For more than six months, the Arab Spring has been creating a new scenario on the Mediterranean’s southern shore. For more than six months, a wind of freedom and modernity has been blowing through that region of the world.
This irrepressible momentum towards freedom is immensely promising for the Arab countries, Europe and the world. It’s our responsibility and in all our interests to support it, by helping the new governments respond to the aspirations of the people, particularly young people. It’s in this spirit that France has been spurred into action, both bilaterally and in multilateral forums: I’m thinking, of course, of the G8 and the partnership launched in Deauville.
In taking up this challenge, the Union for the Mediterranean is a special tool. As you know, this project – launched in 2008 on an initiative of President Sarkozy – was based on the idea of a balanced partnership between the two shores.
The Arab Spring shows how far-sighted this initiative was. It shows how profound our shared destiny around the Mediterranean is and how urgent it is to structure a project that encourages solidarity and common achievements in order to improve citizens’ daily lives.
So we’re at a turning-point in the Union for the Mediterranean’s history.
This is why France welcomes the investiture of the new Secretary General, Mr Youssef Amrani, who is in charge of embodying and relaunching this dynamic of solidarity around concrete projects in the Mediterranean region. Secretary General, you have remarkable expertise in Euro-Mediterranean affairs, proven skill in dealing with men and women and invaluable experience in the workings of a secretariat. You will also be able to count on high-calibre assistant secretaries general and a devoted staff. We know you’ve set to work without delay. France hopes you can contribute with the full weight of the consensus of the 43 countries you represent, so that our countries individually, and the European Union collectively, are able effectively to support the democratic aspirations of the Arab Spring and economic development, and structure a system for ensuring organized and regulated labour mobility.
The last European Council confirmed the importance of the Union for the Mediterranean, alongside the bilateral relations the EU is developing with the countries of the southern shore in the framework of the new Neighbourhood Policy. Today we must help coordinate these two policies, so that the Union for the Mediterranean becomes the “matrix” of the regional projects conceived in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
This requires an improved governance of the Union for the Mediterranean in which the EU plays its full role, in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty.
It also requires an ever closer association between the projects identified by the Union for the Mediterranean’s secretariat and European funding. So it’s essential for an increasing share of the European Neighbourhood Policy’s regional appropriations to be devoted to these projects, in addition to the loans from the European Investment Bank. For her part, France will take part in co-financing the Union for the Mediterranean secretariat, with a contribution of €500,000 for its 2011 budget.
Among the possible target areas for these projects, four strike me as demanding the attention of the Union for the Mediterranean’s secretariat.
The first is mobility. We want to encourage a global approach to migration, with real cooperation in the fight against illegal immigration, but also partnerships for mobility to encourage circular migration. (…)
Second area: renewable energy. I’m thinking of the Mediterranean Solar Plan, whose success will have a major impact on growth, employment and social development, at a time when electricity needs to the south and east of the Mediterranean are set to increase by 6% a year between now and 2025. (…)
Third area: innovation and SMEs, which are essential for young people’s employment and future. The Internet has played a major role in the blossoming and spreading of the Arab Spring. It’s also a tremendous engine for relaunching the economy and better sharing the fruits of growth. I call on the secretariat to propose a plan for the e-Economy and encourage the more widespread use of the Internet by companies on the southern shore.
Finally, fourth area: civil protection, a priority area identified as early as the Paris summit in 2008. I hope in particular that the secretariat can provide its full support to the plan for a joint programme to combat forest fires, led by the French Interior Ministry, so as to organize an initial, full-scale exercise as soon as possible.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Arab Spring requires us to reconsider our conception of international relations. It leads us to develop our relations on the basis of equality, reciprocity and equilibrium.
By providing itself with a real co-presidency and a joint secretariat, the Union for the Mediterranean anticipated this evolution. By awarding the “UfM” label to the very first project – the construction of a desalination plant in Gaza –, you have shown the way.
It will be your responsibility, here at the secretariat, to give full meaning to this new way of working together between both shores of our shared sea./.