Achievements and new challenges of the ENPI/ENI CBC Med Programme were discussed on December 12th during the NextMed Conference. The event, sponsored by the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, saw a massive participation of over 500 people from the whole Mediterranean area. Enhanced cooperation among countries of the region under the new European Neighbourhood Instrument was highlighted as a contribution to a more integrated Mediterranean region, from the economic, political, social, and cultural points of view.
"Since 2007, the ENPI CBC Med represents a valuable platform for cooperation among public administrations, local institutions, universities, civil society, and the private sector", said Francesco Pigliaru, the President of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia which hosts the Joint Managing Authority of the Programme, while opening the NextMed Conference. Mr. Pigliaru described the results of the Programme as a positive contribution to "issues of uttermost importance for the cooperation area, such as SMEs development, management of fragile environmental resources, support to the professionalization of young people and enhancement of our rich cultural heritage". Mr. Pigliaru hailed the European institutions and governments to pay more attention to the Mediterranean area expressing concerns over the weight of Euro-Mediterranean relations in the overall external policy of the EU.
The first session of the conference was devoted to "New challenges for Mediterranean cooperation", which were debated by representatives of both shores of the Basin, including Benedetto Della Vedova, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Italy; Ian Borg, Parliamentary Secretary for the EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds of Malta; Fathallah Sijilmassi, Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean; Gabriel Busquets, Spanish Ambassador at large for the Mediterranean; Nehad Abdel Latif, Ambassador, Former Assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt; and Renato Soru, member of the European Parliament. The speakers took stock of the encouraging results of the Programme in order to further advance on the many common challenges in the Mediterranean region that require concerted action. Benedetto della Vedova stressed the "importance of the Programme for the Italian government" and Ian Borg emphasized the "need of building bridges between Mediterranean cultures and countries, so to work hand-in-hand to enhance full cooperation and mutual understanding". Gabriel Busquets stated that the "local ownership of projects is the main ingredient" to strengthen the impact of the new Programme. Fathallah Sijilmassi remarked that "the current socio-economic challenges in the region require us to take action and work together. It is of utmost importance to respond to unemployment, namely by fostering growth in the private sector, investing in human resources, promoting inclusive societies and encouraging a sustainable use of natural resources". Ambassador Nehad Abdel Latif insisted on the "special nature of the Programme which goes beyond partnership: co-ownership is the true driver of the Programme and allows all partners to work together at the same level". Finally, Renato Soru maintained that "the Mediterranean should be put at the heart of the political debate in Europe".
The second session focused on the strategy of the ENI CBC Med Programme for 2014-2020. Moderated by Bodil Persson, Head of Sector 'Cross-Border Cooperation', Directorate-General Development and Cooperation of the European Commission, the discussions offered an overview of the four thematic objectives and eleven priorities tackled by the new Programme. Anna Strzaska, Head of Sector at the European External Action Service, recalled the main objectives of the European Neighbourhood Instrument. She asserted that the Mediterranean remains a "top priority" for the European institutions. Anna Catte, Director of the Joint Managing Authority, depicted the new ENI CBC Med Programme as "more flexible and more thematically focused", highlighting that the strategy stemmed from a context analysis of the cooperation area as well as numerous consultations with stakeholders. Besides describing the four thematic objectives, Ms. Catte also elaborated on the transversal issues, namely people-to-people cooperation and institutional capacity building, which should be considered when designing any future project. Anna Catte concluded stressing the importance of complementarities and coherence with other relevant strategies and initiatives in the Mediterranean area. The four thematic objectives were then introduced by members of the Joint Programming Committee, the body in charge of drafting the new 2014-2020 Programme. Ms. Constantia Constantinou (Cyprus), Ms. Moufida Jaballah Srarfi (Tunisia), Ambassador Marwan Badr (Egypt) and Mr. Marcos Alonso Alonso (Spain) illustrated the eleven priorities designed under the following four thematic objectives: Business and SMEs development; Education, research, technological development and innovation; Social inclusion and fight against poverty; Environmental protection, climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Large attention was paid to projects during the NextMed Conference. An exhibition, together with a set of four thematic brochures under the title "Mediterranean Stories", offered a unique journey through the 95 projects funded by the Programme in the following fields of intervention: Economic growth and territorial development, Environmental sustainability; Cultural heritage and Sustainable tourism; Human capital. Based on the enthusiastic feedback from visitors, the Joint Managing Authority will seek to show the exhibition in other places throughout 2015. Two parallel sessions focusing on "Socio-economic development" and "Environmental sustainability" gave the floor to the actors behind the projects. The most significant achievements of eighteen projects were discussed with the audience during interactive workshops. The main outcomes of the two workshops were then presented by Dr. Alaa Ezz, Secretary General of the Confederation of Egyptian European Business Associations, and Ms. Diana Kobayter, Project Manager at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, who both insisted on transferring the good practices developed by projects to concerned stakeholders of the Mediterranean area.
The Conference was a great success also in terms of participation. In addition to 500 people who gathered in Rome, the Conference was followed on the Programme’s website by over 300 viewers. The hashtag #NEXTMED was used hundreds of times on Twitter.