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Deputy FM I. Amanatidis’ statement at the 2nd Regional Forum of the Union for the Mediterranean (Barcelona)
Your Excellency High Representative/Vice-President,
Your Excellences Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Spain,
Mr. Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank our hosts for their warm hospitality and the excellent organization of this Meeting. Today’s event provides us with a unique opportunity for a useful dialogue with our Mediterranean partners across the region.
Due to its unique position at a geographical and cultural crossroad between North and South, East and West, Greece constitutes a pillar of stability in the wider region.
We have both the ability and the political will to assume an active role in our neighbourhood and in this respect we support synergies between the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and other regional initiatives where Mediterranean issues are discussed.
A significant contribution in this direction was the Ministerial Conference on Security and Stability, held in Rhodes on September 8-9, 2016, upon initiative of the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nikos Kotzias, with the participation of five EU Member States (Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Italy and Slovakia), one candidate country (Albania) and five countries from the MENA region (Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates).The Conference aimed at enhancing dialogue and cooperation among the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean and their neighbouring countries, as well as addressing common challenges which threaten the stability of the wider region, such as conflict, terrorism, radicalization and the refugee crisis. The participating countries agreed to develop synergies in the fields of economy, transport, energy, culture, education, youth empowerment and the fight against corruption, themes common to the agenda of Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).
A Committee was established to explore and implement projects aiming at countering extremism and promoting peaceful coexistence. This Committee will undertake joint initiatives targeting primary groups of young people who are vulnerable to the preaching of hatred and extremism.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Greece is making continued and consistent efforts to facilitate and promote cooperation and coordination between the Mediterranean EU Member States. Thus, it was the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Alexis Tsipras, who convened in Athens, on September 9, 2016, the first Summit of the Heads of State and Governments of the seven Mediterranean EU member states, which concluded with the Declaration that the common European project needs to be built upon a Mediterranean region that will be a zone of peace, stability and prosperity.
To this end, it is of vital importance that we address challenges stemming from a world of versatile interactions and interdependencies.
We need to respond to the most pressing needs of the agenda for action in the Euro-Mediterranean region in line with the UfM Ministerial Declarations and the Sustainable Developments Goals.
Greece therefore welcomes the main theme of the 2nd UfM Regional Forum, dedicated to opportunities for youth and reinforcing the regional human capital, exchanging experiences and good practices, highlighting efficient partnerships, promoting relevant frameworks for financing regional priorities and opening new perspectives for coordinated regional action in this field.
In this context, we believe that political stability cannot be achieved without opportunities for all, especially for the youth which have a key role for the future of the Euro-Mediterranean region.
In a period when unemployment remains high in several EU member-states, particularly youth unemployment, growth is a top priority for Greece. From our perspective, jobs, growth and stability are closely interlinked.
Likewise, it is essential that UfM policies and programmes for the youth in the Mediterranean basin contribute to the fostering of ties of friendship and cooperation between young people, especially in the fields of culture, sports and education with a long-term vision in mind.
Greece shares the view that it is urgent to develop joint capacities, in order to communicate the message of cooperation and peace, and to work on concrete alternative actions aimed at fighting radicalization of young people. It is equally urgent to adequately respond to Mediterranean youth aspirations and needs, so that the UfM countries can effectively contribute to the shared objectives of greater stability, political and social cohesion in the region. Otherwise we run the risk of an entire lost generation, frustrated by unfulfilled hopes.
The low level of economic integration in the Euro-Mediterranean region negatively affects socio-economic opportunities and prospects. Therefore, enhancing regional cooperation and integration is of paramount importance in order to capitalize on the region’s assets and on its very strong potential for growth and development.
Moreover, by giving appropriate priority to social cohesion, we can prevent hate speech and extremism from poisoning the minds of our young people. Intercultural and interfaith dialogue can shield our societies from such effects.
Greece shares the view that the UfM Forum of discussion offers an excellent opportunity to accelerate the agenda for action within the Euro-Mediterranean region with regard to the promotion of innovation, connectivity and smart solutions, in order to foster inclusive growth entrepreneurship among the youth, job creation, and to generate a positive and sustainable multiplier effect for regional integration.
Furthermore, intercultural and interfaith dialogue constitutes an essential component of the human development agenda in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Thanks to its longstanding historical, political, cultural, religious and economic ties with the countries of the region, Greece forms a natural bridge between the Arab world and Europe.
In this context, the Greek Foreign Minister, Mr. Kotzias, undertook the initiative to convene in Athens, in October 2015, an International Conference on Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East. The Conference addressed the pressing humanitarian crisis faced by various religious communities and cultural entities in the region, caused by ongoing conflicts, tensions and extremism. A Centre for Religious Pluralism in the Middle East was subsequently established.
In concluding, I would like to express my satisfaction for the adoption, today, of the UfM roadmap, which paves the way for concrete action and will surely contribute to the strengthening of the role of the UfM towards an enhanced regional integration and cooperation in the Mediterranean.
To this end, Greece will continue to support the efforts of the UfM Secretariat towards the successful implementation of its mandate, by joining forces in addressing common challenges and in close cooperation with other relevant international and regional Organizations that support the Mediterranean Development Agenda.
Thank you for your attention.