ODRAZ’s director participated at Euromed Summit of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions held in Morocco
Following the cancellation of last year’s EUROMED summit due to COVID-19, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), in cooperation with the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (ESEC) of Morocco, organized Euromed summit in Marrakech on 30 May and 1 June 2022.
The meeting was opened by the President of EESC, Christa Schweng, who welcomed more than 100 participants, representatives from different Mediterranean countries and organizations. In her introductory speech, she pointed out that the recovery of the Mediterranean area and the development of sustainable and resilient socio-economic models must be guided by: respect for the rule of law; protection of democratic values; shared commitment to Sustainable Development and Climate Neutrality.
Aawatif Hayar, Moroccan Minister of Solidarity, Social Integration and Family, Ahmed Réda Chami, president of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (ESEC) of Morocco and Abdelkader El Khissassi, deputy secretary-general of the Union for the Mediterranean, also greeted participants during the opening session.
The debrief on disaster management in the Mediterranean was presented by Mustafa Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, co-chair of the Turkey-EU Joint Consultative Committee and Violeta Jelić, co-rapporteur of EESC’ opinion “Improving the EU’s capacity to react in the face of extreme events occurring outside its territory”.
COVID-19: The role of civil society in the reconstruction and resilience of the Euro-Mediterranean region
The main topic of this Euromed summit was related to COVID-19: The role of civil society in the reconstruction and resilience of the Euro-Mediterranean region. This session was based on draft information report on the same subject, which was drawn up by the EESC and sent to the delegations before the summit. It provided an opportunity to address a number of issues in a broad discussion with the audience.
Before the debate with national ESCs and similar institutions, the draft report was presented by Thomas Wagnsonner, EESC’s study group member.
Civil society worldwide responded immediately to the pandemic, working on the front line and providing assistance and help to the population. In the Euro-Mediterranean area, too, the role of civil society has been crucial in mitigating the adverse effects of COVID-19. Civil society organisations in the Euro-Mediterranean region have backed up government action by providing essential services and healthcare; they have distributed personal protective equipment and helped to disseminate vital information, especially in remote areas. Their work has also been of paramount importance in cushioning the impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable sections of society, such as women, young people, immigrants and those with disabilities.
Lidija Pavić-Rogošić, also a member of study group that drafted the information report, stressed during the debate: “Besides EU support, the need and relevance of governmental support for CSOs and their achievements should be stressed, to provide them with basic freedoms, financial assistance and access to information. A robust political and institutional support to civil society is needed.”
She also mentioned that it should be underlined that civil society should not be considered a threat but as a resource, as it brings innovation, as well as flexibility and agile attitude in rapidly changing environments. “The importance of grass-rooted action should be noted, especially in the time of pandemic: there are no “copy pasted” solutions that work everywhere. Starting from understanding the local realities and needs, experimenting solutions and implementing them locally first, as well as keeping a strong and key connection with all local stakeholders is the best way to bring sustainable responses to social exclusion and inequality and provide assistance during the COVID-19. For that, there is a need to ensure that civil society, local authorities and private sector work continuously together.”
Afterwards, three parallel workshops were held:
- The road to economic recovery
- Mitigating the social impact of COVID-19
- The impact of COVID-19 and the Ukraine war on sustainable development in Euromed.
The impact of COVID-19 and the Ukraine war on sustainable development in Euromed
The workshop was moderated by Lidija Pavić-Rogošić, EESC rapporteur on “Sustainable development in the Mediterranean region” that was a main focus of Euromed summit held in 2020.
Three key speakers gave a valuable contributions as a base for debate: Cristina Estévez Navarro, vice-president, ESC of Spain; Gian Paolo Gualaccini, CNEL – National Council for Economics and Labour of Italy and Rym Ayadi, founder and president of Euro-Mediterranean Economists Association.
The Mediterranean region is severely touched by climate change
Pandemic has profoundly affected livelihoods in Eastern & Southern Mediterranean region
War in Ukraine brought disruption & increased divergence
Time to act to achieve a sustainable & resilient region
Lidija Pavić-Rogošić reminded participants about the previous report, in which the emphasis was put on environmental sustainability, social sustainability and good governance, as well as on sustainable development goals and the impact of the pandemic. In the field of environment, the focus of the report was on climate change, which is multi-layered and far-reaching. The Mediterranean region is already and will continue to be affected by climate change. It was noted in the report that the countries of the southern Mediterranean as a whole are lagging behind in achieving sustainable development goals. There are positive trends in several sustainable development goals throughout the region, and there are some good practices from some countries.
She also mentioned: “The pandemic has profoundly affected livelihoods and is causing many citizens in the region to fall deeper into poverty. Governments in the region have reacted by spending more on social protection. The pandemic forced governments of the region to act quickly and use innovative ways to mitigate its immediate impact across all sectors: from health and education to trade and production. Additionally, there is a new challenge – war in Ukraine which brings disruption and increase divergence. The war in Ukraine and related sanctions have triggered a sharp increase in commodity prices, which will add to the challenges facing countries in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly the region’s oil importers. Rising food prices and potential wheat shortages affect the poor more because they allocate a higher share of their expenditure to food.”
She also mentioned that the Covid-19 crisis has hit economies that were already struggling, with high unemployment rates for young people and graduates, rising inequalities in health and education, and low level of trade integration. “Dealing with those issues is necessary. But this cannot be done country by country, in isolation.
Presentation of workshops’ conclusions
During the session ODRAZ’s director presented the workshop conclusion to participants of other two workshops.
Renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood
Session 4 focused on the strengthened Mediterranean partnership with a budget of up to € 9 billion (2021-2027). Participants debated its potential to alleviate the economic and social impact of COVID-19 and to foster integration within the Mediterranean region.
Networks in the Euro-Mediterranean area – developing regional cooperation
Session 5 gave the floor to regional networks to present their activities and enhance their visibility:
- Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR)
- Anna Lindh Foundation
- Euro-Mediterranean disability rights network
- Mediterranean Citizens’ Assembly Foundation (MCAF).
Great hospitality and professionalism experienced at 2022 #Euromed Summit of ESEC – organised civil society on both sides of the Mediterranean, united to work on future resilience of the region.