EU must shift attention south for its security, Italian FM

'Mediterranean partnership to deal with migration and terrorism'

13 April, 20:18

    Italian FM Paolo Gentiloni Italian FM Paolo Gentiloni

    (by Luca Mirone)

    (ANSAmed) - BARCELONA - Italy has called for EU neighborhood policy to focus more on the Mediterranean and less on Ukraine, where the its greatest efforts have been employed thus far. The crises most threatening to EU borders - such as clandestine migration, extremism and terrorism - developed in the south, bringing with them humanitarian tragedies and imperiling European energy security, Italy's foreign minister said on Monday at the first informal meeting between the EU and nations from the southern and eastern coasts of the Mediterranean. Representatives from the 28 member states of the EU as well as ones from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt took part. Neighborhood policy with the Mediterranean ''is not a technical exercise'', Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni stressed, ''it must be a political priority focused on four areas'': security, migration, energy and economic cooperation. Italy holds that these agendas, which are currently being drawn up in Brussels, should be developed with an eye towards dialogue with the rest of the Mediterranean, he said, noting that this is especially true of energy, given the ''inter-connectedness'' and migration, ''working on countries of origin through economic cooperation''. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also discussed migration issues as an EU priority, noting the latest deaths at sea on Monday off the Libyan coast. At least 9 corpses were recovered and over 140 people were rescued after the Italy-bound boat they were traveling in capsized. This issue, along with anti-terrorism measures, humanitarian policies and the emergency situation of those fleeing wars, requires a higher degree of relations between the EU and its southern neighbors for a ''real, non-bureaucratic partnership'' based on all those involved doing their part, Mogherini said. So far there have only been bilateral meetings and now ''we must not let another seven years go by without meeting all together'', she said, noting that this was the first meeting since the creation of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in 2008. The EU has set aside some 16 billion euros for neighborhood policy until 2020, two-thirds of which for the southern regions and a third to the north-east. Discussion was had in Barcelona on what instruments and priorities would make north-south cooperation the most effective possible. African and Middle Eastern ministers spoke of the need for a less bureaucratic and more flexible EU based on targeted support, taken one case at a time. Since neighborhood policy was created 15 years ago, much has changed and especially so in the southern Mediterranean, which has become, the EU foreign policy chief noted, ''the most turbulent region in the world''. (ANSAmed).

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