Check against delivery!
C'est un honneur pour moi d'être parmi vous aujourd'hui et de vous souhaiter la bienvenue, en ma qualité de co-Présidente, à ce deuxième Forum régional de l'Union pour la Méditerranée.
I would like first of all to thank my good friend, and our host Alfonso [Dastis], the Spanish Foreign Minister, for his support to the organisation of this meeting and also for the work of the Union for the Mediterranean and a very, very warm welcome also to my new co-president and my new friend, Ayman Safadi, the new Jordanian Foreign Minister. I think I can speak on behalf of all of us today in congratulating you for taking this position, also passing a word of gratitude and friendship to your predecessor, Nasser Judeh [former Foreign Minister of Jordan ]with whom we worked so well together. But I can tell you all that already in these first not even ten days in office, we have established with Ayman an excellent working relationship, having had already several bilateral meetings and I am one hundred per cent sure that we will continue our strong cooperation not only on all bilateral issues but also as co-Chairs of the Union for the Mediterranean.
So the EU- Jordanian engagement and leadership in this respect will continue to grow even stronger.
Et je tiens aussi à remercier le Secrétaire Général Fatallah Sijilmassi : sans son engagement passionné, ses efforts personnels, son énergie et ses qualités diplomatiques, je pense que notre Union pour la Méditerranée n’aurait pas atteint les bons résultats qu'on voit aujourd'hui. Merci beaucoup pour ton travail, si je peux m'exprimer de cette façon ici, entre amis, c'est vraiment un travail remarquable que tu as fait et que tu es en train de faire pour notre Union.
Et enfin un mot de remerciements à vous tous, qui avez contribué à insuffler un nouvel élan à notre coopération, avec ce rendez-vous annuel que nous avons décidé d'avoir depuis l'année dernière. Cette rencontre aujourd'hui est l’une des preuves de la volonté de rapprochement qui nous unit. C’est votre engagement et votre action continus auprès de vos collègues sectoriels dans les gouvernements respectifs qui incitent et contribuent aux actions concrètes de l’Union pour la Méditerranée dans notre région commune.
Today we will endorse a Road Map. This is, I believe, a sign of tangible commitment from our side, a collective work that during the last year gives a clear sign of our common wish to move the Union for the Mediterranean into a new phase. Beyond the instability, beyond the conflicts, the too many conflicts we have around us, neighbouring all of us. We see a clear and immense potential for our region, and I believe the decision to engage in upgrading the work of the Union for the Mediterranean is a clear common commitment to try and overcome the crises and the conflicts and invest in this potential. The Union can help us fulfil such potential for growth and human development.
The theme of this year’s Forum is "Mediterranean in action" – and I believe it describes perfectly well the attitude driving our work inside the Union for the Mediterranean, which is concrete actions, deliverables for our people, and I believe the Union is the right forum to concentrate on this positive agenda without forgetting the difficulties the region is facing, the many difficulties, but also focusing on the Positive Agenda as a way to maybe help creating some common grounds for our peoples, for our societies, for our businesses, for our fellow Ministers to focus on what is needed and what is possible to create in terms of cooperation across the region.
And the focus we have is on real life. This has already allowed us to look beyond the cultural and political divisions; and move forward and try to build bridges, I would say bridges between the two shores of the Mediterranean but also within the two shores of the Mediterranean and explore and create opportunities in our common region.
The Mediterranean – our region – is at the same time one of the most conflictual regions of the world – probably the most conflictual region in the world – but it is also one of the least integrated. And I am convinced these two facts are linked to one another in what can become a very vicious circle – the lack of integration and the increased level of conflictuality can easily become one the reason for the other. And I believe today we have a collective responsibility to break this circle and try to deliver together to our people a better life in our common region.
Both in the European Neighbourhood Policy and in our Global Strategy - the EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security policy-, we identify the Union for the Mediterranean as an important player towards a more integrated and more cooperative and peaceful region.
This is a place for discussing real issues, that impact directly on the daily lives of our citizens. It is a forum for sustainable development and job creation, environmental protection, energy, trade and investment. If we lock our borders and also our minds, this region’s fragility will not disappear, on the contrary: isolation can only make us all weaker. And I think our region and also Europe has experienced too many times that the "zero-sum game" does not really work and it is only when we identify common ground for common games that we manage to move forward - both on conflicts but also on economic cooperation or on sectorial cooperation. So, economic integration instead of this zero-sum approach can provide many of the answers we need around us.
The Union for the Mediterranean has already delivered tangible benefits through concrete projects and I was happy to inaugurate one of them, just a few months ago, together with the Secretary General in Tunisia. Nevertheless, there is still a great unexploited potential with certain sectors, and for the development of regional platforms for dialogue and reform.
With this second annual Forum, we have decided to focus on one of the most pressing issues of our region and of our times – the situation of our youth. This is not just an issue among others: I believe this is the issue of our times and the issue of our region. The one that we cannot fail because of the size of demography and the size of the economic reality, of one or two generations across the region, both on the Southern and the Northern shores of our sea that we have to tackle, without the luxury of being allowed to fail. But potentially also the solution too many of the issues we have around the region. I do not see youth as a problem, I see this as a potentiality we can use to solve some of the issues we have around our region.
There are about 300 million young people in the Middle East and North Africa; tens of millions of them have no jobs, no opportunities, and also no voice. And I think the issue of political participation of our younger generation, both in Europe and across the region is one of the key issues we have to face.
This is in part also a security issue that we are all facing in our countries and this makes us all more vulnerable, and it creates a breeding ground for the propaganda of terrorist groups. But if we gave up on their energy, on their enthusiasm, on their ideas and on their skills, we would also give up to the most powerful driver for growth in our societies - both economic growth, but also cultural and political growth.
So this is true here in Europe and we are all facing this and struggling with this in our own societies. This is true for the rest of the region and we all know that if we get this issue right, we might really prevent and solve so many of the issues we are facing together. Unemployment rates are generally much higher for young people than they are for the rest of the population. This must really be the main focus for our common action, including within the Union for the Mediterranean.
So first of all, before I conclude, let me stress that we need all to invest in the creation of quality jobs. And I think that the meeting today can be really focused, given the context we are facing - we are not operating in a vacuum, we know very well we are facing very difficult and tense situations in our region. But we have an agenda that can focus on the creation of quality jobs, cooperation with the private sector included. In the Union, we have put forwarded the EU External Investment Plan for the Mediterranean and for Africa that shows how this innovative way of mobilising institutional and private investors together can deliver for our societies.
Second, we can and must promote creativity and innovation and this calls for quality education, both in schools and universities, and through vocational training. And this also requires that we remove all kind of barriers that make it hard for young people to set up their own businesses and feel at home when they are envisaging investments.
So the Union for the Mediterranean has already tackled some of these issues, but we must really step up our engagement and we see the potential for more work. For instance, there is a lot we can do to develop national or regional programmes for employability, new schemes for apprenticeship and a better education to entrepreneurship.
Our Labour and Employment Ministers, at their meeting in Jordan last September, confirmed their commitment to working together on employment, employability and decent work. And a number of UfM projects – such as the Med4Jobs Initiative, the Generation Entrepreneur, and the sister Universities of Fes and Portorož – can help us focus on a bottom-up approach, which is essential in this kind of policy. Although the challenges we face are similar, we know well that each and every context - not even country, but even beyond the country, each and every region has its own specificity-, is different. Each society might find its own way to inclusion and to social justice, but we clearly see the need for cooperation across the region, not only to face tensions, to prevent further tensions, face some of the conflicts we have around, but also to build this positive agenda of economic and social cooperation. And we sometimes find out that if we go one level below, we find common ground for delivering to our people.
So I look forward to hearing your views on this, as well as on all the issues that we must and can tackle together. As you know, I believe very much in this format and I would like to thank you personally very much for being here for the second Ministerial meeting in a row that we have. I wish us all a very fruitful and successful meeting and also a good continuation of our work in the Union for the Mediterranean. I apologise if I was a bit long, but we share the time so that my introductory remarks are a bit longer but then I will save time in the concluding remarks and I would like to pass the floor to the co-chair, the Foreign Minister of Jordan Mr Al Safadi. Thank you.