The European Union's regions and cities believe that developing a macro-regional strategy for the Mediterranean basin would allow to tackle jointly the necessary green and digital transitions, as well as socio-economic, migratory and security challenges. Climate change, environmental deterioration, the proliferation of extreme weather events, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity and food security do not know any borders and are a serious threat to the three shores of the Mediterranean. The European Committee of the Regions points out in its opinion that a macro-regional strategy would help developing concrete joint projects and bring greater coherence between the existing initiatives and funding programmes implemented by different government levels.
While Mediterranean populations share a common historical and cultural heritage, wide disparities in development levels affect the stability, prosperity and security of the region. At the same time, the Mediterranean basin is particularly affected by the consequences of climate change. At the current rate, global warming will reach 2.2 degrees in the Mediterranean area by 2040, meaning that it will warm at a rate 20% faster than global average. The consequences are already visible in the form of heat waves, forest fires, floods and other events linked to extreme weather. The region also accounts for 50% of the world's water-poor population.
Rapporteur Nikola Dobroslavić (HR/EPP), President of Dubrovnik-Neretva Region, said: "We need a macro-regional strategy in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean Sea, which connects cultures, economies, regions, and states on its shores is one of the most polluted seas and heavily impacted by climate change. The macro-regional approach, already tested and proven by the European Union in several parts of the continent, would certainly help EU and non-EU regions and countries across the Mediterranean basin to fight together their common challenges, in particular climate change, digital transition, sea and air pollution."
The opinion drafted by Mr Dobroslavić was adopted at the European Committee of the Regions' plenary session this week. It underlines that the strategy needs to be designed at the whole Mediterranean basin level and gradually and ultimately cover the three sub-basins: Western, Eastern and Adriatic-Ionian, covering also countries outside EU and putting particular focus on island regions. There should be a solid and representative multi-level governance scheme with a general assembly and executive board including local and regional authorities, thematic working groups; annual rotating presidency and technical secretariat. The strategy should target a limited number of shared challenges, starting with climate change, digital transformation and the environment, as well as the necessary green transition. As first step, the European Commission could launch a pilot project on zero marine pollution in the Mediterranean.
The Committee believes that the macro-regional strategy would bring the missing operational instrument to implement a concrete action plan and joint projects in response to priorities identified by other cooperation frameworks, such as Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) or the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM). It points out that large amount of existing funding from territorial cooperation programmes and instruments can be mobilised to support Mediterranean projects. Many programmes implemented directly by the European Commission, such as Horizon Europe, LIFE or Erasmus+, are open to the participation of third countries and are therefore an interesting source of additional funding.
The Committee calls on the European Council and Commission to launch the work on a Mediterranean macro-regional strategy so that it could be approved already under the Spanish Presidency in the second half of 2023. Representatives of other Mediterranean regions and networks expressed their support for the initiative at the plenary session and during a workshop organised at the European Week of Regions and Cities on 13 October.
The President of Abruzzo Region Marco Marsilio (IT/ECR) said: "In the light of the serious global environmental and energy crisis we are experiencing, it is urgent to draw up a common strategy, aimed at enhancing the development of the entire area in its land and maritime components, based on the promotion of renewable energy and the creation of an integrated multimodal Euro-Mediterranean transport network, as well as on the pillars of the blue economy, connectivity, environmental quality and sustainable tourism."
More information: Macro-regional strategies in the EU (European Commission)
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