18th Plenary Session of the Congress

      Strasbourg, 17 March 2010

      Speech by Ludmila SFIRLOAGA, President of the Chamber of Regions

      Draft introduction on the report on the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) and the role of the Congress

      Dear colleagues,

      As you know, the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly - the ARLEM - was set up on 21 January 2010. The Congress has followed this initiative of the Committee of the Regions since its beginning.

      The Congress felt it was important to give its support to the co-operation between local and regional authorities in both shores of the Mediterranean Sea and to develop the co-operation with the Committee of the Regions on this particular important question, the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.

      The Congress has developed relations with Mediterranean regions since the early 1990s. I refer in particular to relations with Tunisia and Morocco and with the Israeli and the Palestinian Authority Associations of Local Authorities, both of which now hold observer status within the Congress.

      Several “Conferences of Mediterranean Regions” were organised by the Congress, in cooperation with the Parliamentary Assembly. The first one took place in 1985, the second in Malaga (September 1987), the third in Sicilia (Taormina, April 1993), the 4th in Nicosia and Limassol (Cyprus in Sept ember 1995). And the 5th Conference in Marmaris (Turkey in February 1999) was devoted to Mediterranean and Black sea Basins. After each of these conferences, the Congress adopted Recommendations and resolutions, which raised the major problems that the Mediterranean local and regional authorities have to face(Migrations, environment, etc) and already developed a Euro – Mediterranean dimension in the activities of the Congress. Needless to say that there is already a long tradition within the Congress to ask for an effective role of local and regional authorities in the Mediterranean Basin in promoting sustainable development, peace and democratic stability in the region

      ARLEM now represents a permanent forum for dialogue and co-operation of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local authorities and has the objective of being recognised as consultative and institutional partner within the Union for the Mediterranean.

      I am convinced that the organisations, associations and other bodies working in this field can be involved in the actions of ARLEM, in accordance with their own competences and availability.

      For these reasons, in the draft Resolution – submitted for your approval to-day – the birth of this new Euro-Mediterranean Assembly is welcomed.

      We welcome the fact that ARLEM is based on an equal representation of members from the southern shore of the Mediterranean and representatives of the European Union Committee of the Regions and associations.

      I believe that building virtual bridges between Europe and our Southern Mediterranean neighbours is a matter of paramount importance.

      Concerning our involvement in this initiative, the Congress could play, as a whole, including regional representatives, a role in the implementation of regional democracy, in the process of decentralisation and in the participation of civil society in Mediterranean regions.

      I think that, as a complement to cooperation between cities, we should reinforce co-operation between southern and northern regions of the Mediterranean Sea. Several European regions developed concrete projects with South Mediterranean partners. Such projects should be encouraged in an economic but also cultural perspective.

      In addition, the Congress can support southern and eastern Mediterranean countries in developing co-operation on practical projects with local and regional authorities of member states of the Council of Europe. In this respect, the following fields of action as priorities are suggested: migration, employment, training and environment policies.

      We can consider the observer status of the Congress within ARLEM as a recognition of the added value the Congress can give to the initiative. The Congress could be ready to provide support – namely through its experience in legislative processes – in building effective and efficient local and regional democracy.

      The resolution submitted today for your approval proposes to fully support the ARLEM and co-operate with the Committee of the Regions and the ARLEM in the fields of local democracy and decentralisation.

      On their side, local and regional authorities and associations are invited to forge bilateral relations with authorities in the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean Basin.

      I believe the Congress should be present in finding solutions to the challenges currently faced in the Mediterranean and be ready to act in favour of local and regional democracy.

      Thank you for your attention.

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