Ian Micallef: “Congress know-how will sustain Euro-Mediterranean dialogue”
Stimulated by major policy moves like the “Union for the Mediterranean” project launched in 2008 by France, co-operation between the two shores of this sea also operates via local elected representatives. Long active in this field, the Congress means to have a still stronger presence there, explains Ian Micallef, President of the Chamber of Local Authorities of the Congress.
Interview – 03.03.2009
Question: While the dialogue between Europe and the Mediterranean is aimed first and foremost at closer ties between two worlds which are not well acquainted with each other despite their proximity, you recalled during the debate organised on Tuesday by the Congress on this topic that the dialogue must also address strictly European issues, like the Cypriot question: what can local elected representatives do in that respect?
Ian Micallef: We must settle European matters in the first place before we engage ourselves elsewhere. Cyprus and Turkey are each members of the Council of Europe, and in Nicosia there are now local co-operation bodies proving that both parties are quite able to work together, as they do for example in the management of sewers and effluents. We must also help Cyprus restore intercultural dialogue, and we have tools for the purpose. The Congress set up the Local Democracy Agencies to stabilise the former Yugoslavia, and comparable structures are to be developed in Cyprus.
Question: The Committee of the Regions of the European Union has a stake in the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue with a new structure, the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly, ARLEM. What place will the Congress have in this body?
Ian Micallef: It is a setting for encounter and co-operation which serves all local elected representatives of the Mediterranean and in which the Congress participates as an observer. We have already helped the local authorities of several countries in the Maghreb and the Middle East, the first being Morocco as from 2000, to acquire more modern and more democratic structures, and we shall carry these efforts further. We have just set up a new working group “DEMOMED” to strengthen local democracy in these countries and more effectively determine our strategies with them.
Question: The Mayor of Hebron, Khaled Osaily, asked the Congress on Tuesday to support his town in its efforts to be placed on the UNESCO world heritage list. What response can you make to him?
Ian Micallef: Peace in Palestine remains the principal challenge of Euro-Mediterranean dialogue. We support Hebron’s request because the listing would afford this historic town better protection. Apart from that, the Palestinians ask neither money or resources of us, but the true political recognition that we owe them. Support is also necessary for the youth of this country who, before employment, first of all need education and training.