EU-Southern Neighbourhood: Closing the gaps between and along the two shores of the Mediterranean

26.11.2022 EEAS Press Team

The European Union and the countries of its Southern Neighbourhood reiterated their commitment to increase mutual engagement to close the existing gaps along the two shores of the Mediterranean, to further foster regional cooperation and to work together to face the negative impact of the Russian war against Ukraine.

This is the outcome of the 4th European Union-Southern Neighbourhood Ministerial Meeting which took place in Barcelona, Spain, on Thursday and was chaired by High Representative/Vice-President (HR/VP) Josep Borrell. The event brought together Ministers, deputy minister and diplomatic representatives from 36 countries.

The Ministerial took place right after the 7th Regional Forum of the Union for Mediterranean (UfM) and provided a platform to discuss the most pressing economic, social, environmental, and security challenges that the Mediterranean region is facing today. High Representative Borrell assured the Southern partners that the EU’s focus on the war against Ukraine does not come at the expense of the EU’s commitment to partners in the Southern Mediterranean.

HR/VP Borrell said: “We are not just neighbours, we are a community. We need to strengthen our regional integration. We need much better connectivity, both on the infrastructure side and the regulatory side. We must further reinforce our strong and strategic partnership to successfully address the multiple crises that we are facing today. The EU remains committed to work with its Southern partners, notably in addressing specific challenges encountered by them as a consequence of the Russian war against Ukraine.

He cautioned that the economic gap between the two shores of the Mediterranean is widening rather than closing. The per capita GDP in the countries of the EU Southern Neighbourhood is on average 6 times less than that of the EU. And also intra-regional barriers needed to be addressed. The Southern Mediterranean remains one of the least economically integrated regions in the world, leaving a lot of potential untapped.

The way to tackle this is by strengthening our regional integration. We should do it by focusing on these key areas: stepping up efforts to close the existing gaps; offer particularly the young people a common vision on mobility; to drive innovation and growth. We need to enhance people-to-people engagements, fight climate change, develop energy partnerships and advance regional stability and integration.” HR/VP Borrell said.

The main objective of the EU-Southern Neighbourhood Ministerial Meeting was to discuss the consequences of the Russian aggression on Ukraine, in particular food and energy security, in addition to the need for a green transition. The latter is even more relevant considering that the Mediterranean is one of the main climate change hotspots.

The EU-Southern Neighbourhood Ministerial Meeting offered a valuable opportunity to reiterate the European Union engagement with its Southern partners and discuss how to implement enhanced cooperation in various areas. The hardships caused by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine on the Mediterranean region further accentuates the need for a combine effort, as the only effective path for the EU and its Southern partners to be able to address these common challenges.

During the meetings in Barcelona, the “Medusa” programme was launched, which will build a submarine cable system in the western Mediterranean connecting five European countries with four northern African countries.

Peter Stano
Lead Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
+32 (0)460 75 45 53
Gioia Franchellucci
Press Officer for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
+32 229-68041