The European Union Delegation to Egypt

EP Plenary: Remarks by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell on the Southern Neighbourhood and the 25 year anniversary of the Barcelona Process

Brussels, 16/12/2020 - 08:44, UNIQUE ID: 201216_6
Remarks

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Ms President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

25 years ago – I was there - the Barcelona Declaration set the goal to create an area of peace and shared prosperity around the Mediterranean. What have we achieved? And what are the remaining challenges and our priorities for the future?

Well, I do not want to be gloomy today, but I have to say that the situation in our Southern Neighbourhood has in some aspects worsened. We have not achieved some of our objectives and challenges have been growing faster than our collective response to them.

Let us face reality; the challenges have been growing faster than our capacity to respond to them. In defining our response, we do not start from scratch. We have a vast array of political dialogues and grassroots work undertaken over the last 25 years, with the Parliamentary Assembly for the Mediterranean, which now you are chairing and which was created during my mandate as President of this House.

This has been an extremely valuable institutional framework, but we have to seize the new opportunities. The need to build more resilience, to fight the pandemic, to increase trade and to boost development.

We had a Ministerial Meeting with Southern Neighbours in Barcelona, last November. And this discussion gave us some ideas that I would like to convey to you.

First, we need an inclusive approach as we develop greater economic autonomy – some prefer to say sovereignty, I do not mind whatever it is, but it needs to be more engaging on climate change and digitalisation. We use these two words so much that we are going to use them.

Second, we need an investment plan, building on the success of the External Investment Plan. But the needs are so big that we cannot expect to fulfill all of them with public money. We need private engagement to create jobs, especially for youth.

We should answer the calls from these countries. It is the time to act. We need to speak with one voice. Often we do not do that and we pay the price of our divisions.

I want to stress the need to focus our help on the youth. They need a peaceful and prosperous future. The demographic trends are showing that they are becoming younger and younger and, at the same time, they are becoming older and older. This is going to create a gap that will push migration. And the only way to face that is to boost development at the same pace. But we do not have adequate funding. We must admit that we do not have enough resources coming from the national budgets. We absolutely need to develop private investment.

Finally, most of the region’s challenges cannot be addressed only bilaterally. They have to increase their regional and sub-regional cooperation. Only 5% of the trade among countries in North Africa is trade among themselves.

They do not trade among themselves. And at the same time, the gap on revenue per head is increasing. I think it is now 10 times higher in the North than in the South.

If you compare both trends: the trend on revenue per head and the trend on demography, it is clear that we are going to create a big incentive for migration that, I repeat, can only be faced by increasing massively the investments in the region.

Then there are other bad news: the price of oil has been decreasing, and for some countries which depend a lot on oil exports, this has created a big structural deficit on their public accounts.

If it is just a matter of conjuncture – a couple of years - they can resist. But if it becomes a structural issue and the price of oil remains low for a long period of time, then the economic situation will be unsustainable.

This is one of the consequences of the big swift that climate change policies will create in the wealth of nations. Stock of oil is a wealth depending on its price and its price depends on the demand and the demand depends on the climate policies that we are going to follow. We have to be ready to help diversify the economies of these countries, so that some of these countries will not be strongly dependent on oil exports, as this is the case of some of them.

In any case, we have to be more committed to a partnership with the Mediterranean. It has to be stronger than ever, because it is more needed than ever.

25 years after the Barcelona Declaration, last month, in November in Barcelona, all states from the North and the South of the Mediterranean represented there, reaffirmed this commitment.

I hope and I am sure that it will have the help and the support of the European Parliament.

Thank you.

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-200238


Closing remarks

Monsieur le Président, Honourable Members,

I would like to make use of the words of Nathalie Loiseau [Member of the European Parliament] to sum up this debate. We need to be modest and to be ready to engage more.

Modest because, certainly, the results are not good enough. I am not going to repeat the long list of problems that we have.

But, at the same time, we cannot not put in value what we have been doing, because we have been doing things. And we have to continue building on the things that we have been doing in the past years.

And, at the same time, [we have] to recognise that yes, the situation is not as good as we could have imagined 25 years ago.

But let me put in value [what we have been doing] with some examples. I have been talking about the European Investment Plan. We put €4.5 billion from the European Union budget and we succeed on raising €44 billion of investment by 2020.

That is a good result. Some will say “that is not good enough”. No, that is not enough, for sure. But with €4 billion we succeed in raising €44 billion.

Now we have been allocating by June this year 5.1 billion of the European Union funds and we have already generated 10 times more in investments, which means €50 billion in public and private investment for development.
We have created universities, like the Mediterranean university in Fez to educate a new generation of young people with a Euro-Mediterranean vision.
We have been training more than 100,000 young people and supported the development of over 1,000 small and medium firms.

That is not enough. No, that is not enough. Do we have to continue? Yes, we have to continue, but there are things that we cannot solve by ourselves. It is up to the people of these countries to solve [them]. We can support, we can help and we can accompany, but there are problems that have to be solved by the people according to their interests and their will.

Mais, sans aucun doute, la Méditerranée est la première de nos préoccupations. Il faut en faire davantage pour la première de nos préoccupations. Ce n’est pas possible que les revenus par tête continuent à diverger entre le nord et le sud. Ce n’est pas possible que la région ne soit pas intégrée du tout, avec des barrières qui empêchent un développement régional.

Oui, tous ces problèmes sont là. Mais ce que je peux vous assurer c’est que la volonté ne manque pas et que le Parlement, la Commission et le Conseil doivent unir leurs forces pour faire de la Méditerranée une mer de développement conjoint, de démocratie et de prospérité économique. C’est notre principal devoir.

Si nous n’avons pas de succès dans cette politique-là, où est-ce que nous aurons du succès? Dans quelle partie de monde devons-nous nous sentir plus engagés que dans notre voisinage le plus immédiat? Pour éviter un fossé culturel, un fossé économique, un fossé générationnel, démographique.

Je peux seulement vous assurer que, comme je vous le disais, la volonté est là. Parfois les ressources manquent, mais il faut augmenter notre engagement. Comme disait Natalie Loiseau, [il nous faut] beaucoup de modestie, parce que les résultats sont maigres, [mais il nous faut] beaucoup de volonté de s’engager, parce que les besoins sont grands.

Merci.

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-200240