Cross border cooperation and the new European challenges for the Mediterranean Basin

The European Union policy includes Cross border cooperation as its basic element to develop or strengthen relationships among the EU member States and its neighbourhood. To enhance this concept, the EU started cross border cooperation actions launching the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2004, during which lots of benefits were brought out and the concept of democratisation had been supported.

With the ENPI (European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument) CBC 2007 – 2013 programme, the European countries continued to focus on the  political, economic and social aspects through several joint operations. After this successful period, in October 2014, the European Union inaugurated a new cross border cooperation programme,  ENI, that replaced the ENPI programme and will last until 2020. The acronym ENI stands for European Neighbourhood Instrument. The UE is supporting the program through 15.4 € billion. Considering the past experiences, The ENI programme involves 16 countries, including Eastern States (ENI East) and Southern ones (ENI South), and it aims to create “an area of shared prosperity and good neighbourliness between EU Member States and their neighbours.” The main objectives of this multilateral programme are economic and social development promotion in all the cooperating countries and the planning of joint solution for common challenges in the field of public health and of the fight against crime and its prevention. The ENI CBC MED is a section of the ENI programme and it is centred on the Mediterranean Basin. The Countries involved in the programme are: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia. The program also included Syria but, as the current political situation is not safe, its participation to the program has been suspended. The UE will support the ENI CBC MED for over €209 million. The programme defines two main goals that are economic and social development promotion and the definition of common challenges in the environmental framework. These two main goals could be explained through four thematic objectives:

  • Business and SME (small and medium sizes enterprises) development by the strengthen of competitiveness and productivity, by the promotion of the youth an women start –up enterprises and by new strategies for valorisation of the tourism.

  • Education, research, technological development and innovation, by promoting the benefits of research results and by the optimisation of the investment funds.

  • Promotion of social inclusion and poverty fight by the creation of equal conditions in the different societies and by creating projects focused on integration enhancing through the creation of civil society networks and the promotion of the intercultural dialogue.

  • Environmental protection, climate change adaptation and mitigation by the optimisation of precious resources as water  and by the application of innovative and low cost technologies.

The programme addresses several actors both from the public sector and from the private one such as institutions, civil society organisations, trade and labour unions, NGOs, agencies, and so on. The Cross border cooperation acts on two levels: the first one consists on finding the best way to realize efficient partnership policies, while the second one translates policies in projects in order to benefit citizens. This Cross border cooperation plan is based on different principles, first of all democracy, defined as the respect of fundamental freedoms and human rights, the respect of workers and immigrants, the non-discrimination of race, religion, sex, ethnic and language belonging. The ENI MED strategy takes into account the socio-economic and environmental state framework and the coherence with other Programmes implemented in the same area by the EU and other actors. Throughout the programme, the Managing Authority (MA) will ensure the coherence among the ENI programme development and the local, regional or national strategies acting in the Interested Countries. The eligibility of the Countries to the project is defined by different conditions (environmental, political, social, economic) that is why there are Countries that will take part to the project just in part (ex. Morocco: Oriental, Taza, Al Hoceima, Taounate, Tanger, Tetouan) and others  that are eligible in all their parts (ex. Israel). The ENI programme will involve both the programmes referred the whole partnership  area and those which are centred on restricted parts of the interested Countries. There are Countries that will act though a multi-sectorial approach while others will  focus on just one field of intervention.  Considering the past experiences  and the different political situations of the Mediterranean basin countries after the Arab Spring, the intercultural dialogue approach could be considered the strategic theme of the potential projects especially in those Countries where the political situation is not stable. For this reason, the Council of Europe (CoE) has launched the “South Programme 2” that aims to realise democratic reforms in the South Programme Countries in order to promote democratic values, to protect human rights and to promote the principle of good governance. The South Programme 2 will take into account the specific needs of each single southern country. Another important challenge supported by the Cross border cooperation is the immigration policies and the fight against criminal trafficking networks. This phenomenon has spread during the last years and it is focused in  a 10– point plan  adopted the last 20 April by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). As the Mediterranean area is reach of art, history and culture, tourism could be considered one of the key aspects of CBC in order to create job opportunities (youth and women start –up, youth mobility), new forms of heritage and territory valorisation and a mean to increase the economy. Some of the partner countries have already inaugurate the “cooperation season,” launching projects such as “Marittimo,” a partnership plan between Italy (Liguria, Sardinia, Massa Carrara, Lucca, Pisa, Livorno and Grosseto provinces) and France. The programme that lasts until 2020 is aboutenhancing the sustainability of roustabout activities and the preservation of natural resources.  Another example is provided by the Tunisian “FETRIC” project that promotes research and  innovation improvement. Through the innovation, this project aims to solve important problems, such as hydric scarcity in Tunisia. The main partner of the project are the Tunisian Minister  of  Educational and Research, the Europe For Business ltd (Gb), the Innova BIC s.r.l. from Italy, the International Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of German, the European Business and Innovation Centre Network from Belgium, the Euro-Mediterranéen Forum pour l’Innovation en Action of France, and the Agence Nationale de Promotion de la Recherche Scientifique Of Tunisia. The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) has inaugurated its programme to support women’s empowerment and gender equality. The programme has already started for Moroccan and Jordan women and in its second phase also women from Albania, Egypt, Palestine, Spain and Tunisia will be involved. These are just few examples of the networks created by partnership activities.

The ENPI CBC 2007 – 2013 involved, Egypt,  Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Palestine, Tunisia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Israel. The themes promoted by the Joint Monitoring Committee (JOP) in the first part of the program are: agro-food industry, sustainable tourism, integrated coastal zone management, water management, waste treatment and recycling, solar energy. This phase, characterised by more than 300 proposal, saw the realisation of 19 project. focused on the promotion of new types of tourism, innovative water management in the urban context, solar energy exploitation, waste treatment and recycling, agro – food industry and so on. The second part of the project registered an increasing participation demonstrated by 1095 proposals. The 39 projects selected for funding focused on the Greco – Roman heritage valorisation and conservation, optimisation of port logistic, support to job creation and promotion of youth mobility. Different examples such as the “EuroMed Youth Program IV” in Jordan, the “ Young Arab voices” in Tunisia or “Yalla Shabab” in Palestine”, have shown the importance of civil society participation to ensure positive outcomes. The ENPI CBC program success has been shown also by the strong participation of organisations and institutions. These results demonstrate how cross border cooperation programs can really be a powerful instrument for disadvantages countries and to strengthen the relationships among the Mediterranean countries. Once again, with the ENI MED programme, the JOP aims to create an economic network in the Mediterranean Basin to create job opportunities, to include the civil society and to respect the Mediterranean environment. Raffaella Iodice,  the head of Europeaid unit at the European Commission, highlighted in one interview the importance of civil society for cross border cooperation success declaring that “by strengtheningpeople’s capacity we can help them become actors of development, leaders of change, owners of their future”. The protagonists of the last cross border partnership experience operated respecting human rights, putting emphasis on the rule of law and on the importance of democracy. The last programme run during the Arab Spring and in that context spread values of good governance, security and intercultural dialogue. Considering that there are not equal conditions for all the participants countries, the biggest challenge of this new phase of CBC is the reduction of the  differences among the Southern countries by creating a mosaic of successful experiences for Mediterranean development.

Lucia Vasta

Master’s Degree in Languages and Economic and Legal Institutions of Asia and North Africa (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice)

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