Ghazi Ben Ahmed – Founder, President and BAC-NA Plateform coordinator

The crisis that began with the Arab unrest resulted in a near universal failure to implement the long-term structural reforms required to transform rent-seeking and state-dominated economies into modern ones that embrace both digital and ecological transformation and recognize the salutary impact of competition and private enterprise. There has been much talk about structural reforms but rather limited cohesive commitment to action, as the need to confront short-term problems over long-term problems prevailed.

Today, there is an urgent need for the Mediterranean Region to strengthen its resilience to shocks and accelerate its economic recovery while making growth more inclusive. Policy priorities include accelerating structural reforms to ensure macroeconomic stability, improve governance and business environment, boost competitiveness to attract private investment.

We strongly believe that the EuroMed countries needs a new blueprint to build resilience and bring hope and prosperity to the Region. The COVID19 pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset the EuroMed agreements and for countries in the region to rethink supply chain and strengthen trade and regional integration in order to balance efficiency with resilience. Trade and integration within the EuroMed region and with Africa can provide an opportunity to enhance regional trade relations by establishing safe, green and resilient regional supply chains of essential, and non-essential goods and services in the post-COVID era, and unleash forces for Mediterranean dynamism and position the Med/Africa region as a global player.

Our role as a Euro Mediterranean think tank is to prepare the ground for Southern Mediterranean Neighbors (SMNs) to resume (or start) negotiations with the EU, aiming at “building the Region they want to live in: A Euro Mediterranean Union of vitality in a world of fragility”. A shrewd agreement encompassing a new contract/project and focusing on hubs in sub-regions and variable geometry, could promote economic modernization and growth, to strengthen and stabilize the region. We are putting special emphasis on culture across the Mediterranean region as a tool for a vibrant Mediterranean civil society that can aspire and give a strong impetus for change.

The linchpin of a renewed Euro-Mediterranean Partnership is a long-term vision which is absolutely necessary to make the notion of partnership credible, to give the necessary incentives to SMNs to carry out a consistent set of reforms and ensure that these reforms are underpinned by the strong approbation of the broader citizenry, especially the youth, and to ease political resistance in order to secure the cooperation of SDNs on border control and management, readmission of their nationals who are irregularly present in the EU, and on reception of third country nationals (TCNs) who transited to Europe through their territories.

We are living a Euro-Mediterranean moment. Faced with an extremely challenging near-term outlook shaped by sharply higher food, fertilizer, and energy prices, rising interest rates and credit spreads, currency depreciation, and climate crisis, the best response is Euro-Mediterranean. This severe outlook has hit the Region at a time when many countries are already struggling with governance and rule of law, debt sustainability, climate adaptation and mitigation, and limited fiscal budgets to counteract the critical reversals in development from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The role of the MDI will finally be a moment of projection. The urgency of the moment but also the sense of the future have sharpened the need for the EuroMed Region to lead the twin green and digital transitions and revigorated the EuroMed partnerships for more prosperity and resilience. This creates an unparalleled opportunity to move out of the fragility of the crisis by creating a new vitality for a sustainable EuroMed Region.