Euro-Mediterranean integration: The role of regional and local authorities

by Francesco Valezano, Ph.D. candidate international relations university, External Collaborator at REVOLVE

Opinion 10 February 2020

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In the year marking the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration, the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) also chose to celebrate its 10th anniversary in Barcelona on 23 January 2020.

Supported by the institutional framework of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR), ARLEM is a regional cooperation experience focusing on proximity to citizens, efficiency in project management and response to real-life problems. Over 100 representatives of local and regional authorities from the three shores of the Mediterranean gathered in Barcelona to reinvigorate the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership in order to find commons responses to the effects of climate change. 

The Mayor of Barcelona, ​​Ada Colau, reminded the representatives that climate change and the fight for equalities are the priorities for the shores of the Mediterranean. She called on representatives to strengthen and support “a multilevel governance scheme to respond to the immediate regional challenges.”. She also invited cities to promote shared strategies because “the new challenges of the Mediterranean are assuming an increasingly urban dimension.”

According to the report of the MedECC Network on Climate and Environmental Change in the Mediterranean by over 80 experts and scientists, the Mediterranean region warms 20% faster than the global average. Ada Colau stressed the importance of giving priority to collaboration between cities and towns to offer real opportunities to younger generations and integrate sustainability, gender and social equity, and intergenerational development into all forms of politics. 

The Mediterranean region warms 20% faster than the global average.

Accompanied by Mohamed Boudra, Mayor of Al-Hoceima, co-president of ARLEM and president of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) – the largest municipality movement in the world, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and co-president of ARLEM, said: 

“The European Union has reaffirmed its climate leadership by proposing the Green New Deal as a path towards climate neutrality. Climate change knows no borders, which is why we must also work closely with our neighbor partners so we all accelerate our efforts to adapt and build resilience.” 

The Plenary Assembly approved and adopted two reports: the Blue Economy report aims to help curb the consequences of climate change around the Mediterranean. Presented by Vincenzo Bianco, member of the Catania City Council, the report gives alarming data about the climate emergency and environmental crises around the Mediterranean.

Thirty thousand plastic bottles end up in the Mediterranean waters every single minute, while temperatures in the area are expected to rise by 2.2 degrees by 2040. The region should share a supranational governance system that could indicate common actions to combat climate change, it is also essential to adopt common and measurable standards and sustainable objectives for the environment, economy, and society. Countries of the basin should adopt a ban on oil and natural gas exploration and extraction by 2030. Mediterranean energy policy proves to be a fertile geopolitical battleground with tremendous potential for renewables.

30,000 plastic bottles end up in the Mediterranean waters every single minute.

The Assembly also adopted Euro-Mediterranean integration: The role of regional and local authorities presented by Jihad Khair, Mayor of Beit Sahour, Palestine, and saw the appointment of Musa Hadid, Mayor of Ramallah and Chair of the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities, as co-chairman of ARLEM representing non-EU members. Jihad Khair said that: 

“local and regional authorities have demonstrated to be pivotal in boosting regional integration in the Mediterranean and we must continue our efforts in the same direction. Our common framework for action is the United Nations 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals.”

The report highlighted the importance of cooperation between cities and local authorities in fighting unemployment, poverty and reducing migration, promoting projects for job creation and strengthening local development in disadvantaged areas. The document also recommends improvements to broaden knowledge and understanding of climate-related challenges for greater adaptation and resilience.

Ten years after the foundation of ARLEM, the participants in the Plenary Assembly stressed the need to go beyond the traditional existing diplomatic relations, by launching concrete programs of cooperation on issues such as immigration, climate change, urban development, and cultural exchanges.

On the one hand, ARLEM aspires to give this partnership a more defined territorial dimension. On the other hand, the initiative aims to associate regional and local authorities more closely with concrete UfM projects. The Barcelona Declaration, adopted by the Euro-Mediterranean Conference in November 1995, was clear in this regard: “municipal and regional authorities must be closely involved in the functioning of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Representatives of cities and regions will be invited to meet each year to take stock of common challenges and share their experiences.”

In 2020, the Mediterranean has a higher degree of fragmentation and conflict than in the mid-1990s. Twenty-five years after the launch of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, the Mediterranean is still far from being an area of ​​shared peace, stability and prosperity. In this regard, the European Committee of the Regions has established a close political relationship with Libyan cities since 2015. This regional cooperation strategy could be a response to the political instability and insecurity that has eroded municipal services and isolated Libyan cities since 2011. This bottom-up process is the best example of how local and regional authorities can assume an active role in shaping a peaceful and sustainable region. Only through governance strategies such as city diplomacy and decentralized cooperation, the Mediterranean region will be able to find sustainable responses to the migration crisis, festering wars and climate change.


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