Delegation of the European Union to Tunisia

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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

  1. The 16th European Union (EU) – African Union (AU) Human Rights Dialogue took place on 8th December 2020 by video conference. The Dialogue was co-chaired by Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights and Minata Samate Cessouma, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs.
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10/12/2020 – HR/VP blog – At Monday’s Foreign Affairs Council, member states agreed to launch a new EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime to strengthen our collective action in this field. Taking action on human rights is not only the right thing to do. It is also in our interest: more human rights means more freedom, prosperity and peace, for us all.

This year we mark Human Rights Day while the whole world is tackling an unprecedented challenge: the COVID-19 pandemic. Far from being outdated, the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed in 1948 are more relevant than ever: the universality and indivisibility of human rights is critical in addressing this crisis and in shaping the post-COVID-19 world. “Today it is more important than ever to recall that human rights are universal and indivisible, and that our efforts to defend them can never stop”, said the High Representative Josep Borrell in a declaration on behalf of the European Union.

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