The European Commission has adopted a report on the outcomes of the Western Mediterranean (WestMED) initiative which has been in place for the last five years.
The resulting recommendations are that the initiative and its accompanying framework for action should remain as they are, while the WestMED Assistance Mechanism (operational, logistical and administrative support financed through the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund) should address issues such as increasing visibility, better use of project branding and improved metrics for evaluating the implementation of the initiative.
The report also recommends that priorities in relation to regional/international policies should be reviewed, taking account of the second Union for Mediterranean Ministerial Declaration on a sustainable blue economy.
Five EU Member States (France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Malta), and five southern partner countries (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia) have since 2017 worked together on their shared interest for the Mediterranean around increasing maritime safety and security, promoting sustainable blue economy, growth and jobs, and preserve ecosystems and biodiversity.
The WestMED initiative is seen as having been proved to be a useful intergovernmental platform for promoting sustainable blue economy sectors across the Western Mediterranean. While the Covid-19 pandemic challenged the functioning and governance of the initiative, as most meetings had to be virtual, progress was made, justifying its continuation.
According to the Commission, the WestMED initiative has demonstrated progress and success since its creation. Although certain aspects of the initiative can be improved under its current governance, no major changes will be required, as it has been deemed a successful initiative that has served as a forum for dialogue and soft diplomacy, led to an increase in cooperation and partnerships and provided its members with project support –especially when applying for funding.
Further positive outcomes are listed as being its capacity to enable knowledge sharing and exchanges, to set up technical working groups and alliances (on green shipping, sustainable aquaculture and clusters) and to broaden co-operation with other Mediterranean nations.
Following the presentation to the Council and European Parliament, this report will be presented at the Ministerial meeting of the WestMED in 2023, in Malta. During this meeting, the countries can choose to reconfirm or update the priorities included in the current 2017 framework for action.