Migration and More: EURO-MENA-SHOW Kick-off for Digital Mediterranean Cooperation in Pandemic Times

The FNF Regional Office for the MENA Region, the FNF Mediterranean Dialogue Project in Madrid and its partner Casa Árabe, the official Spanish institute for relations with the Arab world, organised the EURO-MENA SHOW on 15 July. In addition to solutions to current challenges such as migration, security and tourism, the event focused on connecting elements that underline the common history as well as the inextricably linked present of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Regarding challenges in migration policy, the Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation for Freedom is seeking to raise awareness of the Mediterranean region as a region of opportunity. This should be achieved through liberal dialogue and educational measures, thus promoting growth, employment and socio-political progress on all sides of the “Mare Nostrum”.

While the Covid-19 crisis poses major challenges to all countries in the region, there are also opportunities. The issue of supply chain diversification is one of them, as dependence on one or just a few suppliers in the Far East harms Europe’s strategic interests. This is where the democratically constituted, stable countries in the Mediterranean region in particular have great opportunities to promote the establishment of industries in the European neighbourhood. Another strategic area of work is energy cooperation, clean hydrogen from the desert being the keyword here. From a liberal point of view, however, it is important to speak with one another at eye level – on the political level, but also at management level in the private sector.

In order to achieve sustainable economic growth, it is essential to pay attention to the stability orientation of investors. Conflicts taking place directly at the Mediterranean Sea, as in Libya or Syria, but also supposedly distant hotspots, like Mali, play a role here. The European Union’s special representative for the Sahel region, Ángel Losada, underlined this once again during the EURO-MENA SHOW. Meanwhile, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, Vice-Chairwoman of FNF and former Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Germany, reported on her own experience in Lesbos, just before the Covid crisis. She spoke of the unsustainable conditions in the refugee camps there and appealed to European solidarity. Chérifa Lakhoua, President of the International Association of Hospitality and Tourism and Manuel Butler Halter, Executive Director of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, agreed that especially during the Covid-19 crisis, it is important to strengthen domestic tourism. It is well-known that tourism is an important economic sector for many countries bordering the Mediterranean, with northern and southern neighbours sitting in the same boat.

FNF and Casa Árabe, as providers of political education and dialogue activities, are convinced that the Covid-19 pandemic requires new formats, and that edutainment and video formats, for example, will gain importance in order to prepare and convey political content in a way that is appropriate for their target groups. This event for example included a “Kitchen Talk” on the start-up nation Israel with, among others, Hemdat Sagi, Head of Strategy at the Volkswagen Innovation Hub “Konnekt” in Tel Aviv. Against this background, cultural elements on painting, film, food, ballet, theatre and literature were also incorporated into the all-day event.

Other participants in the EURO-MENA-SHOW included the Spanish special ambassador for migration, José Luis Pardo, Laia Garrido, International Officer of the “Jovenes Ciudadanos” (youth organisation of the liberal party “Ciudadanos”), Dr. Maya Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, film director Nadia Hotait, Dr. Khaled Khreis, director of the Jordanian National Gallery and Barbara Slavin of the Atlantic Council and director of “The future of Iran” initiative.

During the lockdown period, we already took a look at our economic order after Covid-19 and the disruptions, especially in developing countries, in cooperation with the Esade Business School. Andrés Velasco, Dean of the School of Public Policy at the London School of Economics, and Luis Garicano, Vice President of the Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament, took part in this discussion. Due to its continuing importance for the Mediterranean region, a best-of of this discussion was also played at the EURO-MENA-SHOW.

David Henneberger

Project Director FNF Spain, Italy, Portugal & Mediterranean Dialogue