Catalonia's and Barcelona's role within the new UfM
The role of Catalonia and Barcelona within the new political landscape of the Union for the Mediterranean
At the present time, nobody doubts anymore that peace and global stability have their Achilles’ heel in the situation in the Mediterranean. What happens in Palestine-Israel, the Maghreb or Mashrek; between Islam and the Muslim world and West-United States of America, has an influence on Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. We could say indeed that peace begins and ends on the shores of the Mediterranean.
The North-South partnership for the achievement of a durable stability in this region is as necessary as the Franco-German agreement was in its time, reached to overcome three wars that had left behind a devastated and impoverished Europe.
Therefore, the announcement of the will of President Sarkozy to create a Union of (for) the Mediterranean was generally welcomed, despite the reluctance of some old politicians and leaders of the European Commission.
The aim was to reproduce, leaving aside obvious differences, the “Monnet Model” of “doing” instead of musing on. Nevertheless, this model did not fit exactly in the Mediterranean, divided by economical distances, and above all, by dichotomic political models, specially concerning respect for human rights and freedom of expression protection. It was about the risky exercise -and even dangerous to the system of liberties-, of sitting on the same table lambs and wolves, democrats and autocrats.
However, the model does not fail because of this contradiction, but for the unleashed will of the southern countries in their search and struggle for becoming part of the club of the democratic countries, where real meritocracy might be as well a sign of identity.
Suddenly, the model goes into crisis and at the same time, in a rare political pirouette, it highlights again those rules that originally aimed giving equal voice and value to south and north.
We are therefore at a point where we see a sinking UfM, with a co-presidency compounded by a Democratic country (France) and an Autarky (Egypt) and at the same time, a UfM which is being strengthened by the entry into the field of a new democratic legitimacy of the southern countries, thanks to their popular uprisings.
We know that the UfM has not reacted on time nor has it positioned itself, as, on the contrary, most of its members and the same EC and the EU have done. This, precisely because of its scarce dynamism and political culture, and also because its self-definition as a technical office rather than as a multinational organization.
This is where Barcelona and Catalonia, with their prestige gained from NGOs, governments, universities, etcetera, should become a centre that clearly stimulates and boosts democratic culture, in a time where new social and politics referents are being searched in the Mediterranean.
Barcelona cannot simply be a passive venue for the UfM. It must become a lighthouse and a boost for the economic balance across the Mediterranean Basin. We should not be mere venue tenants, but rather active agents in order to find the path for lasting peace and justice.
by Enric Olivé Serret
Executive Secretary of the Euromed Permanent University Forum (EPUF) and member of InTransit’s Advisory Council