The Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean is kicking off on Friday, the 3rd December in Brussels, bringing together MEPs and parliamentary speakers from the 42 member countries. Here, S&D MEP Margarida Marques argues why the EU need a renewed commitment of partnership with the Mediterranean region.
The Mediterranean is a complex region from a political, economic, social and cultural angle. A fragmented and non-homogeneous region made of countries, but at the same time of regions that share history and geopolitical ambitions.
In the last decades, the Mediterranean region witnessed significant transformations, especially in the last decade after the Arab Spring. A strategic partnership with the European Union is imperative so that we can turn common challenges into opportunities. Such a vision of partnership encompasses the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms through the establishment of democratic institutions and the guarantee of the rule of law. These are key factors to ensure lasting stability and sustainable development throughout the whole region.
The Mediterranean region is facing geopolitical, socio-economic, climate and environmental challenges, many of which call for a higher level of cooperation and joint actions. Energy cooperation and the fight against climate change are clearly priority areas that both partners should address jointly. The effects of climate change – water shortage, rising temperatures, desertification and rising sea water levels – are starting to be felt throughout the countries of the region with socio-economic effects and in a sensitive geopolitical environment. A clear outcome of climate change is the increasing forced migration from the region that will have an impact on Europe and its policies. Climate change is increasingly problematic and of great concern for the European Parliament, and the fight for climate change is the motto of the European Parliament’s Presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean.
What we are currently witnessing with perceived increases in energy prices in Europe, largely as a result of the price increases of natural gas, is undoubtedly a geopolitical element that will have an influence on the future of the Mediterranean region. This region shifted from an energy importer to a supplier of natural gas. However, the ambitions of many of the partners in this region to become major exporters of natural gas to Europe as an alternative to Russia pose a fundamental problem. It goes against the European ambition and its commitment to carbon neutrality. Future discussions in Europe on whether to consider gas as a transitional energy source and whether to include gas in the taxonomy will undoubtedly have an impact on the energy transition strategy in the Mediterranean.
The Union for the Mediterranean is a unique platform to engage and promote dialogue and cooperation in this region. It should also serve as a platform in promoting projects and initiatives that make this region more resilient, with a more sustainable and inclusive development growth model, respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. Addressing the climate transition challenge will require more than commitments from these countries to the environmental targets. The European Union needs to strengthen partnerships at various levels – governments, organisations, civil society and the local community – to better understand their needs and challenges and to better support them in accessing finance.
It is time to continue to strengthen dialogue with a stronger commitment of partnership and cooperation. We do share the same challenges. Only together, can we mutually seize the same opportunities; stability in the Mediterranean region will bring stability to Europe.
Margarida Marques, S&D Coordinator of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly.