Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

The Two Shores Summit is a bust

Written by Gérard Tur on Monday, June 24th 2019 à 16:13 | Read 148 times

The heads of state and government did not respond to Emmanuel Macron's invitation for the Summit of the Two Shores in Marseille. However, civil society did its work and proposed nearly 300 projects. Fourteen were selected.

Emmanuel Macron receives the ministers' commitments (photo: France Diplomatie)
Emmanuel Macron receives the ministers' commitments (photo: France Diplomatie)
MEDITERRANEAN. The Mediterranean is decidedly unlucky. All attempts to create a Mediterranean political space have been long in coming, and have ended up with very modest achievements, such as the Barcelona Process and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). Emmanuel Macron tried his luck with the Summit of the Two Shores, which is supposed to bring together the leaders of the ten countries of the western Mediterranean in the 5 + 5 format: France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Italy and Malta.
The summit on Monday 24 June 2019 in Marseille took place in a half-empty Palais du Pharo. All the heads of state and government called in sick. Emmanuel Macron finally had to settle for a meagre audience composed mainly of foreign ministers and civil society figures. Even the EIB (European Investment Bank) and the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) only sent their vice presidents. Vexing. Ouided Bouchamaoui, president of the steering committee of the summit, Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of the Tunisian delegation, noted at the opening session "the difficulties of organising this summit". Later, she spoke of "the reticence. But we propose things that are feasible. In particular, we need to improve mobility. "

Emmanuel Macron more or less acknowledges the failure of his initiative. "It was not the right time", the President acknowledged. "The crisis in Algeria and the conflict in Libya explain why it was not possible to organise a meeting of heads of state." It is a pity, because the work and proposals of the one hundred civil society figures (ten per country) undoubtedly deserve a more attentive ear from our governments.

Stormy discussions

No heads of state, but a civil society that makes proposals (photo: France Diplomatie)
No heads of state, but a civil society that makes proposals (photo: France Diplomatie)
The Mediterranean is not doing well. "Twenty-five years after the Barcelona Process, the results fall short of our ambitions," explains the Tunisian Foreign Minister, Khemaies Jhinaoui. "Terrorism is hitting hard, the situation in Libya is worsening, the economic gap between the southern and northern shores of the Mediterranean is widening. To this must be added the pollution that is turning the Mediterranean into a dustbin."

Listening to the little phrases or allusions that peppered the speeches of the ten heads of delegation, the choice of common projects to be presented was not easy. Out of 272 proposals submitted, fourteen were retained, to the great displeasure of certain delegations who felt that their choices were being imposed. Politicians have a hard time letting civil society take the lead...

While in all the meetings of civil society actors organised in recent weeks, whether in the economic, academic or cultural fields, the issue of visas invariably came up, the theme mysteriously disappeared when the delegations' projects were relayed. In the end, the projects requested by the centenarians concern energy, education, the digital economy, culture and the environment. The projects deal with the development of the olive oil production sector, the creation of a Euro-Arab translation house, the rehabilitation of the medinas, the setting up of second chance schools, the depollution of the Mediterranean, the development of the circular economy, the creation of a Mediterranean media (sic)...


Beyond the clichés about our common history, the importance of youth or the Mediterranean as a crossroads of civilisations, which are invariably brought out at each event of this type, the Summit of the two shores sometimes reached "heights" in terms of wooden language. At the very moment when Italy's policy has directly led several thousand migrants to drown in the Mediterranean over the past few weeks due to a lack of rescue ships, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, was not ashamed to state that "we are linked." His Libyan counterpart, Mohamed Siyala, is not calling for an end to civil war, slavery or suicidal migration, but has a project on the development of cultural heritage and education. "Libya will be at the rendezvous for the implementation of the recommendations of the summit of the two shores," he promises. Of course, if it still exists, this will no doubt become the priority of the survivors...

Josep Borrel, the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, is more realistic. "Mediterranean youth are afraid of the future. The solution to their problems lies in mobility. No jobs without mobility. We must also change the education system so that it no longer trains young people for jobs that are disappearing." Elisabeth Guigou, President of the Anna Lindh Foundation, also advocates "more mobility. We must extend Erasmus to other social categories. "

"And now? " All the civil society actors gathered in Marseille asked. Emmanuel Macron promised to transform the team that organised the summit into a structure for monitoring commitments. It "will work with donors", the President stressed. "We must succeed in making progress on the fourteen dossiers selected and on the 65 presented in Tunis. We will meet again in six months, this time in the presence of the heads of state and government, to make an initial assessment of the progress and failure of the dossiers. Don't let go of your dreams. "

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