The 7th edition of the Rome MED 2021 has begun. This multilateral forum, promoted by ISPI (Italian Institute for International Political Studies) under the patronage of the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Presidency of the Council of ministers, represent an important space od debate regarding the issues and challenges regarding the Mediterranean region. This high-level forum has been based on certain crucial elements: Youth, partnership, multilateralism, transition, dialogue, resilience.
The cooperation forum panel, in partnership with Save the Children, have enlightened us on the importance to analyze the link between education, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and sustainable development in the MENA region. In particular, the importance of the education as a driver for sustainable development, socio-economic growth, political stability, and prevention of conflicts within the Mediterranean region, throughout higher education, capacity building and lifelong training for young people. In order to booster the green and sustainable technologies transition, it is essential to increase investments in human capital development, developing the skills of adolescents, young people and adults in green and technological process, and to ensure universal access to free and inclusive education. “The digital and sustainable transformation represents both an opportunity and challenge for the MENA region” said Matt Brossard, Chief of Education, Office of Research, UNICEF. Many children still have no way to access to connectivity in many countries of the region, facing a lack of digital infrastructures. More research and investments are necessary to boost an inclusive technological development.
ROMEMED – DAY 1
The panel led the debate towards the recognition of the essential relationship between migration and sustainable development. While the nations are working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, it is becoming more evident the necessity of redesign the way we address the migration issue, rethinking the positive role of the migrants in the social and economic growth of the destination countries. Furthermore, it seems necessary to draw new regular migration pathways and to strengthen a common migration governance in the Mediterranean region, rethinking and relaunching collaborative partnership with the southern shore countries. Indeed, the EU’s New Pact on Migration and Asylum seems to respond to those proposal, widening regular channels and cooperation between the two shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Common migration governance, revitalizing the partnership with southern shore countries, reskilling low qualified workers in accordance with the green and technological transition. Those are the main proposals emerged from the debate.
“Migration is part of sustainable development and development can have potential positive effects. If you look of the state of debate and policy of migration in Europe, we find a very strong focus on control of borders and climate. We are sliding back to use the climate change emergency to sliding back the discussion on migration. In Germany some said that the migration is a good contribution to the economic recovery. Who should address the migration governance? We cannot leave this to nation states, especially who are focusing on security of borders, as UK. We need to find other ways” said Marta Foresti, Executive Director, ODI Europe, London, UK, underling the key role of the local institutions. Mayors and cities should play a bigger role in the migration issue.
“Legal pathways must be sustainable and there is need to match origin and destination labor market needs. Equal pay and job condition. Regular pact with employers the strong European labor authority. To support inclusion of migrants into local communities. How we combat discrimination and xenophobia. Many things must be done to have benefits from migration” said Geertrui Lanneau,Senior Regional Labour Mobility and Human Development Specialist, IOM.
ROMEMED – DAY2
Bringing multilateralism back in: renewed ambitions for conflict resolution
The multilateralism has become fragile and is showing to be in crisis due to the fragmentation of the international community into a various galaxy of regional or bilateral conferences and initiatives, over a series of polarizing and divisive issues. This trend underlines that the international community is experiencing forms of mini multilateralism. Nevertheless, challenges such as protracted conflicts, international disputes, sectarian divides, and human rights violations, show the necessity of a renewed international cooperation, and the need of building a new approach to international governance and rules-based international cooperation.
The pandemic crisis has shown a partial revitalization of the multilateralism over the issues connected to the covid-19 impact on socio-economic international growth. Although initiative as the Astana process have proved their contribution for the solution of regional conflicts, a renewed multilateral approach seems to be still indispensable, as underlined by Staffan De Mistura, Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, United Nations, who declared that a single local mistake or non-action could produce a snowball effect at the global level.
The balance of power in the MENA region and the future of american engagement
The aftermath of the NATO mission to Afghanistan signed a crucial point of the reoriented American foreign policy in the MENA region. The US political and military commitment in the Middle East has been affected by the strategical competition with China in the Pacific scenario. Russia and China have proved to be committed in filling that vacuum, replacing the traditional US role as provider of security. Russia has been playing the role of security and stability provider on the military side, due the intense activity of the private Wagner Group deployed from Syria to Libya, to Sahel. While China has enlarged its presence through the Belt and Road Initiative, spreading connectivity and development in the MENA region. Additionally, due the global pandemic crisis, both Russia and China had the opportunity to widen their sphere of influence through the so-called “vaccine diplomacy.”
Conversation on the future of Yemen
Since the beginning of the conflict in 2015, the situation in Yemen is far to be solved. The country is still experiencing a period of turbulent political fragmentation and foreign interferences, bogged down in an apparently endless civil war. While tribes and factions are fighting each other on the ground, civilians are being killed and the country’s economy is collapsing, shifting this conflict into a humanitarian crisis. Furthermore, the engagement of regional actors as Saudi Arabia, Iran, USA, and other Gulf states, have produced destabilizing and polarizing effects across the region and beyond. In this boiling pot, the role of Houthi’s fundamentalism is crucial to understand the destabilizing forces acting in the Yemenite society, as denounced by Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, Minister Foreign and Expatriates Affairs, Yemen, who asked for an integrated approach on political, economic, and humanitarian level, inviting EU to coordinate operations with UN and US for the stabilization of the country. Monitoring the distribution of US aid on the territory and the control of airports and ports are crucial, has said Timothy Lenderking, U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen, who warned about the need of a political solution.
Clean energy for all: opportunities for cooperation in the MENA region
The Middle East and North Africa are going to be the most effected regions due the climate change related issues, from the increasing temperatures to scarcity of water and resources. Considering the most recent previsions, the effects of the climate change are going to affect the human and economic development of the region, which will need to be prepared to face the secular challenge of the clean energy transition. Energy transition opens significant opportunities for economic cooperation and partnerships in the enlarged Mediterranean area. However, it is necessary to consider that the transition could be costly for the fragile economies of the MENA region. The increasing importance of the renewables, as hydrogen and biomass, could lead to 5.5 million jobs in this sector. Subsequently the Cop26 meeting, governments and international organizations have ensured their commitment to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, implementing new forms of cooperation, major investments, involving private sector, civil society in a common strategy for the green transition. It will be costly but the cost of not changing will be higher.
Special dialogue with Riyad Al Malki
The unsolved Israel-Palestine conflict could be entitled as the father of all conflicts in the Middle East, fostering tensions and polarization through the region, which have been revitalized by the violent escalation in May 2021. Riyad Al Malki, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Palestine have been questioned on the major issues affecting the country. The Biden administration has showed continuity with the previous administration over the so-called Abraham agreements, which are contested by Palestinian Authority. “Those agreements have not been discussed with us” said Riyad Al Malki, and “We do not believe that the intentions beyond those agreements were to benefit Palestine”.
Furthermore, Riyad Al Malki showed skepticism regarding Bennett’s government, denouncing continuous annexations, and the opposition of Israel to Palestinian elections to be held in the city of Jerusalem and in the occupied territory. “If Hamas wins elections in the West Bank?” said “This is democracy. It would be the outcome of Netanyahu’s policy”.
Across the strait of Hormuz: towards a new regional cooperation architecture?
Due to its geopolitical and geo-economic relevance, the crucial stability of the Gulf requires a renewed dialogue and cooperation among regional and international actors. Recently, the diplomatic rapprochement among Gulf state, including the Al-Ula agreement, the 2021 Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership, the renewal of Saudi Arabia-Iran dialogue, have showed a first step toward the normalization. However, the endless conflict in Yemen, and the recent threat of the Iranian nuclear weapon, connected to the missing renewal of the JCPOA agreement, represent elements of destabilization in the region. The main issue preventing the Gulf from reopening to a wide form of cooperation over a common security and stability strategy, is the lack of trust over the Iranian behavior regarding the nuclear agreement, said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General, Arab League.
Eu-Sahel renewed cooperation: prospects for the stabilization of the region
In 2020 the EU promoted the Coalition for the Sahel in order to strengthen the cooperation of the G5 Sahel states and other international partners to address in a more integrated approach the major issues challenging the Sahel region. In other words, from the security level – jihadist terrorism, illicit trafficking, and human smuggling – to climate change, economic stagnation, political instability and power vacuums, scarcity of natural resources, especially water, the Sahel is facing a large series of challenges. The EU and European member states, especially Italy, have showed their commitment to achieve stability and development in a very strategic area for European interests. EU and G5 states have agreed on a mutual responsibility to achieve development. Governance, security, investments, and socio-economic development are the key words of the new EU integrated strategy for the Sahel. However, the actions of international competitors as Russia and China, the activities of nonstate actors and armed groups which achieve consensus by replacing the national authorities as provider of welfare services, they all represent disturbing factors in the EU strategy, as mentioned by Emanuela Del Re, Special Representative for Sahel, European Union. The EU engagement in the area, has said, regards projects and EU funds on health and food, administrative assistance, projects for women and young economic activities, and a deeper cooperation with NGOs.
“Military actions provided good results, but if you don’t create institutions the gain is lost. We need to reinforce the national armies, providing training, logistical support, and intelligence, in order to permit states to return and to create the condition by which NGOs and other actors can operate successfully” has said Djime Adoum, High Representative, Coalition for the Sahel.
“In the Sahel coordination is a challenge” said Francesca Di Mauro, Head, Sahel Division, European Commission. The EU is promoting projects in education and training and creation of jobs, especially youth training, in order to prevent the terrorists ‘appeal. Food, water, and access to energy are crucial for the development of the region. In addition, Governance, decentralization to strong local authorities, fight to corruption and injustice are necessary to achieve the development of the Sahel.
Special dialogue with Paolo Gentiloni
Due to the economic effects in the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the EU have suspended the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) and, in July 2020, reached a historic agreement on the Next Generation EU (NGEU). The aim of the new EU strategy, propose by the European Commission under the lead of President Ursula von der Leyen, is to revitalize the European economy and to boost the green and digital transition, by a huge number of investments directed toward the new technologies and sustainable energy. Private and public investment are estimated at nearly EUR 650 billion per year until 2030, which the 80% will be directly connected to the green transition.
Recently the EU has been affected by high inflation rates and high prices of natural gas, which increased from €20/mc in April to €90/mc. In addition, on the geopolitical level, the European strategic autonomy process has been afflicted by divisions among the member states, on the East-West route, over the conditionality based on the rule of law, and overwhelmed by external pressures regarding its eastern and southern borders.
Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy, European Commission, has been interviewed over the main topics concerning the EU policy.
With the twilight of the Merkel age, the new German government has presented a new political program which has been considered as a positive signal over the fiscal policy. However, it does not mean that there is a deal over a future fiscal compact, but there is common awareness on the need of private and public investments, has said Paolo Gentiloni. The pandemic still represents the major destabilizing factor for the EU economy, which demonstrated resilient anyway. The cut of natural gas supply from Russia (-25%), as geopolitical weapon, demonstrated the need to continue to invest on renewables, and the EU is committed to mitigate the negative effects on households, has said. The supply of natural gas is conditioned by geopolitical interests, but EU stands firmly by Ukraine ‘side and supports the member states facing the activities of Belarus. In addition, the EU remains engaged in the southern neighborhood, by exporting over 1.4 billion doses, largely directed to North Africa and Balkans.
Libya at the crossroads. What europe and the international community can do
Libya continues to experience a wide political fragility, despite the progress made since the October 2020 ceasefire agreement, and the preparations for the first political elections since the end of the armed conflict, to be held on December 24th. Considering the strong engagement of external actors as Russia and Turkey, which still pursue their national interests, the risk of a new polarization and renewed conflict. In this scenario, the EU needs to deepen its commitment in the stabilization process of the country, through an integrated institution-building strategy. The US disengagement from Libya will urge a more consistent role of the EU in the central Mediterranean area, which will represent the strategic keystone of the European security and stability policy.
Special dialogue with josep borrell
In order to achieve a major role as a Global geopolitical actor, the EU have launched its Global Strategy, pursuing its program to obtain the so-called “strategic autonomy”, by which expand its influence in the main MENA region and beyond. The necessity to achieve a common defense and security strategy needs to face the resistance of national states to transfer sovereignty. Whereas strengthening the EU common defense creates the question of the necessary interpenetration with the NATO defense structure. However, the EU common defense strategy, as summoned by the “Strategic Compass” program, lays on four essential areas: crisis management missions, resilience, capabilities and instruments, and partnerships.
Considering the words of Pope Francis during his visit in Greece and Cyprus, the migration issue represents the most divisive challenge that EU institutions and states are called to address. Indeed, the necessity of a common policy over the migration challenge faced the resistance of national states. The EU needs an integrated governance of regular pathways for migrants. “Due to its demographic winter, Europe needs migrants” has said Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, European Union, and “migration has to be regulated and we need a common approach to solve the issue”.
Concerning the negotiations for the JCPOA agreements held in Wien, Josep Borrell has expressed his positive feeling toward a solution of the issue, that provisionally is expected to be achieved during this week. “Let’s take parties at the table of negotiations taking apart the question of uranium enrichment from Iranian side” Borrell said.
The Libyan situation shows the necessity of a wider cooperation to establish legitimacy and to individuate a legitimate interlocutor in the country. Indeed, despite the continuous divisions between east and west, elections are necessary, he confirmed.
Concerning the EU strategy in Africa, Josep Borrell has confirmed the European commitment into the political, financial, technological development of the continent, through an integrated strategy involving private and public actors and investments. In addition, regarding the strategic competition with China over the development projects, the European projects represent a sustainable alternative of development.
Foto copertina: RomeMed2021