By Kayleigh Lewis - 15th April 2013
It must be acknowledged, the lack of interest shown in the [Mediterranean] region by our governments, at least by the EU governments
Martin Schulz, Parliament president
European parliament president Martin Schulz has accused EU governments of showing a "lack of interest" in the Mediterranean region.
Speaking at the ninth parliamentary assembly of the union for the Mediterranean, the German MEP said, "There is, I believe, one lesson to be learned from this summit, namely that, in both the north and south of the Mediterranean, people still feel an overwhelming need to continue working together."
He added, "And this, despite the economic crisis currently affecting every one of us, the political upheavals that have shaken the region in the last few years and, it must be acknowledged, the lack of interest shown in the region by our governments, at least by the EU governments."
The economic crisis, and the debate as to how best overcome it, within the EU bears a "striking parallel" to the future of the Mediterranean region, the president said.
He said that this "central dilemma" of whether to choose austerity or encourage investment is "reflected almost identically in the cooperation between Europe and the Mediterranean".
"On the one hand", he said, "there are those who take a hard line, which equates more or less with the line being pursued at present and which consists in not providing the responses and the financial resources needed to address the daunting challenges facing the Mediterranean region."
"And then there are those who take a more ambitious line", he continued, "which consists in saying that now is the time to give a new impetus to cooperation between our countries if our societies on both sides of the Mediterranean are not to be left behind by the tide of history."
Schulz, who favours the latter position, said that it was "incumbent" upon members of parliament to "attempt to bring about a U-turn", adding, MEPs have to alert governments and public opinion "to the danger of the present course".
He said that it was up to the Mediterranean partners to "preserve the prospects of growth" and the "future of young people in Europe" and that it was the responsibility of MEPs from "both sides of the Mediterranean" to "speak up" for the region.
Despite "limited means" available to the assembly, the president said, it is the role of the EU's governments and parliaments to secure the resources that a Euro-Mediterranean cooperation deserves.
The S&D deputy also called for "greater support for the tremendous work being done by neighbours of Syria to confront the humanitarian and security crisis".
"If parliaments are the new source of legitimacy in a transformed Arab world, then the parliamentary assembly of the union for the Mediterranean must be the new source of legitimacy at the base of revamped Euro-Mediterranean relations", he said.
"Parliamentary dialogue and the parliamentary assembly of the union for the Mediterranean are among the best tools to build confidence and to give impetus and legitimacy to tangible projects ranging from women in leadership to water management, from energy cooperation to institution building."
Following the summit, Schulz said, "Euro-Mediterranean cooperation will be among parliaments and citizens, or it will be nothing. It needs a renewed partnership among strong and transparent parliaments."