Tag Archives: Tunisia

FEMISE MED BRIEF no17 : “Closing the gender gap: policy-making that promotes inclusive Mediterranean societies”

Karine Moukaddem

The FEMISE Policy Brief series MED BRIEF aspires to provide Forward Thinking for the EuroMediterranean region. The briefs contain succinct, policy-oriented analysis of relevant EuroMed issues, presenting the views of FEMISE researchers and collaborators to policy-makers.

The latest FEMISE MED Brief is on ” Closing the gender gap: policy-making that promotes inclusive Mediterranean societies” and is available for download here.

It is also available in Arabic here.


Summary : This MED Brief presents some preliminary findings of a recently launched assessment of existing policy measures regarding women empowerment issues in the South Mediterranean region. In order to explain the persistence of numerous gender gaps, I examine the reasons behind the inefficiency of national policies regarding gender equality, by comparing the wanted effects of implemented legal measures with the latest state of play in terms of gender issues in the different countries of the region.
Combatting unconscious biases and policy inefficiency goes through increasing the outreach of female success stories, mentoring, promoting collaboration between stakeholders and embedding women empowerment in public-private partnerships.

The list of FEMISE MED BRIEFS is available here.

The policy brief has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union within the context of the FEMISE program. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the authors and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

FEMISE MED BRIEF no16 : « Green Public Procurement v.s. Environmental Taxation: implications for EU-MENA environmental policy”

Vera Danilina and Federico Trionfetti

The FEMISE Policy Brief series MED BRIEF aspires to provide Forward Thinking for the EuroMediterranean region. The briefs contain succinct, policy-oriented analysis of relevant EuroMed issues, presenting the views of FEMISE researchers and collaborators to policy-makers.

The latest FEMISE MED Brief, co-edited with Plan Bleu, is on ” Green Public Procurement v.s. Environmental Taxation: implications for the EU-MENA environmental policy ” and is available for download by clicking here.


Summary: Environmental policies are among the priorities of the UN agenda and figure highly in national and international policy agendas. This brief focuses on environmental taxes and green public procurement (GPP). These two environmental policy instruments differ in political viability and in the impact they have on consumers and producers. The brief provides a comparative analysis of their efficiency in closed and open economy and reveals the opportunities and threats of (un)harmonised environmental policy across countries. The results allow to consider particular implications for the collaboration of EU-MENA countries.

The list of FEMISE MED BRIEFS is available here.

The policy brief has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union within the context of the FEMISE program. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the authors and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

FEMISE MED BRIEF no14 : “How does spatial proximity of firms contribute to EU-Med transition ?”

Dr. Anna M. Ferragina, CELPE, University of Salerno, FEMISE

The FEMISE Policy Brief series MED BRIEF aspires to provide Forward Thinking for the EuroMediterranean region. The briefs contain succinct, policy-oriented analysis of relevant EuroMed issues, presenting the views of FEMISE researchers and collaborators to policy-makers.

The latest MED BRIEF on “How does spatial proximity of firms contribute to the transition of the EU-Med region? Empirical evidence from Turkey, Italy and Tunisia” is available here. 

It is also available here in Arabic as well.


AbstractIn this policy brief we provide policy implications and recommendations on how firms’ productivity react to spatial economic drivers of growth related to agglomeration economies, clustering of innovation, and localisation of FDI. We observe how these features interact with firm characteristics (specifically size, ownership, and innovation) focusing on three case studies: Turkey, Italy, and Tunisia. Overall, the estimation results suggest significant productivity enhancing agglomeration and innovation effects, in particular spillovers are higher between firms operating in the same sector and region and having small technology divides. In addition, evidence on productivity spillovers from neighbouring foreign firms is less robust. The results of the study confirm the efficiency of clusters of SMEs in  South Mediterranean countries and helps identifying key drivers and patterns of localised production providing a benchmark of analysis. The evidence support policies which pay specific effort to enhance the absorptive capacity of less technologically sophisticated firms by supporting R&D investment and human capital qualification allowing firms to compete and benefit of surrounding spillovers in agglomerated areas. Another policy target for the government should be investing in transportation infrastructure, easing access to housing and developing regional complementarities. This would lead to a more sustainable convergence of standards of living among regions in the long-term, and would reduce the exploitation of resources along the coast and the pressure on natural resources.

The list of FEMISE MED BRIEFS is available here.

The policy brief has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union within the context of the FEMISE program. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the authors and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.

Med Change Makers e05 : Katarzyna SIDLO, Women Empowerment and Collaborative Economy


FEMISE recently launched its series of interviews called « Med Change Makers ».

« Med Change Makers » are text and video-based interviews that allow dynamic researchers of the FEMISE network to illustrate how their research addresses a policy-relevant question and how it contributes to the policy-making process in the Euro-Mediterranean region.


Boosting female labour market participation rates in the MENA region : Can collaborative economy be of help? ”

Interview with Katarzyna Sidlo, Political Analyst at CASE, researcher at FEMISE

FEMISE recently published its Policy Brief “Boosting female labour market participation rates in the MENA region : Can collaborative economy be of help?”.

Autthor of the MED BRIEF, Dr. Katarzyna Sidlo is a FEMISE researcher who actively participates in the activities of the network. Her work assesses the potential of the collaborative economy to increase women’s labor force participation in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). More specifically, it examines ways in which the collaborative economy can enable women who are interested to join the labor market.

  1. How do you define collaborative economy? Can you give us examples from different sectors of such initiatives?

The collaborative (or sharing) economy refers to business models that create an open marketplace for access to goods and services thanks to the use of modern technology. It covers a variety of sectors, is rapidly emerging throughout the world and provides new opportunities for citizens who are able to get what they need from each other instead of going to large organizations (at least that is the theory). Some of the best-known examples of collaborative economy businesses are car-hailing applications such as Uber or Careem, peer-to-peer accommodation website Airbnb, crowdsourcing platforms Kickstarter or Indiegogo, or online marketplace Etsy. Many of them are already household names.

  1. Do you think that collaborative economy is a feasible solution in MENA countries given internet access obstacles and public perceptions?

Well, firstly according to the World Bank, 59% of individuals in the MENA region are internet users. Access to internet as such is therefore not a problem everywhere in the region, although of course in many places broadband is expensive, slow and generally unreliable and in many other, especially urban areas, simply not yet readily available. More importantly, however, I would look at the problem stated in the question in a different way: the potential to make use of what collaborative economy has to offer can be one more argument in favour of extending efforts to provide access to internet to as many people as possible. If internet is not available in a village in the south of Egypt, chances are that neither are many job offers. By providing inhabitants of such a village with access to internet, you give them an opportunity to enter the labour market as well. For instance, they could study for free on one of the many Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platforms available – increasingly also in Arabic – and gain skills that will allow them to find employment. Or they could give Arabic classes online (one platform, NaTakallam, offers such classes taught by refugees). All without having to emigrate and leave their villages or, indeed, houses.

I strongly believe that even if just a small percentage of people in a given society use this chance, it will be worth it. So while the sharing economy will by no means solve all or even most of the problems related to the low female (and male) labour force participation – it would not even if virtually every single person in the region had access to a fast, affordable, and reliable internet – it has a huge potential to contribute to the alleviation of this problem.

  1. What are the main obstacles for female labour force participation in the MENA region and how does collaborative economy bring innovative solutions to each?

Women in the MENA region wishing to join the labour market face numerous obstacles, from practical ones (lack of jobs, difficult commutes) to those of socio-cultural nature (restrictions on outside-of-the-house activities, caring responsibilities) nature. Sharing economy can help to overcome a number of those. Most importantly, it allows women to perform work – and indeed create their own businesses – from the comfort of their own homes. Thanks to this even those women, who due to various family- or culture-related reasons would not undertake paid work outside of the house, can earn their own income (and economic empowerment is a great step towards social and political empowerment). Another good example are ride-hailing services, providing a safer, more reliable and cheaper (compared to traditional taxis) alternative to faulty or point-blank non-existent public transport, oftentimes believed to be not appropriate for use by non-accompanied women. An extreme case in point was Saudi Arabia, where prior to lifting the ban on women driving 80% of Uber’s and 70% of Careem’s clients were female.

  1. One of the article’s recommendations was to improve the legal frameworks in each MENA country to enable the optimal functioning of sharing-economy businesses. What concrete measures can be successfully implemented in the region as a whole and in case-specific contexts?

One of the main advantages of the sharing economy is its flexibility. However, this flexibility can also oftentimes mean lack of clarity for instance in terms of liability, taxation, consumer protection, licensing or insurance. Think about ride hailing services such as Uber, Careem or Lyft: in case of an accident, whose insurance should cover the damages? As drivers are using their private vehicles they may not possess commercial, but rather personal insurance, which can lead to insurers denying the claim. Should the company owning the platform through which drivers are matched with clients be liable at all? Are the drivers even their employees or clients making use of the platforms features? The answer to that question determines answers to many subsequent ones related to social protection (maternity leaves, pensions, health insurance etc.) of the collaborative service providers. Another issue is of course taxation.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. The European Union is for instance pondering issuing EU level guidelines but currently whether and to what extent the sharing economy should be regulated is still a matter of a lively debate. The big question is of course how to regulate so that you don’t overregulate and therefore kill the flexibility that makes participating in sharing economy so convenient.

In the MENA region, countries should think about solutions that work best under their specific circumstances. For instance, a voluntary health insurance scheme could be introduced to help those earning their income within the sharing economy to gain social protection (an interesting study on this topic for Tunisia by Khaled Makhloufi, Mohammad Abu-Zaineh, and Bruno Ventelou has been published recently by FEMISE). In Jordan, where the government is working on a tax reform, the question of imposing corporate law tax on collaborative platforms could be investigated.

  1. What is the role you see for the civil society and NGOs in the proliferation of collaborative economy? Would cooperation and synergies between different actors/ stakeholders possible in your opinion?

Collaborative economy has it for-profit and non-profit dimension. Speaking of increasing female labour market participation in the MENA region and the role of CSOs and NGOs, we should probably focus on the latter. The spectrum of possibilities is really broad. Both types of organizations could for instance facilitate women organizing their own car pooling schemes, helping each other to safely and conveniently get to and from work on daily basis. They could set up collaborative working spaces, where female entrepreneurs could set up and run their businesses in a friendly, safe and inspiring environment. They could create online courses in local dialects of Arabic, providing free training to women thinking about starting their own business or work on translations into Arabic of courses which are already available on various MOOC platforms and which provide knowledge and skills that make finding a job easier. All that – and much more – can of course be done in collaboration between different stakeholders. After all that is what collaborative economy is all about.

The MED BRIEF is available for download by clicking here.

Interview by Constantin Tsakas

This activity received financial support from the European Union through the FEMISE project on “Support to Economic Research, studies and dialogues of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership”. Any views expressed are the sole responsibility of the speakers.

The private sector, its role as an engine of growth and job creation, at the heart of FEMISE research

FEMISE Brochure

Mediterranean countries suffer from a lack of dynamism of their private sector, which is not sufficiently competitive nor job-creating.

Therefore, FEMISE has placed the theme of the private sector, and in particular its role as an engine of growth, job creation and inclusivity, at the center of its research activities. A special attention is paid to the causes that prevent the sector from reaching its potential, in particular the constraints faced by firms in the Southern Mediterranean Region, and to the importance of innovation in the development of the Mediterranean private sector.

One of the specificities of the FEMISE network, coordinated by the Economic Research Forum (ERF) and Institut de la Méditerranée (IM), is to always strive to integrate the points of view of politicians, of private operators and, more broadly, of all local actors, in the discussions carried out under this theme. This approach provides better feedback on the research, and ensures its policy relevance.

The private sector at the center of the FEMISE academic research

Patricia AUGIER (Scientific Pres. of Institut de la Méditerranée, Coordinator and Scientific Pres. of FEMISE), coordinates the 2018 EuroMed report

Firstly, the 2018 FEMISE EuroMed report, the flagship publication of the network, will focus on the private sector in the Mediterranean countries. The objective of the report will be to take stock of the economic dynamics of the Mediterranean countries over the last 20 years (ie since the Barcelona Process), and to understand the blocking points. The general idea is that growth in Mediterranean countries must accelerate to absorb a growing number of incoming individuals in the labor market, and that this growth must be based on productivity gains rather than on factors accumulation : the development of the private sector is therefore at the heart of the definition of a new development model. One of the chapters will focus more specifically on the role of central banks in private sector development. Finally, the major concern of a more inclusive growth will lead us to consider social entrepreneurship as a potential opportunity for the Mediterranean countries.

A “Science for Business” partnership dynamic with technical and operational support actors

Secondly, FEMISE participates, in partnership with ANIMA, in THE NEXT SOCIETY project, which brings together public and private actors from 7 Mediterranean countries with the aim of supporting innovation ecosystems. This collaboration gives the opportunity to FEMISE and ANIMA to pool their complementary skills, which are analysis and production of academic knowledge on the one hand, and technical and operational support on the other hand.

FEMISE’s contribution is firstly to draw-up a scoreboard and analyze the position of each country in terms of innovation and competitiveness indicators, such as the Global Innovation Index, at different stages of innovation (inputs, process and outputs). FEMISE also carries out an analysis of the national innovation strategies and of the ecosystem of involved actors (government, associations, private operators…).

Next, FEMISE identifies high-performing sectors and products to highlight new national comparative advantages and investment opportunities.

Dr. Maryse LOUIS (General Manager FEMISE, Programs Manager ERF) and Dr. Constantin TSAKAS (General Manager Institut de la Méditerranée, General Secretary FEMISE) presenting FEMISE research at THE NEXT SOCIETY panels in Tunisia and Jordan.

FEMISE presents its findings on the occasion of advocacy panels bringing together academics, entrepreneurs, investors, managers of incubators and innovation structures and public actors. This allows to benefit from their feedback and, above all, from their point of view regarding the factors that led to the emergence of these new comparative advantages. This approach ensures that the findings and recommendations from FEMISE work can contribute to elaborate public policies. The challenge of these panels is to establish, for each country, a roadmap for innovation, from implementation to evaluation, with the objectives of strengthening national innovation systems, fostering coordination between stakeholders, and improving the instruments of innovation policies and strategies.

An opening towards South-Mediterranean institutions in a “Science for Policy” approach

Les jeunes chercheurs du FEMISE participent activement aux recherches, Karine MOUKADDEM et Jocelyn VENTURA (Institut de la Méditerranée, FEMISE) et Dalia RAFIK (ERF, FEMISE)

Thirdly, FEMISE is opening-up by cooperating with South Mediterranean actors and institutions directly concerned by these issues. Therefore, FEMISE co-authored and will publish in 2019 the2019 EuroMed report which will identify the constraints to growth and integration in the global value chains of Moroccan SMEs. This document results from the cooperation of the network with the African Development Bank, a main regional funder for development aid, and with the Institut supérieur de commerce et de gestion d’administration des entreprises (ISCAE) established in Morocco.

It is essential for the Mediterranean countries to better integrate SMEs into the global value chains in which most international trade takes place. In this report, we have chosen to focus on the case of Moroccan firms. It will be based on surveys and field interviews of SME managers and representatives of professional associations as well as on the Enterprise Surveys and Doing Business indicators of the World Bank. It is in this approach of discussions between researchers and public and private operators that the preliminary results of the report were presented before publication, in order to gather comments, suggestions and recommendations to enrich the research.

A triple anchoring to obtain research that is relevant from a political and operational dimension

To conclude, in addition to the ongoing academic research conducted by network members and supported financially by FEMISE funds (research available on the website), 3 other types of work devoted to the private sector are currently mobilizing the FEMISE team: (1) an analysis of the situation and a general discussion covering the entire region (EuroMed2018 Report), (2) a targeted and co-authored thematic analysis with a national focus (EuroMed2019 Report) and (3) a project on innovation in partnership with ANIMA.

Our analysis feeds on both (i) the knowledge and contributions of academic research, (ii) the consideration of concrete situations within the countries, as well as (iii) the points of view and insights from politicians and business actors. This triple anchoring allows us to develop products that are relevant from a political and operational dimension.

To get the FEMISE Brochure, with a presentation of the activities of the network and its new thematic approaches please click here.

To find out more about the preliminary findings of the report co-led with the AfDB, some answers are available in the interview below:

Article written by Jocelyn Ventura (Economist Institut de la Méditerranée)

Spatial proximity and firm performances: how can location-based economies help the transition ?

The aim of this project is to investigate the productivity impact on firm’s performance stemming from location-based economies due to agglomeration of firms, clustering of innovation and localisation of FDI in three Mediterranean countries, Turkey, Italy and Tunisia. More specifically the research addresses three main questions: 1) the relationships between agglomeration economies and firms’ productivity; 2) the role of innovation spillovers at spatial level taking into account geographical and sector clustering of firms; 3) the spillovers from foreign MNEs at regional and sector level.

The choice of Turkey, Italy and Tunisia as case studies is based on the relevance that economies of agglomeration play in their economy. Italy provides an important benchmarking and is the most critical observatory among North Mediterranean countries for analysing the positive and negative impact of regional agglomeration of activities due to the traditional relevance of regional clusters of development (Industrial Districts) and big regional divides. Turkey and Tunisia are two very interesting case studies due to the emerging innovation clusters over the last years, marked by a large diffusion of science parks, innovation clusters, incubators, special economic zones (SEZs), Centre business districts (CBDs) (in Tunisia) and by an increasing role of multinational corporations (MNC).

Overall, the estimation results suggest some common findings for the three case studies: there are significant productivity enhancing agglomeration effects, in particular there are significant spillovers between firms operating in the same sector and region, spillovers from innovation at local level are also strong, and higher output of foreign firms produce positive spillovers on productivity in the province. However, spillovers are specific to technologically more sophisticated firms.

Report “The Challenges of Climate Change in the Mediterranean” (2018)

FEMISE is pleased to announce the publication of the final version of the 2018 edition of the report on “The challenges of climate change in the Mediterranean: the Mediterranean in the new International Climate Agenda”, in the “Guides for Action” series. The report is a ENERGIES2050 – Institut de la Méditerranée – FEMISE coproduction.


The report (in french)  is available for download by clicking here


This report, coordinated by Stéphane Pouffary (ENERGIES 2050), Guillaume de Laboulaye (ENERGIES 2050) and Constantin Tsakas (Institut de la Méditerranée, FEMISE), presents in an updated way the realities of climate change in the countries around the Mediterranean basin and the actions implemented by stakeholders to respond to the challenges of the fight against climate change. The Mediterranean is one of our planets’ “hotspots” and the impacts of climate change are very pronounced and particularly visible on countries of the South and East shores. International mobilization on the climate issue shows there is a real awareness whether for the signatory States of the UNFCCC or for the non-state actors and subnational governments that are strongly mobilized.

However, the ambition of collective and individual commitments is unanimously recognized as very insufficient in view of the realities and challenges to which all  countries and territories concerned are and will be confronted. Moreover, beyond commitments, implementation and action remain insufficient, sporadic and fragmented. The Mediterranean is no exception and more than ever there is a need for setting up a common agenda for action as the pace of international negotiations is not the same as the speed with which changes and alterations take place.

8th Mont Blanc Meetings: IM and FEMISE at the International Summit of Social Economy

How can the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) contribute to supporting growth and employment in Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPs)? This is the question to which the presentation of Dr. Constantin Tsakas (General Manager of Institut de la Méditerranée, General Secretary of FEMISE) offered elements of response at the 8th Mont Blanc Meetings (RMB) (6-8 December 2017, Archamps, Greater Geneva), the International Summit of the Social and Solidarity Economy (ESS) organized by ESS International Forum (Permanent Co-Secretary of the International SSE Pilot Group, Observer Member ate the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on SSE).

Dr. Constantin Tsakas (Institut de la Méditerranée, FEMISE) (photo:RMB)

Dr. Tsakas presented the preliminary results of a chapter of the forthcoming FEMISE EuroMed 2018 report produced by Institut de la Méditerranée (IM) during a session on “Effective responses to sustainable impacts: social cohesion, solidarity and inclusion”.
Dr. Tsakas emphasized that SSE could become a tool for economic, financial and social innovation adapted to MPs. The latter are facing today many problems related to unemployment, lack of inclusiveness, the informal economy, limited growth… The SSE sets a frame of reference for rebuilding social ties around the economy, to better value resources and assets of territories and anchor development, to provide training and mobilize available skills in an entrepreneurial dynamic. The SSE allows for :

  • The mobilization of numerous young people, which are looking for a job and are progressively oriented towards entrepreneurship.
  • The establishment of a more inclusive economy because the SSE knows how to create jobs for vulnerable people that neither the State nor traditional companies can integrate.
  • Economic diversification and upgrading.

As civil society has understood, since the Arab Spring there has been an effervescence and increased emergence of SSE structures. Real success stories help meet the needs of the people …

In Morocco, which counts 15700 cooperatives (including 2287 women’s cooperatives) and 120 000 associations (with more than 15 million members), the value chains of SSE entreprises are made up of private sector companies: production cooperatives in the agricultural sector, crafts and / or fishing market their production in the private sector (local, regional, small and large retail markets).

In Egypt, initiatives are led by the private sector and have emerged to address the growing inability of governments and traditionnal private sector activities to meet the diverse needs of poor households for certain services and products.

In Tunisia, the country has nearly 20000 associations with more than 12 million members, half of whom have been created in the past five years under the impulse of the post-revolution civil society. The agriculture and fisheries sector is one of the sectors with the most SSE entreprises.

Panelists at session on “Effective responses to sustainable impacts: social cohesion, solidarity and inclusion” (photo :IM).

However, in general, the state does not sufficiently support the SSE in the South Mediterranean and does not create the necessary conditions for its sustainability. Dr. Tsakas emphasized that at the heart of the SSE dynamic lies the issue of project funding and resource mobilization. Preliminary results indicate that the financing of SSE enterprises must be a priority of concern for local, national and also EuroMed authorities. A “SSE finance” allowing access to liquidity and credit in relation to shared coordinated objectives is necessary. It would be appropriate for each MP to support, most notably through the establishment of an enabling regulatory framework, the emergence of “social”, “participatory” or “ethical” banks to channel funds to useful, sustainable and inclusive projects. It would also be wise to encourage SSE financing by microfinance institutions that have a developed territorial network. It would also be possible to innovate by proposing types of Social Impact Bonds (SIB), very popular in the Anglo-Saxon world, which make it possible to finance social programs (fair trade, social tourism, access to culture etc.) by private investors. The 2018 EuroMed report will suggest tools that can be supported by all local, national and international actors and which allow addressing the identified funding obstacles.

In conclusion, Dr. Tsakas emphasized the need to develop a strategy for the emergence of SSE ecosystems and social entrepreneurship on 3 axes (Macro-Meso-Micro). Dr. Tsakas provided an overview of FEMISE’s vision for the emergence of such ecosystems:

  • Support to the development of a policy and regulatory environment conducive to the growth of social enterprises through national strategies and advocacy panels.
  • Raising awareness and building the capacity of meso actors in the ecosystem to support the growth of social enterprises. MED mapping of these support actors, the generalization of training activities and the exchange of good practices would contribute to this process.
  • Finally, there is a need to better demonstrate and promote the economic potential of social enterprises in creating value and jobs in MPs. A true methodology that quantifies the social impact is needed here. The same is true for financial support for social entrepreneurship, for entrepreneurs training and for mentoring initiatives.

These and other issues will be developed in detail in the next FEMISE 2018 Report, which will focus on private sector development in the Mediterranean (Q1 2018).

The powerpoint presentation of Dr. Tsakas to the RMB is available by clicking here.

Prior to the publication of the FEMISE2018 EuroMed report coordinated by Pr. Patricia AUGIER (Pt of the Scientific Committee of IM and FEMISE, Coordinator of FEMISE), we also suggest some excerpts from interviews with three key actors of social entrepreneurship in the EU -MED.

You can also  revisit the FEMISE-EIB pilot study (2014) coordinated by IM on the potential of SSE inclusivity in Southern Mediterranean countries.

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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”.