Many different shocks affected our region during these 25 years, from political and military clashes to economic and health crises – not to mention climate change. Nevertheless, the reasons bringing together our Leaders at the time remain valid today.
Europe starts in the Mediterranean. This Region holds Europe’s origins, as well as a large part of its future. A modern, forward-looking Europe cannot ignore its immediate Southern Neighbourhood, if it wants to avoid losing its roots, missing huge opportunities and taking serious risks.
The Barcelona Process, and the Union for the Mediterranean, have been instrumental in maintaining a perspective of dialogue and cooperation through – and notwithstanding – the many crises. For many participants, the Mediterranean remains the common horizon of all the Countries of this basin.
This is certainly so as far as Italy is concerned. We are genuinely convinced that the Mediterranean is – and must remain – at the centre of the future for Europe. The European Union must realise that what it calls its Southern Neighbourhood is indeed deeply intertwined with its own identity, economy, security and society.
The COVID-19 pandemic put all our States in front of an unprecedented reality. We need to rebuild our economy and our society – and we need to use this occasion in order to rebuild them in a better way. A stronger cooperation within the Mediterranean basin is a prerequisite to this aim.
Italy supports the European response to the continuing evolution of the pandemics in the EU Neighbourhood and the concrete help it is providing, for instance through the “Team Europe” initiative. It is indeed essential to keep paying attention to those countries, such as in the Middle East and North Africa, where health systems are most fragile and where emergencies are more difficult to confront. However, providing adequate financial support is not sufficient. We also need a strategic vision for the relationship between the EU and its Southern Neighbourhood. A revamped European Neighbourhood Policy, built as an integral part of the overall EU action, will prove essential in the face of potential, new dangers of regional destabilization. It will also be instrumental in tackling the root causes of migration, while at the same time reaping all the benefits that a constructive cooperation with our neighbours can provide.
The past 25 years certainly brought us a clear perception of our interdependence. As a matter of fact, our internal policies, both national and European, are not stand-alone. Only by properly involving the whole of the Mediterranean, we will have the possibility of proceeding towards our most important goals, such as the Green Deal
In this framework, appropriate resources will have to be made available for the development of interlinkages through projects benefiting both shores and reinforcing a sense of belonging to a common Mediterranean identity based on mutual respect, joint development and win-win solutions.
We have a lot of work in front of us. In order to succeed, we need to pool together our capabilities, and define common goals in front of shared priorities, such as climate change, women empowerment and sustainable job creation in the Mediterranean – just to mention three fields where the Union for the Mediterranean can certainly have an impact.
A Mediterranean affected by desertification, water scarcity, climate change, food insecurity, and now acutely aware of risks coming from diseases, needs to develop more synergies based on knowledge, skills, research and innovation. Scientific and Climate diplomacy can bring the two shores of the Mediterranean closer by fostering circular economy solutions and digitalisation, innovating our economies and creating new answers to old and new problems.
The Barcelona process launched a vision of common prosperity. We need to bring it forward. Paving the way for the next 25 years, Italy will do its utmost to stay true to such a vision, adapting its flexible paradigm to the new realities and supporting sustainable development in our shared Mediterranean Sea.