During the North Africa Business Development Forum, held on Wednesday in the context of this years’ Mediterranean Week of Economic Leaders, the Secretary for Foreign and EU Affairs, called on European Member States and European institutions to increase their support for the democratic transition process in Tunisia.
Secretary Albinyana affirmed that by increasing political and financial support, the country would eventually be able consolidate its emerging democracy. In this regard, “the Government of Catalonia is fully committed to the consolidation of democratic principles and therefore considers Tunisia as a strategic partner in the Mediterranean”. “The establishment of a strong democracy in the region is the best message to fight terrorism”, he added.
During his intervention, Albinyana noted that the economic and security challenges that Tunisia is facing are also shared by the countries of the Southern Mediterranean and that this instability “has a direct impact on the European Union, as we are witnessing with the refugee crisis”. For this reason, the Secretary emphasized that “we must ensure greater economic and political support from the European Union”. Supporting Tunisia “exemplifies the defence of the peaceful transfer of power, which provides the international community with political and economic stability”, asserted Albinyana.
Regarding the situation in the Mediterranean region, Albinyana recalled that while the situation in Syria has become an atrocious civil war, “Tunisia has become a hopeful example of an emerging democracy”. However, the Secretary noted that “this democratic process faces great threats and challenges, the most important of these being terrorism, as evidenced again by yesterday’s attack”. “These terrorist attacks”, he continued “are aimed directly at the young Tunisian democracy and are intended to affect economic pillars, such as tourism”.
In his speech, the Head of Catalonia’s External Action also noted that this year's Forum takes place at a key time in European history, considering the two milestones being commemorated this year. On the one hand, the Euro-Mediterranean partnership celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Barcelona Process, which Albinyana maintained that “twenty years on [from the Process], the foreign ministers of Euro-Mediterranean countries will meet in Barcelona tomorrow with a very different scenario to the one of 1995, with many challenges ahead of them”.
In the context of the second milestone, the Secretary highlighted the Catalan Government’s positive contribution to the new European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), eleven years after its conception in the 2004 EU Enlargement and twelve years after the policy was first outlined by the European Commission.
Roger Albinyana was pleased by the fact that the European Commission has taken on board the vast majority of contributions made by the Government of Catalonia regarding the new European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which was reviewed last week in Brussels. “The reform of the ENP should have the stabilisation of the region as its most urgent priority, and this cannot be achieved simply with security measures. It needs a comprehensive approach to the issue and must take into account factors such as poverty, inequalities and justice”, explained the Secretary. For this reason, Albinyana affirmed that “the promotion of economic development must be at the centre of the new ENP”.
Furthermore, the Secretary asserted that “the Government is fully committed to the consolidation of Barcelona as capital of the Mediterranean. We are pleased that the European institutions support the key role of the Union for the Mediterranean as a political and economic forum in processes of regional cooperation”.
The 9th Mediterranean Week of Economic Leaders was organised by the Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the Mediterranean and the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Union for the Mediterranean, the European Investment Bank, and other institutions involved in the Mediterranean project, including the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed).
During the platform’s official opening, Catalonia’s Minister of Economy and Knowledge, Andreu Mas-Colell, joined notable figures, such as Mohamed Choucair, president of the Association of Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCAME), Miquel Valls, president of Barcelona’s Official Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation, and José Manuel Soria, the Spanish minister for Industry, Tourism and Energy, in the event’s welcoming address. The attending institutional representatives maintained that cooperation and the creation of wealth and opportunities remains a key priority to abate the violence occurring in North Africa. Furthermore, the ‘Economic Leaders’ appealed to the spirit of the 1995 Barcelona Declaration to turn the Mediterranean into a common area of peace, stability and prosperity.