A New Deal between Europe, the Mediterranean and Africa

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Politicians must look to their south, across the Med and into Africa if Europe is to thrive in the future. [José Rambaud/Flickr]

Europe’s southern neighbourhood is an erupting volcano. But positive trends are at play that represent North-South hope, and even convergence, write Franco Bassanini, Jean-Louis Guigou and Miguel-Angel Moratinos.

Franco Bassanini was Italy’s Minister of Public Administration until 2001, Jean-Louis Guigou is the founder of the Euro-Mediterranean Think Tank IPEMED and Miguel-Angel Moratinos was Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs until 2010.

Collapsing states, terrorists crossing borders, flourishing organised crime, clashing religions, disintegrating boundaries, and wars and revolutions causing massive migration. But it is not all catastrophic news: far from it.

In the face of major migration, European political leaders are starting to rediscover “their South”, along with the historical, moral and political values of Europe, which are fuelling a popular momentum. “Capital” is playing the Africa card, with five African countries ranked among the ten fastest-growing global economies in 2014; we are starting to understand that Europe will not be in a condition to resolve its growth, competitiveness and ageing population problems and sustain its providence state models without close cooperation, even economic and political integration, with southern Mediterranean countries and, ultimately, Africa.

The geographical and cultural proximity of peoples that have experienced colonisation and decolonisation together, as well as wars to defend liberties, that are at times jealous of each other but that above all respect and like each other, is an immense resource. So are the young people, women and business leaders in southern countries who are fighting for their emancipation and for closer ties with Europe.

The short-term images are frightening, but history in the making is encouraging. To quote Emmanuel Todd, in the long term, “the rendezvous of civilizations is at work”.

Two scenarios are possible: in the first, Europe does not react in a coordinated and ambitious way. An “each to his own” mentality dominates. Fear takes hold. Political leaders lack the courage to propose a vision of the future. Intellectuals are absent from the debate. Europe makes itself a fortress and grows old. Economic stagnation leads to penury. Populist European movements win majority seats and the European Union starts to come apart. Africa is pillaged. The Arab states see the end of their oil and gas revenues turn into a nightmare.

In the other scenario, the European Union proposes a new deal to its Mediterranean South and to write a new page of our common history together.

Firstly, a significant number of migrants, which Europe needs, would be accepted and professional mobility would be encouraged. According to Hervé Le Bras, to maintain the economically active population in Europe’s 28 at today’s level in 2050 requires taking in 2.2 million refugees per year for 34 years (i.e. three times current net migration).

Development aid would be replaced with a co-development strategy to support the South with shared added value and technology transfer. Make our South a key area for disseminating the technologies of the third industrial revolution. Coproduction, which involves transforming clients into partners, should be systematic. A perspective of industrial development in the South is all the more realistic given that the World Bank estimates that 85 million jobs will be leaving China to relocate elsewhere: the Mediterranean countries at the gates of Europe and Africa could be the main beneficiaries.

Create a foundation, “La Verticale Africa-Mediterranean-Europe”, which would be a political melting pot of economic integration and a place for elites to mingle, similar to ECLAC in America (700 researchers with an annual budget of €40 million) or ERIA in Asia (15 laboratories and an annual budget of €30 million).

In addition, set up an intercontinental development bank, like the Inter-American Development Bank or the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, to ensure the movement of capital and guarantee long-term security for investments.

Our perception and behaviour regarding Mediterranean and African people should change. Move away from a conquering attitude to a sharing attitude. Emotion should make way for reason. Of course, we need to remain firm in our convictions of secularism, equality and justice, but these values must be increasingly shared by a silent majority in the South.

“America and especially Central Asia have already embarked on North-South integration; they have done so pragmatically for reasons of economic efficiency”, said Pierre Beckouche. Matteo Renzi is right to make Africa his diplomatic priority. Angela Merkel is right to pay close attention to refugees to give new impetus to the German and European economies. François Hollande is right to put the emphasis on security and military intervention.

The Mediterranean must no longer divide Europe. To go further requires a strong axis: Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

The summit involving European Union and African countries in Malta on 10 and 11 November 2015 should not just focus on short-term immigration issues, it should lay the foundations of a new deal between Europe, the Mediterranean and Africa.

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