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Joint Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Renewed Partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood: a New Agenda for the Mediterranean

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Brussels, 9.2.2021
JOIN(2021) 2 final

{SWD(2021) 23 final}

Introduction

Twenty-five years ago the European Union and the Southern Mediterranean partners committed to turning the Mediterranean basin into an area of dialogue, exchange and cooperation, guaranteeing peace, stability and prosperity. The 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration reminds us that a strengthened Mediterranean partnership remains a strategic imperative for the European Union, as the challenges the region continues to face require a common response, especially ten years after the Arab Spring. By acting together, recognising our growing interdependence, and in a spirit of partnership, we will turn common challenges into opportunities, in our mutual interest.

To this end and within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy this Joint Communication proposes a new, ambitious and innovative Agenda for the Mediterranean, drawing for the first time on the full EU toolbox and the ground-breaking opportunities of the twin green and digital transitions, in order to relaunch our cooperation and realise the untapped potential of our shared region. The perspective of the post-COVID-19 recovery offers a rare opportunity for Europe and the Mediterranean region to commit to a common and people-centred agenda and the actions necessary for its implementation.

The Southern Mediterranean region is facing governance, socio-economic, climate, environmental and security challenges, many of which result from global trends and call for joint action by the EU and Southern Neighbourhood partners. Protracted conflicts continue to inflict terrible human suffering, trigger significant forced displacement, weigh heavily on the economic and social prospects of entire societies, especially for countries hosting large refugee populations, and intensify geopolitical competition and outside interference. Too many people risk their lives by attempting to enter the EU irregularly, fuelling a smuggling industry that is ruthless, criminal and destabilising to local communities. The threats of terrorism, organised crime and corruption continue to feed instability and stifle prosperity. Economic growth in the Southern Neighbourhood has not kept pace with demographic growth. The region has one of the lowest levels of regional economic integration in the world. Unsustainable use of natural resources and climate change jeopardise access to water, food, and energy, accelerate desertification and loss of biodiversity, and threaten lives and livelihoods. Significant economic and gender inequalities persist, and governments struggle to meet the aspirations of today’s youth.

The urgency of addressing these challenges is further reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has illustrated starkly shared vulnerabilities and our mutual interdependence. The new Agenda for the Mediterranean incorporates new areas and forms of cooperation identified during the crisis. The new Agenda for the Mediterranean offers opportunities for new partnerships on strategic priorities of green and digital transition and is based on the conviction that sustainable prosperity and resilience can only be built in strong partnership across the Mediterranean. Our partnership will be based on common values and dialogue, and progress on our shared socio-economic and political agenda, including on reforms in areas such as governance and the rule of law, and macroeconomic stability and the business environment. The new Agenda aims for a green, digital, resilient and just recovery, guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal.

This Communication sets out the objective for the years to come to build fairer and more prosperous and inclusive societies for the benefit of people, especially youth.

To seize this momentum, the Joint Communication proposes the following key directions for our partnership:

- An “Economic and Investment Plan for the Southern Neighbours” will help spur long-term socio-economic recovery, foster sustainable development, address the region’s structural imbalances, and tap into the region’s economic potential. The plan includes concrete flagship initiatives in priority sectors. It aims to increase the region’s attractiveness towards investors. We will seek strategic engagement with international financial institutions (IFIs), in particular the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, as well as banks from the region and the private sector. A renewed commitment to implement and support inclusive socio-economic reforms, especially of the business environment, sustainable economic growth and stability-oriented macroeconomic policies underpinned by a long-term strategy, is essential for these initiatives to succeed.

The Economic and Investment Plan is indicative and non-exhaustive and may evolve depending on progress on policy and political issues and in bilateral relations between partner countries. In the period 2021-2027, subject to the entry into force of the relevant legal bases under the next Multi-annual Financial Framework and without prejudging the outcome of the programming process, the Commission proposes to mobilise up to EUR 7 billion under the Neighbourhood and Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). This support includes provisioning for EFSD+ guarantees and blending under the Neighbourhood Investment Platform, which would help mobilise private and public investments of up to EUR 30 billion in the Southern Neighbourhood.

- Joining forces to fight climate change, decrease harmful emissions, use resources sustainably and speed up the green transition. We need to prepare for long-term scenarios where new forms of low-carbon energy gradually replace fossil fuels. For this purpose, the Commission will propose to partner countries comprehensive initiatives promoting climate neutral, low carbon and renewable energy, building on key elements of the European Green Deal such as the Hydrogen Strategy. Fostering investments, in energy efficiency, renewable energy and a new focus on clean hydrogen production, including through adequate regulatory and financial incentives, and the regional integration of electricity markets and networks will be priorities. This will contribute to preserving our Mediterranean common goods to the benefit of all. We will also help our partners increase their resilience to climate change by reinforcing our action on adaptation in particular in key vulnerable sectors such as agriculture and water.

- A renewed commitment to the rule of law, human and fundamental rights, equality, democracy and good governance as the bedrock for stable fair, inclusive and prosperous societies, with respect for diversity and tolerance. Respect for human rights, including social and labour rights, gender equality and rights of the child, builds citizen’s trust. The rule of law and strong institutions that protect rights and fight inequalities, serve human and economic development by contributing to a safe and predictable business environment, help attract foreign direct investment, increase economic resilience and combat poverty and inequalities. Democratic governance and the systems of a responsive state, accountable institutions and the fight against corruption further underpin this commitment. Combatting manifestations of intolerance, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of xenophobia as well as protecting minorities must remain a shared priority across the region. Special attention will be given to the promotion of the role of women in society and the economy.

- Jointly addressing the challenges of forced displacement and irregular migration and seizing the benefits of legal migration efficiently and effectively, through comprehensive tailor-made and mutually beneficial partnerships, protecting migrants and refugees’ rights, in line with the European New Pact on migration and asylum. This is crucial for Europe and the Southern Mediterranean, where migration flows are affecting both hosting societies and transit countries. The increased opportunities and jobs that will be generated by the Economic and Investment Plan, especially for women and young people, will contribute to reducing factors that lead to irregular migration. Acting together as partners is key.

- A renewed commitment to unity and solidarity between EU Member States, as well as a mutual and shared commitment and joint actions with partners in the Southern Neighbourhood, is a precondition for the effective implementation of the Agenda for the Mediterranean. This holds true for efforts to resolve conflicts and address shared security concerns, as well as for economic and sectoral cooperation. The full engagement of EU Member States is especially important. Their diplomatic networks, long-standing security and development cooperation, and their capacity to mobilise the private sector, will be indispensable in reaching the ambitious objectives set out in this Communication. To build such a unified effort, we propose to strengthen significantly the political and policy dialogue across the Mediterranean. Efforts will continue to enhance regional cooperation, with the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) as a focal point, and support sub-regional and inter-regional cooperation, notably with African partners. The EU will also be ready to explore further regional, sub-regional or trilateral cooperation and joint initiatives between partner countries across the board, including in light of the recent normalisation of relations between Israel and a number of Arab countries.

The renewed partnership for the Mediterranean and the accompanying Economic and Investment Plan will allow the EU and its Southern Neighbourhood partners to address the many challenges facing our joint region today.

The new Agenda for the Mediterranean proposes a range of actions along the following key policy areas:

1) Human development, good governance and the rule of law
2) Strengthen resilience, build prosperity and seize the digital transition
3) Peace and security
4) Migration and mobility
5) Green transition: climate resilience, energy, and environment