On 24 November 2022, ARLEM vice-president Mark Speich, State Secretary for Federal, European and International Affairs and Media of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), addressed the co-presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean and ministers of foreign affairs at the UfM Seventh Regional Forum held as part of the celebrations for the Day of the Mediterranean of 28 November.
The context in which the meeting took place was very different to the previous year, with the world in a difficult situation, much more difficult than a year ago. Then the focus was on recovering from COVID-19, from the pandemic, and climate change was already on the agenda. But now the recovery has been thrown off course by the economic consequences of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, particularly in the fields of food and energy, and by a climate change that is no longer a threat to tomorrow, but instead is having dramatic consequences today.
During the meeting, the UfM Foreign Affairs Ministers agreed on the need to further step up regional cooperation and integration to face high unemployment rates, the climate emergency and the imbalanced growth in an unintegrated region. Furthermore, foreign ministers heard from young people, coming from civil society organisations across the Mediterranean, who presented their aspirations and proposals in order to develop concrete solutions for enhanced sustainability, prosperity and integration in the region. Finally, the Forum was an occasion to welcome North Macedonia as the 43rd member of the UfM.
Dr Speich recalled that at its 13th Plenary session, ARLEM members had adopted their Action Plan for 2023-2025, and agreed to concentrate its work on the themes of inclusive cities, climate action in the Mediterranean, as well as energy and food security, which were at the centre of the Forum debates. He also reminded attendees about the ARLEM Award which since 2019 has showcased successful examples of youth entrepreneurship in the Mediterranean region as an inspiration to others. Finally, he said that local and regional authorities were ready to help young people have a say in their own future, and gave the example of the EU Charter on Youth and Democracy that was launched at the CoR Marseille summit in March 2023 as a joint initiative of the CoR and the European Youth Forum, and as a contribution to the European Year of Youth 2022, which will be endorsed at the CoR Plenary on 1 December.
In the Joint Conclusions, the UfM co-presidency explicitly commended ARLEM for its role in amplifying the voices of local and regional authorities.