean actors. It is therefore more appropriate to speak of Mediterranean worlds, because the Mediterranean is made up of connected, juxtaposed worlds that sometimes collide. It is the most polluted sea in the world, with conflicts and tensions, but it is also a laboratory of solutions for the future in terms of training, climate change, entrepreneurship, a real source of creativity, and a fantastic youth. The Forum will show all this and will try to solve certain problems and will contribute to carrying, promoting and enhancing what is going well. It will be a showcase for this Mediterranean of solutions.

The second edition of the Summit of the Two Shores was to take place in the South of the Mediterranean. Why did you choose Marseille again?

K.A.: Yes, it was planned to be held in Mauritania. But the conditions were not met. The choice of Marseilles was necessary because this city is the Mediterranean capital of France, as Montpellier is for Africa (editor's note: it hosted the Africa-France Summit in October 2021). This meeting is moreover co-constructed with the Marseille players, i.e. the Region, the Metropolis and the City. This is fundamental. A political event, under the aegis of the Union for the Mediterranean for example, could also take place. We would be very happy if it took place in a country of the South.

How does the Mediterranean World Forum fit in with the Region's own annual event since 2017, The Mediterranean of the Future ?

K.A.: We are developing together a segment of the Mediterranean World Forum dedicated to territories and sustainable development. The Mediterranean of the Future will indeed take place at the end of November 2022.

A Mediterranean potential embodied by civil society

Where does the Euro-Mediterranean partnership stand more than twenty-five years after its creation?

K.A.: The Euro-Mediterranean partnership is materialised by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), particularly through its instruments, including financial ones. Not only does it exist, but it is powerful in terms of the amounts invested in the South and East and the institutions. The Union for the Mediterranean is a reality. It is even the only intergovernmental body bringing together all the countries around the Mediterranean. The UfM represents an opportunity to revitalise this partnership, to give it more means and new ambitions. We all agree on this. France is campaigning for the UfM to become more concrete.
So yes, the partnership must be more focused on youth and projects. But this is already largely the case.

However, the hot spots have remained the same for decades, without the Euro-Mediterranean partnership managing to resolve them?

K.A.: We must try to push for political solutions. In Lebanon and Libya, in particular, we see diplomacy as an instrument for resolving difficulties, tensions and crises, while respecting these countries that are our friends and partners. France does this within a framework of consultation with, for example, the European Union, whose voice is heard. We don't always manage to do this, to say the least. The EU must play its part in resolving these conflicts, as must a number of countries and personalities, but always with respect for the sovereignty of each party.

When we look at the history and the civilisational depth of the Mediterranean, we can only be confident. Our region has been through so many episodes of crisis, such as the plague, and it has always risen again, becoming stronger than before. Marseille is an iconic city in this respect, with extraordinary potential, just like the Mediterranean countries. This potential is embodied by all the actions of this civil society to which we want to give a voice during the Forum.

* A meeting framework between Mediterranean countries for regional cooperation in the Western Mediterranean inaugurated in 1990 by a meeting of foreign ministers in Rome and bringing together five countries from the North (France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Malta) and five countries from the South (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania)

Read also Karim Amellal's article: "The unity and the gathering of the Mediterranean are more necessary than ever "

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