UfM Chief: Euro-Med Cooperation Is a Necessity, Not Luxury
Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Secretary-General Nasser Kamel confirmed that Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, today more than ever, has become a pressing need, not a luxury.
Speaking about efforts undertaken by the union in 2008, Kamel said they faced many hurdles due to global economic and geopolitical crises, but have seen notable improvement.
“The last three to four years have seen overall relative recovery. First, a number of countries have stabilized and returned to growth. Egypt is a model in this regard, as are Morocco and Jordan,” Kamel said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Today, even Tunisia is stabilizing. Of course, countries such as Libya and Syria still need time, but the geo-strategic situation in general is much better now than in previous years,” he added.
Progress was achieved, according to Kamel, as a result of a strong political will harbored by member states.
The UfM is an intergovernmental organization of 43 member states from Europe and the Mediterranean Basin: 28 EU member states and 15 Mediterranean partner countries from North Africa, Western Asia and Southern Europe.
In the Egyptian capital this week, the UfM organized the first trade forum. The event witnessed the participation of more than 150 representatives of governments, stakeholders, business communities, think tanks and trade interlocutors. Attendees work in regional and international organizations.
On the forum’s sidelines, Kamel told an Asharq Al-Awsat correspondent that the UfM finds a positive model for regional integration in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
He also underscored the GCC’s resilience against nearby cluster economies and fierce trade wars. Addressing rising populism in a number of European countries, Kamel said it will not affect the union’s work.
“The UfM’s success or decline can act as a thermometer of the regional situation,” Kamel said on the union’s importance.
According to Kamel, the UfM initially suffered because Europe was experiencing an unprecedented financial crunch, especially in South Africa and the world—meanwhile, the Arab world was in a state of extraordinary liquidity. And then geopolitical challenges emerged with Arab Spring protests sweeping the region.
“Therefore, Euro-Mediterranean cooperation faced great challenges,” he said.
“For different reasons, there was no stability in the north or south … each party suffered its own share of acute crises that ranged from mass waves of immigration to armed conflicts, and so forth.”
Speaking on progress in the UfM workframe, Kamel stressed that “Euro-Mediterranean cooperation is not a luxury, and that it is based on an objective rooted in geographic, historic and political realities.”
“Integration between Europe and the southern Mediterranean is geo-strategic. We are separated by a lake, not a sea, but joined by a shared history (with its negative and positive aspects) and brought together in a world governed by the logic of blocs,” Kamel said, arguing that this gives the UfM indispensable value.