UfM – In light of the changes in the Mediterranean Region with the Arab Spring, do you foresee any implications on the Union for the Mediterranean?
Christian Berger – Regional challenges call for regional answers. The Arab Spring has highlighted the political, economic and social challenges that can only be dealt with effectively at regional level. Resolving political crises such as that in Syria, or addressing security issues such as the proliferation of weapons and terrorism can only be done through regional partners acting together. The pressing challenge of creating millions of jobs for youth in the South requires increased economic integration among Southern partners and with the EU. The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) has a special role to play as a unique forum of dialogue among 43 Euro-med partners that complements the bilateral relations between the EU and its Southern neighbours. The regional projects of strategic importance identified at the Paris Summit are more relevant than ever, notably the Mediterranean Solar Plan, the de-pollution of the Mediterranean, the development of Motorways of the Sea and land highways, and the Mediterranean Business Development Initiative.
UfM – Recently, the EU Institutions have assumed the Northern Co-Presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean. What does this imply and how will the EU Institutions give a new impulse to the Union for the Mediterranean?
Christian Berger – The Decision of the EU Council to entrust the Northern Co-Presidency to EU institutions demonstrates our commitment to give a new dynamic to the Union for the Mediterranean. The EU Co-presidency will ensure that there is optimal complementarity between the EU policies and activities both at a bilateral and regional level with those of the Union of the Mediterranean. We intend to give a new impetus to the many sectorial working groups that have continued to work on Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, backed up by EU regional projects, in articulation with the work of the UfM Secretariat, and organise Sectorial Ministerial meetings to give strategic guidance to such cooperation.
UfM – How do you perceive the role of the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean in this new context?
Christian Berger – The UfM Secretariat in Barcelona has a key role as a catalyst for the promotion of key projects to bring states, the EIB, International Financial Institutions and the private sector together around strategic economic projects aiming at the creation of jobs, innovation and growth. Its work will show to the people of the region that regional cooperation can bring tangible and visible benefits in terms of jobs and improved living conditions on transport, energy, and environment. It is paramount for the credibility of the regional cooperation in the new context of the Arab awakening and we will provide full support to the new Secretary General and his team in this ambition.