Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

The UfM points out the untapped potential of integration in the Mediterranean

Written by Gérard Tur on Tuesday, November 30th 2021 à 16:00 | Read 413 times

The 6th Regional Forum of the UfM provided an opportunity to discuss priorities in the Mediterranean (photo: Massimiliano Minocri/UpM)
The 6th Regional Forum of the UfM provided an opportunity to discuss priorities in the Mediterranean (photo: Massimiliano Minocri/UpM)
MEDITERRANEAN. Gathered in Barcelona on Monday 29 November 2021 for their 6th Regional Forum, the Foreign Ministers of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) discussed the progress made since the adoption of the organisation's roadmap in 2017, which, since the previous edition of the Forum, has focused on five priority areas *. Since that landmark year, "political dialogue within the UfM has been steadily strengthened, with four regional forums at the level of foreign ministers and nine sectoral ministerial meetings resulting in declarations in key areas, ranging from the subject of water to women's empowerment," says a statement. "Similarly, more than 400 UfM expert forums and working groups with more than 30,000 stakeholders in the region have facilitated policy development and the implementation of more than 50 cooperation projects across the region," the statement continued.

Held on the heels of the first Mediterranean Day established in July 2021, this meeting co-chaired by Josep Borrell, Vice-President of the European Commission and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Ayman Safadi, Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, recognised "the importance of the UfM as a unique, action-oriented platform that promotes regular dialogue and cooperation, and concretely addresses common challenges towards a more peaceful, secure, green, prosperous and inclusive Mediterranean region" as outlined in the final declaration.

​Preserving the unity of Libya and Syria

Participants reaffirmed "the need to strengthen efforts to resolve the conflicts and protracted crises that deprive the region of its right to peace and stability". They supported the Middle East peace process and in particular the recent agreements to improve socio-economic conditions in the Palestinian territories. While stressing "the importance of maintaining the historical status quo for the holy places in Jerusalem" and "the need to support politically and financially" UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East).

On the Libyan case, the UfM ministers expect a political process (the presidential election is due to take place on 24 December 2021), under the aegis of the UN, which "preserves the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity" of the country. They call for an end to "all foreign interference" in order to achieve "national reconciliation, lasting peace and stability".

The discourse is similar regarding Syria with a call for "a lasting, genuine and inclusive political solution that preserves the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, restores peace and stability and creates the conditions for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees".

Five key areas of Euro-Mediterranean integration under the microscope

On the margins of this 6th Forum, the conclusions of the first report on the state of Euro-Mediterranean integration were presented. Commissioned from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) by the UfM and financed by the German Development Cooperation (GmbH), this 212-page document analyses five key areas: trade, finance, infrastructure, movement of people, research and higher education. It highlights the "untapped potential of regional integration" in this part of the world.

The report reveals that, since the late 1990s, Jordan and Lebanon have lost ground in many manufactured goods, while Algeria and Albania have experienced difficulties in diversifying their exports. "As we work towards recovery from the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to question our ways of working and explore the region's potential," comments Nasser Kamel. For the UfM Secretary General, "integration is about removing barriers to trade and investment, building links across borders and facilitating the movement of people, goods and ideas. It is essential to stimulate trade, innovation and investment, and to create jobs throughout the region. Deepening integration and cooperation between countries will be key to the region's economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Secretary General of the IUpM welcomes "the willingness of UfM Member States, bound by their common determination for strong Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, to build an inclusive and sustainable recovery for all." And affirms that "women and young people, who are among those suffering the most from the consequences of the pandemic, will continue to be at the heart of the UfM's response."

33 trade agreements within the Euro-Mediterranean

UfM countries accounted for 33% of global exports in 2018, representing more than $6 trillion in traded goods. This value has tripled since 1996. However, "the weight of this region in the world has declined in recent decades due to the growing importance of emerging economies in world trade," the report states.

The document points out that "while the various parties recognise the importance of trade in services, as evidenced by certain regional agreements such as the Agadir Free Trade Agreement (in addition to bilateral negotiations underway, but not yet in force, notably between the EU and Morocco and between the EU and Tunisia), only the association agreements between the EU and the Western Balkans regulate trade in services.
Although no less than thirty-three trade agreements are currently in force within the Euro-Mediterranean region, "there is still untapped potential for expanding trade between the different sub-groups, mainly between the Western Balkans and Israel and the Levant countries, and between Israel and the Levant and North African countries", the study points out.

Positive points include Tunisia, Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina. These countries have moved away from their traditional export sectors (agriculture, textiles) to market a wide range of products abroad, including transport equipment and electronic machinery. This is in contrast to Algeria (mining) and Albania (textiles).

Read the progress report "Regional integration in the Union for the Mediterranean" (in French)
Read the progress report "Regional integration in the Union for the Mediterranean" (in English)


Agreement between the UfM and the UNDP

In parallel to this 6th Regional Forum, a new three-year Memorandum of Understanding was initialled between the UfM and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Arab States. Aimed at "strengthening peace and prosperity in key regions", it provides for increased cooperation between the two partners in the fields of economic integration, climate action and support for women and young people.

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