Mohamed Boudra, the co-chairman of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly, attended the Regional Forum of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) on 10 October, using the opportunity to press the case of a deeper engagement with regions and cities in the region and with ARLEM.
In the latest sign of its deepening relationship with ARLEM, the UfM said that – for the first time – it would like to hold a "summit" of partners below the national level to which ARLEM would be invited. The aim, said Nasser Kamel, the secretary-general of the UfM, would be "to increase coordination, reduce duplicities and, more generally, support the UfM to better position itself in the Euro-Mediterranean multilateral arena".
The UfM was created in 2008, emerging out of the Barcelona Process launched by the EU in 1995 to strengthen its relations with countries in the Mashriq and Maghreb regions. The European Committee of the Regions created ARLEM in 2010 to provide a forum in which local and regional politicians from UfM countries could meet and through which to represent their interests in contacts with the both the EU and the UfM.
The Regional Forum is a high-level political forum that convenes foreign ministers of the UfM member states.
Mr Kamel said: "The UfM ecosystem is not limited to the inter-governmental structure, and comprises other institutions and dialogue frameworks bound to the objectives of the Barcelona Process, namely the Anna Lindh Foundation, the Parliamentary-Assembly of the UfM or the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM)."
Other invitees, he suggested, could include representatives of the private sector and regional and international organisations, such as the League of Arab States, the UN, the OECD, and the World Bank Group. The proposal was adopted in the UfM's work programme for 2020.
In his intervention, Mr Boudra, who also heads the Moroccan Association of Presidents of Community Councils, emphasised the value of dialogue and diplomacy at sub-national level and highlighted ARLEM activities to promote youth entrepreneurship in the region as well as regional integration.
The ARLEM award for young entrepreneurs was launched in 2018, and its first winner was a company that gives a modern twist to traditional Libyan clothing for women and the mayor of Tripoli, whose administration had supported the enterprise. The deadline for the next edition of the prize, which rewards partnerships between local government and local start-ups, is 31 October. It is open for countries in North Africa, the Middle East and – in the Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.
Mr Boudra had brief exchanges with the EU's outgoing foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini and her successor Josep Borrell, and with UfM officials.
Political debate on the Forum's agenda centred on the Turkish offensive in northern Syria, the Middle East conflict, and a condemnation of the anti-Semitic on a synagogue in Halle, Germany on 9 October.