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Part 2 - The Euromed

What is EuroMed?

The Peace Bag partnership consists of partners from all across the EuroMed region. The term EuroMed is often used to refer to the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. More concretely, it can refer to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, formerly known as the Barcelona Process, re-launched in 2008 as the Union for the Mediterranean. In 1995, a framework was created to manage both bilateral and regional relations. It was an innovative alliance based on the principles of joint ownership, dialogue, and co-operation, with the goal of creating a Mediterranean region of peace, security and shared prosperity.[5]


Facts
The countries involved in the Euro-Mediterranean partnership consist of all 27 member states of the European Union, together with: Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya (observer status), Mauritania, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

The government of the Union is achieved through a co-presidency between one Mediterranean country and one EU country, with the administrative centre in Barcelona, Spain. The total area of the Union for the Mediterranean is 12,358,770 km2. The total number of inhabitants is approximately 800 million.


History

As a meeting-point between Asia, Africa and Europe, the Mediterranean has a history of interaction between cultures that goes back thousands of years. It is the only region in the world to have seen many different successive civilisations in a relatively small area, and has been a cradle for some of the world's most important philosophical and scientific discoveries.

There are many rich cultural, religious and ethnic influences within the Euro-Mediterranean, ranging from Christianity, Islam and Judaism to philosophies dating back to the Roman and Greek empires. The diversity in the EuroMed makes this region a "melting pot" of cultures and traditions. In fact, while certain cultural influences have been dominant in recent years in parts of the region (for example, secularism in Europe), there has been cross-pollination of influences throughout the region (for example, the legacy of Spain's Islamic history).

The wide range of influences has also instigated the emergence of an "us versus them" culture between communities from culturally different parts of the region. A recent example of this is the apparent division between Islamic and secular societies, and the different ways this is both represented and stereotyped by the media in different parts of the region.[6] Similarly, it has caused most of the countries in the region to suffer from different forms of violence, conflicts and wars during much of the 20th century.


EuroMed Today

History has taught us that mutual respect for rights, beliefs and traditions is indispensible for people to live in harmony and establish tolerance. Many factors played immediate role in the cross-cultural process within regions; namely globalization, open communication, migration, urbanization and rising human rights movements. Nevertheless, understanding different approaches to religious values and practices is still currently one of the major challenges to deal with in the region, according to the Anna Lindh Report 2010.[7] The religious fabric of societies continues to be a crucial factor in the relations and perceptions between people in the Euro-Mediterranean region – as it is much more valued in southern Mediterranean countries than in many European countries.

Migration in its different forms has resulted in cultural and ethnic diversity within regions and countries. In particular, cities and urban spaces throughout the region have attracted numerous migrants and have become, to varying degrees, "a laboratory for cross cultural fertilization,"[8] where different cultural and ethnic groups interact and learn from each other.

Globalisation and open communication have facilitated the interaction between people to the same extent that it has increased points of friction between cultures, giving rise to identity-linked tensions, withdrawals and claims, particularly of a religious or economic nature, which have become potential sources of dispute.

Cultural activities across the Euro-Mediterranean space have increased significantly since the launching of the Barcelona Process. Achievements in the third domain on ?Social, Cultural and Human? aspects of the partnership have been modest – with initiatives in areas such as education, culture, youth and civil society cooperation.[9] Support for educational and vocational training in the southern Mediterranean countries has substantially increased, including scholarships for university studies in Europe with a percentage of grants reserved for women.[10]

Despite the presence of the EuroMed Union, there is still a wide variation in the realities of life for people between the northern and southern countries within the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. For instance, citizens of the countries of the European Union (EU) enjoy freedom of movement while young people from the southern Mediterranean countries continue to face mobility challenges related not just to visa requirements for travelling to Europe, but most pressingly travel restrictions to their neighbouring countries. European migration and visa policies need to be adapted to bring down the barriers that prevent true cultural dynamism from taking place within and among Euro-Mediterranean societies.[11] Similarly, there are more specific issues that differ between northern and southern Mediterranean countries. Female citizens in some parts of the region enjoy greater personal freedom than their peers in other areas.

The post-colonial influence of foreign powers can still be felt in some parts of the region through the existence of undemocratic or corrupt political systems. Limitations on freedom and poor governance have played a role in sparking popular uprisings in the southern Mediterranean region in 2011 (such as the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt). Young people in the region have recognised their role in addressing the failures of their governments and have taken action to seek a better future for themselves and their countries. Egypt is one such example of where a new political and social landscape has begun to take shape.

Despite local differences, there are many common values shared by communities and individuals throughout the EuroMed region. Values such as family solidarity and caring for the well-being of children and the next generation are shared across the region,[12] and can help us to bridge the gap between communities and cultures, providing a base on which we can build future cooperation and mutual understanding.


The Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue between Cultures

A prominent organisation in the EuroMed is the Anna Lindh Foundation, the first common institution [13] jointly shared and resourced by forty-three governments of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. It is a network of civil society organisations dedicated to promoting intercultural dialogue and respect for diversity in the region. In fulfilling this objective, the Foundation mobilises its network in common initiatives, organises regional programmes in the EuroMed area, and supports local activities carried out by civil society organisations that advocate better understanding between people of different nationalities, ethnicities and beliefs, championing human rights and democracy.[14]


Visit the Anna Lindh Foundation online: www.euromedalex.org

The Anna Lindh Foundation is a central component of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, and a facilitator of the participation of civil society in the Union for the Mediterranean. It also works as a centre for information, and as an observer of intercultural dialogue in the region. Moreover, it coordinates a Euro-Mediterranean Network, gathering hundreds of social and institutional bodies, NGOs, universities, public institutions and groups that share the foundation's values.[15]


The foundation's programmes are focused on different fields of action essential for human and social dialogue. They include: Education and Youth, Culture and Arts, Peace and Coexistence, Values, Religion and Spirituality, Cities and Migration, and Media among others.


Who was Anna Lindh?
Anna Lindh was a Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs who served as a public servant from 1998 until her assassination in 2003. Her political career was marked by a strong commitment to international affairs. She negotiated an agreement in the Kosovo/Macedonian crisis, and advocated for greater respect for international law and human rights in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling on both parties to stop the atrocities and initiate dialogue. The Anna Lindh Foundation was set up by the European Union and its partner countries in the southern Mediterranean region, the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue between Cultures, and named in her honour.