Paris Forum 2009

Press review – Week from March 30 to April 3, 2009

On March 27, 28 and 29 was held the Paris Forum 2009 in the UNESCO headquarters in Paris under the patronage of  N. Sarkozy and J. M. Barroso. Launched in 2004, the Forum deals each year with a Euro-Mediterranean theme, in the continuation of the « dialogue of civilizations. » If in 2004 the forum’s theme was « The clash of civilizations will not happen », in 2005 « The Challenge of the Euro-Mediterranean », in 2007 « The Union 50 years later: what Europe for which Europeans? » and in 2008  » A Union for the Mediterranean -Why and how? « , the 2009 edition of the Forum was entitled » Saving the Mediterranean” and was particularly interested in developing a sustainable Mediterranean.

The conference has been able to address the topics of pollution in the Mediterranean through facts, ongoing actions and recommendations, climate changes, health, agriculture and fisheries, transport, urbanization and the various crises in the Mediterranean. Were highlighted and detailed the « troubles of the Mediterranean”, an area that has the specificity to concentrate all the challenges the world is facing today. The Mediterranean is also gathering in a limited space fractures and inequalities between the two sides of the Mediterranean in terms of access to water, care, transport, income, etc..

Besides the organization of plenary discussions and workshops led by personalities from the Euro-Mediterranean political, economic scenes and civil society, the Forum’s particularity lies in the preparation of synthesis and recommendations known as the Forum’s « commitments”.

This year, the conclusion of the presentations and discussions led the participants to issue 7 proposals for the sustainable development of the Mediterranean. These correspond to:

1. The launch of a summit of major urban cities to better respond to the increase of urban populations in the Mediterranean area,

2. The creation of a permanent structure that would function as a central bank of socio-economic pieces of information and constitute a common platform for a better mutual understanding and harmonization of policies,

3. The creation of a High Authority for Water in the Mediterranean allowing common resource management policies, the pooling of research and investment,

4. The conclusion of a Mediterranean Convention on infractions related to pollution in the Mediterranean that would define:
• A code of conduct for users of the sea,
• A competent judicial authority to punish crimes and offenses in the Mediterranean,
• An active and visible “anti-pollution” Mediterranean police with operational intervention and enforcement powers,
• A fee of passage in the Mediterranean to finance this device.

5. The creation of an Authority for Health Development and lasting solidarity in the Mediterranean coordinating activities concerning health in the region,

6. The creation of a mechanism for dialogue on global warming and its consequences in the Mediterranean in order to coordinate the positions of countries on the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and its renewal at Copenhagen conference in December 2009,

7. The establishment of a mechanism for consultation in agricultural policies in the Mediterranean facilitating the sharing of agricultural, sanitary and phytosanitary research, assisting in the dissemination of techniques and practices for water saving, protection of soils and an optimal use of scarce natural resources as well as fertilizers.

A lack of media coverage of the Forum

Le Monde devoted an article to the Paris Forum explaining the bias of this 2009 edition of overlook the political dimension of the region, quoting Elie Barnavi, who considers that « the troubles of the Mediterranean cannot wait for the settlement of conflicts between Israel and Palestine, Cyprus, or in the Sahara. There is urgency. The French daily points out the position of the Forum on the Union for the Mediterranean, which is « convinced of the relevance of the Union for the Mediterranean », but regretted its « stalemate due to  traditional political false pretenses  » and demanded the completion of its institution as soon as possible.  »

The Moroccan magazine l’Economiste has also noted the relevance of the theme of this year’s Forum, which aims at « save the Mediterranean environment » and sees in it a way to push local officials to commit themselves in the preservation of Mediterranean ecosystems.

An article of the Moroccan daily Le Jour has focused on the Director General of the French Caisse des dépôts, Augustin de Romanet’s speech during the Forum. The latter said that « the major projects launched in Morocco, under the leadership of the king, are dreams that are gradually turning into a reality, including the Tangier-Med project and the large high speed railway line from Casablanca to Tangier.

It is worth noting that media coverage of the Forum of Paris has been too weak for such an event and that the Forum‘s communication efforts have been inefficient. In addition, the Forum has shown a very « French-Moroccan » aspect, which can be perceived through the media coverage of the conference, proof that the ‘France / Morocco  » duet works well in terms of cooperation but also that the « Euro-Mediterranean » is still a matter of concerns for too few States, which is one of its major handicaps.