(fa fede solo il testo effettivamente pronunciato)
Dear Minister Hamadi, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentleman,
I am very pleased to attend this meeting as Co-President on behalf of Italy. I am really grateful to the Mauritanian Government for its major effort in organizing this event. I wish to reiterate Italy’s appreciation and gratitude for the excellent work of our co-chairs.
This meeting is an important opportunity to restate our common commitment to political dialogue and economic cooperation in the Western Mediterranean. I’m sure we will make, today, further and concrete progress.
Let me start with a general observation. We launched the 5+5 exercise in the Nineties to build up a “bridge” connecting Europe and the Maghreb. The central idea was – and still is – that the Mediterranean must unite, not divide, our shores. Europe as a whole must be aware that its borders stretch into the Mediterranean and its roots are firmly in Africa. This is even more true now than twenty years ago. And yet, compared to the Nineties, we also confront new geopolitical trends. First, we are confronted – at the same time – with fragile transitions in the Southern Mediterranean region and with the first long running crisis of the Eurozone. And yet the Eu must resist the temptation to use its own crisis to turn inward. This is Italy’ view. For instance, last week, at the G8 meeting in London, Italy suggested that the IMF give a quick and substantial assistance package to Egypt. This is, more in general, our position in the European debate. If we apply an exceedingly rigid logic to our economic assistance (“more for more, less for less”) we will not be able to contain social and economic challenges in the region, from which we Europeans will not be spared. Southern Europe itself risks to be part of a full circle of youth unemployment, high debt and low productivity.
The second trend we can’t escape, especially here in Nouakchott, is the spill-over to the Sahel of the instability resulting from the collapse of old authoritarian regimes in Northern Africa. Recent events in Mali are the most powerful reminder of this potential domino impact. We are very grateful to France for the initiative taken in partnership with the Malian Government and African forces. Italy supports the launchin of a UN stabilisation operation with a military and civilian component. In the meantime, we have mobilised 2,5 million Euros of our emergency funds for projects in Mali and the Sahel. The Sahelian dimension of our political dialogue is indeed becoming paramount.
Summing up my premise: this format provides a very useful “core” of euro-mediterranean players. But it must adapt to these new realities in order to preserve its full relevance.
Let me now identify some priorities in each of the main pillars of our cooperation.
First, political transition. Building up democratic governments and societies requires time. It also requires consistency on some fundamental principles, including the respect of human dignity, of minorities’ rights and religious tolerance. It is up to each country to decide how to apply these universal principles to its own reality, in accordance with the aspirations of the people. But these principles must be there. And I would add to them the respect of women and of women rights. Evidence shows that empowerment of women is a fundamental condition for economic development and democracy. Let me only mention in passing one recent initiative we undertook : the launching of the so-called “Women in Diplomacy” school for young women from the Mediterranean willing to enter public life. It has been a very successful experience, and we think this is a format which would fit very well within the 5 plus 5 exercise.
Second pillar: security. Today fundamental risks to our common future come from “void and chaos”, from the collapse of States and internal fragmentation. We need to control State borders so as to be able to break the vicious circle between trans-national criminal networks and terrorism. I already mentioned the need for an international mission in Mali. Italy also favours the launch of a European mission to help Libya control its borders. Human security is equally important. In this field the meeting of the Interior Ministries of the 5+5 is producing important results. We need to build up mobility partnerships across the Mediterranean. We equally need to fight together illegal immigration.
Third pillar: economic cooperation, with its social dimension. We, the European five, strived to increase EU funding for the Maghreb. Unfortunately, budget constrains remain very strong. And yet we will continue to make the case for it and launch new investment projects. Italy has been one of the first Countries to ratify the treaty that widens ( to the Mediterranean)the scope of action for the EBRD. We have a keen interest in launching new projects for small-and-medium sized enterprises in different fields, including energy. The new Euro-Med Center for SMEs, currently being established in Milan, is an important instrument to develop this cooperation.
Over the past years, the 5+5 dialogue has proved to be an effective tool of cooperation in many fields of common interest, including Defense, Home Affairs, Environment, Transports. We can now conceive to extend our dialogue to new fields, like education, vocational training, parliamentary cooperation and health. In general, an increase of interaction between societies themselves is key to concrete results.
We also have to ensure more coordination between the 5+5 dialogue and other initiatives. For instance, the 5+5 can play aa essential role in strengthening cooperation between the Union for the Arab Maghreb and the EU.
One final line on Syria: I am aware that there are some differences at this table and yet we all share the view that the terrible human suffering of the Syrian people, including children, must be stopped. Must be stopped now – and before spreading instability well beyond its borders. We need a political solution that marks a clear break with the past. Equally important, we must work together for preserving the unity and integrity of Syria.
Let me close by quoting the Italian Prime Minister. Last October, at the 5+5 summit of Heads of States and Governments in Malta, Mr. Monti said that common challenges are daunting: “we are asked to enhance the regional integration process, to promote a stronger political dialogue, to open the door to all relevant actors of the civil society, to turn the Mediterranean into a space of justice, democracy and economic development”.
Daunting challenges indeed. I’m confident this meeting will mark a step in that direction.
Thank you very much for your attention.