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Relationships between multilateral institutions and the nation states of the Mediterranean basin : Summary Report of Toulon Conference



Relationships between multilateral institutions and the nation states of the Mediterranean basin: where do the spaces for cooperation and sources of tension reside?

PROSMED conference organised by the Université de Toulon with the support of FEMISE*, Friday, 3rd June 2016, 1 :30pm – 5pm, Toulon University

PROSMED conference with the support of FEMISE, Photo FEMISE

PROSMED conference with the support of FEMISE, Photo FEMISE

The Barcelona process, signed in 1995 set down the bases for cooperation between the EU and the countries of the Southern Mediterranean. Twenty years on, however, it is becoming apparent that the process has not been as successful as was hoped. The political, social and economic conditions on the two shores are no longer the same, and this has led to strained relations between the EU and the countries of the Southern Mediterranean. It is now increasingly difficult to have a clear idea of what the future of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation holds. Based on these findings, the organisers of the Université de Toulon (UTLN) and of FEMISE, decided to call upon the help of experts (European External Action Service, European Investment Bank, FEMISE, Institut de la Méditerranée) to discuss the question of cooperation between the European Union and the countries of the Southern Mediterranean. What are the current difficulties, which type of cooperation may we now envisage and what will be the future of the Euro-Med region?

Conférence PROSMED avec soutien FEMISE, Photo Univ. Toulon

PROSMED conference with the support of FEMISE, Photo Univ. Toulon

After an introductory speech by Dr. Y. Kocoglu (Université de Toulon) and L. Lévêque (Université de Toulon), Dr. Constantin Tsakas (General Secretary of FEMISE and General Manager of the Institut de la Méditerranée) underlined that the theme of the conference was among the key questions studied by FEMISE.

The FEMISE network is a “tool” that acts as a bridge between a major institution, the European Commission, and the countries of the Southern Mediterranean. The Southern countries often seem to favour recommendations that stem from civil society (e.g. the universities and research centres belonging to the FEMISE network) that embrace a more flexible approach and render an overall picture of the social and economic realities of Southern countries that is sometimes more complete. FEMISE counts 95 members, among which more than half are from the South, and works closely with policy makers; it embodies this “common” voice, representing the point of views of both shores and, as such, is in a good position to pass on messages.

More tenuous relations between the EU and Southern countries

Pr. Jean-Louis Reiffers (Institut de la Méditerranée), Photo Univ. Toulon

Pr. Jean-Louis Reiffers (Institut de la Méditerranée), Photo Univ. Toulon

Professor Jean-Louis Reiffers (Professor Emeritus of the Université du Sud Toulon Var, President of the Scientific Committee of the Institut de la Méditerranée) opened the debate by emphasising that the relations between the EU and the Southern countries have changed since the signing of the Barcelona process in 1995. He recalled that the process aimed to establish special trade agreements between the EU and the Southern countries, and that this process also included an institutional reform component. The Barcelona process was not as successful as originally hoped and the relations between the EU and the countries of the southern Mediterranean have become more tenuous following two main shifts. Firstly, the EU’s attention has focussed more on the countries of the East since the EU’s enlargement towards the East. Secondly, the rising regional powers of the Middle-East (Qatar, Saudi Arabia Turkey) have channelled the countries of the southern Mediterranean towards new economic and political partners.

Professor Reiffers heavily underlined the need to face the fact that international trade also produces “losers”, those whose source of income is eroded by the opening-up of trade and the changes that this incurs; the agreements signed between the EU and the Southern countries do not sufficiently cater for this result and therefore do not make provision for redistribution policies that would guarantee sustainable growth in favour of the populations.

Lastly, M. Reiffers noted that one element is systematically absent from the agreements between the EU and the countries of the southern Mediterranean: that of human capital. The work factor has been analysed from the angle of security and the threat of immigration for the EU and not from the angle of a potential to be developed through training and qualification policies.

Neighbourhood policy: Ambitions and Limits

In the second part, M. Mingarelli (European External Action Service) also referred to the Barcelona process, which heralded a willingness to promote bilateral relations via association agreements, and a dialogue between the European Commission and partner countries on areas of mutual interest (energy, transport…).

Hugues Mingarelli (Conseiller au sein du Service européen pour l'action extérieure), Photo SAEE

Hugues Mingarelli (Conseiller au SEAE), Photo SEAE

M. Mingarelli pointed out that in 2005, the European neighbourhood policy covered eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, North Africa and the Middle East. One of the objectives was to integrate the economies of certain partner countries (Morocco, Tunisia) within the EU single market.

Subsequently, the socio-political movements initiated by the “Arab springs” caught the EU by surprise, along with other powers such as the US or Russia. During this phase, the EU offered support for the political transition in the form, for example, of technical assistance for the amendment/drawing up of constitutions, the organisation of elections, the establishment of transitional justice measures, support to promote civil society stakeholders (press, trade unions, associations…).

Finally, armed conflict (Libya, Iraq, Syria) combined with terrorist risks, social uprisings and the migrant crisis created a climate of considerable tension in the region, making it difficult for the EU to define a clear and serene space for cooperation with the Southern countries. Over a 5-year period, the different conflicts in the region (particularly in Syria) have caused the displacement of millions of people, among which 10 million by the Syrian conflict alone, i.e. 1/3 of the population.

The need to redefine a Regional Vision

Henry Marty-Gauquié (BEI), Photo Univ. de Toulon

Henry Marty-Gauquié (BEI), Photo Univ. de Toulon

The Mediterranean is as fractured as it has ever been. This was the statement made by Mr Henry Marty-Gauquié (Honorary Director EIB France), pinpointing the fact that the Mediterranean is particularly sensitive and vulnerable to external shocks and crises. This is due to its socio-economic composition (cultural, social and economic mix and inter-dependence between the North and the South; low resilience towards economic adversity[1]) and to its geo-strategic location.

Over the past fifteen years, the Mediterranean has suffered one shock after another, often of non-Mediterranean origin, but that have struck the region with particular force (e.g. the 11 September terrorist attacks and the ensuing demonization of Islam, the backlash of the global economic crisis in 2008 and the tension resulting from the successive ampliations, the Arabic democratic impetus and the war in Libya with its impact on the Sahel and the Machrek, etc)

According to Mr Henry Marty-Gauquié, two factors have had a particularly aggravating effect on the tensions within the Mediterranean: firstly, the general conflict caused by globalisation ­- economic crisis, social tension, the incapacity of western nations to anticipate and manage the crises, etc.; secondly, the incapacity of the Arab world to manage its democratic transition and to ensure its economic recovery.

The regional objectives for cooperation and development therefore progressively disappeared from sight, giving way to the revival of a bilateral approach and differentiated relations between the EU and its Southern partners. This gave rise to the disappearance of the mutually advantageous interest in cooperating and achieving the regional integration objectives.

Mr Henry Marty-Gauquié stated that the European Union remains a major stakeholder, but is no longer a decision-maker in the Mediterranean. After an economic crisis that has lasted 8 years and has endangered European cohesion, the EU appears to be setting its priorities on improving its economic stability and on ensuring the survival of the European project, rather than on developing its exterior economic space (Neighbourhood policy).

According to Mr Henry Marty-Gauquié, the EU will only be in a position to regain its leadership position regarding its neighbouring countries of the South, in the mid or long term, once progress has been achieved in the following areas:

  • When the domestic situation of the EU has been stabilised (economically and politically) and public opinions are once again favourable to European integration, allowing new priorities to be defined for its dealings with neighbouring countries (South and East), along with the instruments designed to achieve these objectives (political and financial);
  • When solutions have been found to stabilise the conflictual situation in Machrek and to manage migratory flows, allowing a mitigation of conflict within the region (and among European opinions);
  • When the willingness to cooperate around the management of “public regional assets” in the Mediterranean has been regained, at least at the sub-regional scale, through the acting of a major political initiative that is intelligible for opinions and benefits from credible financial and political means;

When such an initiative integrates the sovereign dimensions brought to light in recent years by the episodes of conflict, when security has been established regarding essential risks (food health energy and climate), the management of borders, migratory flows, and an equilibrium found among territories, generations and genders. This first requires the member States of the Union to define a new “social pact” (or a constitutional one) on the common management of these objectives.

Conférence PROSMED avec soutien FEMISE, Photo Univ. Toulon

Conférence PROSMED avec soutien FEMISE, Photo Univ. Toulon

As a conclusion, Professor Philippe Gilles (Professor, Université de Toulon) summarised the debates and ended by considering the changing relations between the EU and the Southern countries in the light of contributions made by economic theory. He underlined the need to consider the redistribution of trade gains and the erosion of the partnership agreements that are no longer considered to be mutually advantageous. The Southern countries find it difficult to see what advantages they could draw from the agreements proposed by the EU, whereas the constraints relative to regulations and institutional reform are stringent and have immediate repercussions on production standards. The question of conflict between national sovereignty and regional agreements, which is also present in Europe with a rising number of Eurosceptic movements, is considerable in Southern countries faced with exacerbated security risks. Thus, before financial and commercial integration, which are vectors of uncertainty, can even be contemplated, the priority lies in consolidating domestic rules.

As a conclusion, the conference would suggest that the relations between the EU and its Southern neighbours are in dire need of a new momentum carried by a mid-term political vision (a project).

[1] Mediterranean society is organised around family relationships that guarantee solidarity in the face of adversity. Public redistribution policies are weak and include very little differentiation. These characteristics explain the vulnerability of Mediterranean societies to corruption and the underground economy.

* FEMISE participated in this event with the financial assistance of the European Union in the context of the EU-FEMISE project “Support to economic research, studies and dialogue of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership”.

What areas of cooperation between European institutions and countries of the Mediterranean basin?

Hugues Mingarelli, Advisor in the European External Action Service (EEAS), presented his view on the different forms of cooperation between the EU and the Southern Mediterranean during a PROSMED conference organized on June 3rd, 2016 at the University of Toulon with the support of FEMISE*.

Hugues Mingarelli, Advisor in the European External Action Service, Photo EEAS

Hugues Mingarelli, Advisor in the European External Action Service, Photo EEAS

What tools can the EU share with Southern Mediterranean countries to promote their integration?

Hugues Mingarelli : The EU can share its experience in the fields of economic and political transition, as well as in regional cooperation. It can also share its expertise to promote freedom of the press, to ensure effective judicial system, to allow holding elections in acceptable conditions, to ensure that human rights are taken into account in police work.

Is the planned Deep Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) between Tunisia and the EU adaptable to other countries? 

Hugues Mingarelli : We must seek tailored solutions for each partner country. The idea of the DCFTA is to break free of the generally low custom duties for existing members of the WTO. For countries that wish to do so, it is also about providing an opportunity of integrating our domestic market by adopting the EU norms and standards. Currently, negotiations with Tunisia and Morocco are ongoing, but if other countries in the Middle East are interested in this kind of approach, that is to say if they are interested by gradual integration into the EU market, then I think they have every reason to discuss with the EU the possibility of such agreements.

How do current events and political changes in the South affect the process of integration?

Hugues Mingarelli: In a number of countries, aspiring to democracy resulted in a stronger desire to benefit from the EU’s experience in democratic transition. But in some countries, such as in Libya, this led to great instability. When volatility reaches a certain level it becomes increasingly difficult to promote the transition and take advantage of what the EU can offer in terms of experience in this field.

What role can civil society institutions such as FEMISE play?

Hugues Mingarelli : We realized long ago that we can no longer solely rely on State to State and on International Organizations to State relations, but it is also very important that the civil society takes its place in the process of political and economic transition. We must continue working in that direction.


* FEMISE participated in this event with the financial assistance of the European Union in the context of the EU-FEMISE project “Support to economic research, studies and dialogue of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership”.

Interview by Laetitia Moreni, Econostrum.

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Decentralization and Economic Performance in Selected South Mediterranean Countries

The project attempts to understand the specific nature of “State” and “Sub-state” relationships in Southern Mediterranean countries and its role in driving spatial economic and social disparities. The report is structured in three parts. The first part provides an overview of the literature on decentralization and regional development. The second part focuses on the political economy of the process of decentralization in the three selected south Mediterranean countries. To a large extent this part presents the key findings of the country studies completed under the research project. Three countries have been covered, namely Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. The third part presents the findings of the econometric investigation of the relationship between proxies of regional performance and decentralization indicators. This part is a preliminary analytical attempt to understand the channels through which financial decentralization proxies such as the volume of local revenues or the share of central-state transfers in local revenues are interacting with socio-economic indicators such as unemployment rates and firms’ location across the national territory.

South Mediterranean countries have more centralized states when compared to other emerging and developing countries. The three countries (Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia) are unitary states with multiple layers in the sub-national administration. The three countries are endowed with a dual system of elected and appointed authority at each layer. The range of activities devolved to sub-national administration seems to be broader in Morocco and Tunisia compared to Egypt.

Before the collapse of Mubarak’s regime in Egypt, the National Democratic Party (NDP) dominated local popular councils, which led to poor checks and balances on the executive councils. The ex-military officials have been often appointed as heads of the Local Executive Councils (LECs). In Tunisia, Ben Ali’s ruling party (RCD) played a major role in local politics before revolution, which undermined potential benefits of decentralization. In Morocco, no single political party dominated local politics. Yet, the high number of political parties and the election mode adopted has led in many cases to fragmentation of local councils and unstable political alliances.

Decentralization in the three countries is handicapped by limited financial strength of local administration. The share of local administration spending in GDP is estimated to 4.6. Wages and other current costs dominate local spending. The three countries have poor local revenues due to limited fiscal decentralization. Local entities in the three countries suffer from an excessive dependence on the central government’s transfers. Despite multiple and sophisticated criteria used, the distribution of the central state transfers to local entities is questionable and does not fulfil its purposes. Regional disparities, although to a large extent explained by different regional initial conditions and unequal natural endowments; are exacerbated by public policies.

Empirically, the project investigates the specific impact of decentralization on economic and social outcomes. Data availability constrained the extent to which a more ambitious econometric exercise could be conducted. At this stage, the key conclusion of our econometric exercise is that the pattern of decentralization as it stands today in the countries investigated does not seem to affect neither regional unemployment rates nor firms’ location.

The Arab uprisings have liberated people’s voices including in remote areas usually forgotten or marginalized in national politics. The emerging political debate in the transition towards democracy in the south Mediterranean should lead to a new era in the relationships between the central state and the sub-national territories. Further research need to be conducted in order to determine the right mix, for each country, between providing incentives from better service delivery through political and fiscal decentralization while at the same time ensuring that the principle of national solidarity plays its role via central state transfers to adjust for regional disparities.

Eco-development in the light of the euro mediterranean partnership: application to the coastal territories of Algeria and Morocco

This research, entitled “Eco-development in the light of the euro mediterranean partnership: application to the coastal territories of Algeria and Morocco” wants to focus on the economic and policy causes which conduct to move to the alternative of eco-development as a new growth policy for these southern countries, to preserve their natural resources and enhance a sustainable way for growth.  Both Algeria and Morocco, despite their human, material and natural resources, have failed during the last years to attain significant results in their fight against underdevelopment and poverty. More than that, development policies applied by each of these countries are based on, in a major part, the exploitation of their coastal territories and natural resources, which are both limited.  The growth level yearly attained during the last decade, have not been more than 3% to 3.5% for each of them, less than estimated growth level of 7%, considered by many researchers as necessary to stabilize poverty and satisfy job demands. The intensive exploitation of natural resources added to the growing pressures on coastal territories has conduct to the rise of environmental damages, which enhance the costs of growth. We can observe that claimed objectives to help these South Mediterranean countries to push growth level, fixed previously by the partnership agreements with E.U., are not in their way to be realized at the level where it have been announced.
How can be thinked a global economic model, to enhance growth, preserve environment and coastal territories, in a renewed and more equitable partnership agreement with E.U.? Is it possible to clear such model, which tries to embrace all aspects of this problematic, which is not only economic, but also social, environmental and including also spatial planning?
To analyze these aspects, common to the cited growth policy experiences, this work have been conducted simultaneously, in spite of different levels of intensity in research works, at three cities (Annaba, Algiers and Casablanca), and two countries, Algeria and Morocco.
It is structured by three main parts:
The first addresses a synthesis of major theoretical questions with participate to the comprehension of the “eco development”, as an alternative economic policy based on some chosen indicators like green G.D.P. and green saving supported by a new ecological fiscal policy.

Our efforts have begun to deep analysis of these points, trying to find a way to adapt it to cases from coastal territories of Algeria and Morocco, without neglecting some important questions, in economic analysis, about the theoretical status of the concept of “territory”. At what level it can be adopted as concept by this economic and environmental analysis?
The second part tries to present coastal territories of each country, underlining main characteristics, which demonstrate their weaknesses:
1, the concentration of the major part of population in each, as indicated by chosen data;
2, the concentration of economic activities, which is underlined by institutional and constructed data, and some indicators, like “regional G.D.P”.
The third part is focusing on eco-development as an alternative way of growth for each of the two. It tries to underline, as results obtained by this research, some key elements to draw an alternative global model based on eco-development for the cases cited.
The aim is not to focus on the global economic and environmental purpose, like for example climate change. More specificaly, we try here to underline a socio-economic and environmental question, facing coastal territories of two neighbors’ South Mediterranean countries.
The target is to demonstrate that current growth policies conducted, have not only failed to realize any significant economic change in these countries, but more than that, enhance environmental damages and natural resources loses, especially in the coastal territories, by intensifying exploitations of these weak territories.
To attain a significant step of growth and most largely, development, it’s indicated to search a new alternative model for growth, based on conservation of natural resources and environment, especially in these fragile territories. Each of these countries have the possibility, taking into account the actual limits of the agreements signed with E.U., to try renewing mobilization of these agreements to turn their economic system to eco-development, in a renewed “Win – Win” strategy with E.U.