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European and Mediterranean Area: Current and Future Perspectives

posted Oct 5, 2011, 2:10 AM by Plural CentroStudiEuropeo   [ updated Oct 11, 2011, 2:01 AM ]
Interview with Andrea Stocchiero (Centro Studi Politica Internazionale)

"In my opinion, it is important to consider that the Southern shore countries and the Northern shore countries share the same geographical area and are involved in a common process which requires a great territorial autonomy, a great proximity of power, a great decentralization; both the Southern and Northern shores face the same problems. Together we must learn the best ways to achieve the decentralization."

This is one of the most important considerations of the interview with Andrea Stocchiero, economist who coordinated and carried out several research projects on migration, economic and territorial development, decentralized cooperation, regional policies. With 20 years of professional experience in research and technical support in assisting programs of multilateral (United Nations, European Commission) and national organisms, Stocchiero is the CeSPI (Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale) Executive Director.

The Med area: peace cohesion and religius conflicts

Founded in 1985, CeSPI is one of the most important Italian research centres. CeSPI has 20 years experience in researching, training activities and dissemination about international relationships and it is an important reference for the Italian and European policy-makers. In particular, it contributes to the discussion about emerging issues both in Italy and in Europe. The work of CeSPI concerns different global scenarios (Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Balkan area, Mediterranean area); nevertheless, as a consequence of the increasing geopolitical importance of the Mediterranean area, CeSPI has recently concentrated its attention on this area. The scope of the present interview is to know CeSPI's opinion about the most important learnt lesson and perspectives on the Mediterranean area.

The level of democracy of the Southern shore countries of the Mediterranean is an extremely 
actual topic. In particular, a perspective of lasting peace is difficult to achieve. Can Europe be an influential actor in the development of a common future with the Southern shore countries?

Considering recent events, it seems difficult for Europe to be a decisive actor in the development of a common future with the countries of the Southern shore of the Mediterranean. The last events show that the European Union is not able to express itself with a homogeneous voice about common topics like, for example, immigration. In the current moments, the national interests resurface and Europe appears weak and divided to the eyes of the external viewers. For these reasons, I think that the European Union couldn’t be a major leader in pursuing shared objectives with the Southern Shore countries of Mediterranean.

Which role can European policy (of welfare, socio-cultural politics, etc..) play in promoting 
internal policies of some countries located in the Southern shore of the Mediterranean?

In spite of the limits previously highlighted , the European Community has always been interested in supporting the countries and peoples of the South shore of the Mediterranean Sea. In January, before the recent political upheavals, the European Union had described its own engagement in favour of the countries of the Southern Mediterranean coasts using the formula “MORE FOR MORE”. With these words it declared that it would effectively sustain the above mentioned countries in the moment in which they could grant more in terms of political reforms and processes of democratization .Even we have to verify the effective solidity of this process of democratization, this process is being carried out . In my opinion, great political novelties aren’t necessary . If we look at the plans of action elaborated by the single countries of the Southern Mediterranean shores, we can see that reforms and changes have been already taken into consideration to improve the process of democratization and devolution. But till now the implementation of such reforms is going slowly, owing to the presence of governs unwilling to grant such concessions. For this reason, The European Union should quicken the time of realization of those reforms, taking advantage of the revolutions characterizing those countries, more than to elaborate new political instruments in support of the Southern shore countries.

The Mediterranean area: a multilevel governance

The initiatives of cooperation developed during the last years are centred on the administrative decentralization and the multilevel governance, that is the involvement of several political and administrative levels in the decisional process. The administrative decentralization is now an essential tool to increase the effectiveness of the policies.

What is the “governance”? Why is the multilevel approach important? What could the contribution of regional and local authorities be?

We have to avoid the Eurocentric point of view, affirming that the countries of the Southern shore  of Mediterranean have to copy our models of development, because we are involved in a federalist process too, with many difficulties. For me, it is important to consider that the Southern shore countries and the Northern shore countries share the same geographical area and are involved in a common process which requires a great territorial autonomy, a great proximity of the power, a great decentralization; both of them face the same problems. We must find together the best ways to realize the decentralization.

The Macroregion: Mediterranean area and Southeast Europe

One of the problems of the regional planning is to identify the potentialities of the regional system. This is often inserted in a geographical and strategic context which goes beyond the regional border. For that reason, the European Union promotes macro-regional aggregations that can contribute to innovation and local competitiveness thanks to its transnational and interregional dimension. However, the elaboration of a macro-region perspective can strengthen the European process or, on the other hand, it can create new divisions and tensions. At this moment, the elaboration of a Mediterranean macro-region isn’t possible. However, an exception is the Adriatic experience, that can become a South-East and Balkan macroregion.

How much is the dialogue among states, local actors and local populations developed in the South-East Europe?

The Adriatic experience is a very important experience in the European setting. It testifies the increasing importance of regions at the European level. The Adriatic experience, in particular, is the result of regions initiative: the regions have engaged to promote this experience and they have lobbied to national level to make this experience concrete. At the same time, the national government has supported this initiative because it considers the Adriatic macroregion a strengthening of the Adriatic-Ionic experience already existing. The next important steps of the creation of an Adriatic macroregion is to obtain the approval of all the Member States of the European Union. Next June the European Council will discuss (and will approve) the creation of the Danubian macroregion. This will be the occasion to discuss concretely the possibility of an Adriatic macroregion too.

Are there any common elements between the Euro-Mediterranean area and the South-East European area?

The Adriatic experience wants to connect itself to the existing experiences (the Danubian and Baltic ones). This is the reason of the Adriatic experience success. In my opinion, the European Union has to look at the whole European territory, coordinating the territorial and transnational cooperation programs. This allows to pursue common objectives and to reduce the waste of resources. If the European Union doesn’t adopt this overall overview, there is the possibility to create a new gap between the Centre-Northern Europe and the Southern Europe, deprived of appropriate tools and capacities.

Are there other experiences of decentralized cooperation (for example to favour the social and territorial cohesion) in the world? Are they useful to create an exchange with the countries of the South Shore of Mediterranean?

There are some initiatives of decentralized cooperation but they are less developed than the European and Mediterranean ones. In particular, in Latin America there are some sub-regional cooperation areas (for example, the MERCOSUR) and cooperation initiative between States (e.g. Bolivia-Argentina agreement). These initiatives are very similar to the cross-border cooperation initiatives developed in Europe and in the Mediterranean area. However, they lack a macroregional approach.

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Plural CentroStudiEuropeo,
Oct 5, 2011, 2:35 AM
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