A proposal to create a Euro-Mediterranean Investment Bank to help fund the transition to democracy in countries on the Mediterranean's southern shore took shape at the Union for the Mediterranean plenary Assembly in Rome on Friday. Delegates also signed a declaration condemning Libya's Gaddafi regime and calling for International humanitarian assistance on its borders.
The Union for the Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (PA-UfM), concluded its 7th session with its key mission accomplished: MEPs and parliamentarians from both northern and southern Mediterranean countries issued a united message condemning Libya's violence, expressing solidarity with protesters calling for democracy in the region and urging that further international assistance be provided to end the humanitarian crisis on Libya's borders.
A 21st century Marshall Plan
"A new Marshall plan should enable us to improve economic relations and development, but also improve security in the region. We cannot open a channel for a huge influx of desperate persons coming to Europe. We call for a new plan for the European Investment Bank to invest in the region, as was done by the EU to improve stability in the Western Balkans back in the 90s", said Franco Frattini, on behalf of the PA-UfM's Italian rotating Presidency.
EIB President Philippe Maystadt said the Bank was ready to step up its activity and support small and medium-sized enterprises in the region, with up to €6 billion in the next three years, a budget figure which is still pending approval from the EU.
Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D, IT), said that a good solution would be to transform the existing financial instrument (known as "facility for euro-Mediterranean investment and partnership" - FEMIP), into a real Euro-Mediterranean Investment Bank. This proposal was backed by EIB President Maystadt, Vito Bonsignore (EPP, IT) and Helene Flautre (Greens/EFA, FR), and other MEPs.
Transition to democracy
In a written declaration signed by the PA-UfM Bureau, delegates undertook to support emerging democratic movements and stated that the Parliamentary Assembly is the only Mediterranean institution that has worked continuously, unlike UfM governments. The text was signed by the Assembly's rotating co-presidents Gianfranco Fini (Italian congress) and Renato Schifani (Italian senate) and vice-presidents Jerzy Buzek (European Parliament), Abdelwahed Radi (Moroccan Parliament) and Abdelhadi Majali (Jordanian Senate).
"The European Union has not been sufficiently far-sighted in the past, but we can no longer ignore the problems of the Mediterranean region", admitted Gianfranco Fini, President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, in his opening speech.
Mr Frattini added that the disappointment created by the paralysis of the Union for the Mediterranean in the past had to be turned into a "golden opportunity" now to relaunch the co-operation process between the north and the south of the Mediterranean.
"This is an historic opportunity for our Euro-Mediterranean Assembly to revive its original mission and to assert its ambition", said EP President and UfM Assembly Vice-President Jerzy Buzek. "I want to clearly state that the Union of the Mediterranean has to make real progress that would allow for more economic and financial integration, creating empowering job opportunities, especially for all unemployed young people. Important projects for our peoples are still only on paper; they have to be implemented. We know in Europe that only concrete achievements can create solidarity between the peoples".