Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, (PAM) is an Organisation established with the aim of bringing together all the littoral States of the Mediterranean on an equal footing under a unique forum of their own, to examine questions and take decisions on issues of direct interest to the countries of the region. It has its General Secretariat headquarters in Malta which took up office in September 2007.

PAM is organised as a democratic institution, assisted by a governing body, the Bureau, which has an overall guiding and coordinating function. The Bureau is made up of eight representatives equally divided among northern and southern countries of the region. The work of the Assembly is supported by three Standing Committees dealing with political, economic and social affairs. The Statutes of the Assembly also foresee the setting up of Ad hoc Committees or Special Task Forces to collaborate on priority issues. The Assembly and its operative bodies are served by a Secretariat. The organization is financed by contributions from the Member States. Participation in the Assembly is granted to its members, associate members and observers. The members are made up of littoral States of the Mediterranean region, whereas countries considered as having an interest in the Mediterranean can participate as associate members, and other institutions can attend the Assembly in their capacity as observers. Voting rights are not extended to associate members or observers.

Introduction

The Mediterranean Sea has borne some of the greatest civilizations known to mankind and today is a major player globally on account of its natural resources, trade and tourism. The richness in diversity of the Mediterranean has however plagued the area with particular circumstances that have caused conflicts, destruction, death and also unacceptable conditions to some of its peoples. Differences that can potentially threaten the peace, prosperity and security of the region as a whole. The decision to establish the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean is based, among others, on the will to “…address issues of common concern to foster and enhance further confidence between Mediterranean States so as to ensure regional security and stability, and to promote peace.” PAM’s primary mission is therefore to assert the centrality of the Mediterranean area and reaffirm the key role of the Organisation’s Members in addressing their common interests and shared concerns through a forum specifically created for that purpose.The PAM therefore promotes the development of forms of cooperation, to ensure that the wealth of land and sea-based human and natural resources available to the region are used in an optimal and sustainable manner.Through PAM political dialogue and understanding between the Member States will be strengthened and this can be achieved, notably, by:

*Fostering and building confidence among Mediterranean States;
*Guaranteeing regional security, stability and promoting peace;
*Consolidating the endeavours of Mediterranean States;
*Presenting opinions and recommendations to national parliaments and governments, regional organizations and international fora.

Background Note

Over the centuries, the Mediterranean has nurtured and hosted some of the richest civilizations ever known to humankind. The Mediterranean peoples have an enormous wealth of human and natural resources at their disposal. Yet today, while other regions in Asia and Latin America are emerging as the most dynamic economies in the world, parts of the Mediterranean are characterized by tensions and an inadequate level of development and regional cooperation. This weakens the capability of the peoples of the region to meet the challenges of globalization. The issues of civil and military risks that threaten the stability of the region as a whole are but a few of the questions to be addressed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM). In fact, the primary mission of the PAM is to bring representatives of the Mediterranean people together to further cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding.

The Mediterranean Multiple Variables

As a region, the Mediterranean first appeared on the international agenda in 1975, following the inclusion of the Mediterranean Chapter in the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe CSCE. With the end of the Cold War, Mediterranean States started to develop their own forums for dialogue, as a result of which several intergovernmental bodies were formed. In the late eighties, the Western Mediterranean Forum (5+5) was set up to foster cooperation between the Member States of the Arab Maghreb Maher Union and their neighbours to the North. In 1994, a Franco-Egyptian proposal led to the establishment of the Mediterranean Forum that serves as a gathering of like-minded states.

In 1995, the Foreign Ministers of the European Union and those of twelve Mediterranean countries attended the first Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona. The Ministers adopted the ‘Barcelona Declaration’ as a framework for a comprehensive partnership. Its main political and economic objectives are the establishment of a free trade area and a common area of peace and prosperity. In 2004, and after the enlargement of EU extending membership to ten new Member States, the European Council launched the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) towards its partners in the South and East. The ENP uses new instruments and incentives to encourage political and economic reforms in neighboring countries.

In the 1994, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launched the “Mediterranean dialogue” with several States from the south part of the region. The dialogue aims at furthering understanding and cooperation in the field of security.

Earlier this year, the President of France, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, proposed the setting up of a “Mediterranean Union” to foster cooperation between the countries of the region. President Sarkozy has invited the Head of States of the Mediterranean region to meet in June 2008.

Parliamentary diplomacy

In 1990, under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), all the littoral States of the Mediterranean launched the process of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean (CSCM). For more than a decade, the CSCM process discussed themes that were of direct interest to the Mediterranean. Three major Conferences, held in Malaga (1992), Valletta (1995) and Marseilles (1999), respectively, called for the institutionalization of the process. At the Marseilles Conference, the parties agreed, “to establish an inter-parliamentary structure as advocated in the Valletta (1995) document, with a view to create a Parliamentary Assembly of Mediterranean States.”

In February 2005, the Fourth and final CSCM Conference was held in Nafplion, Greece. During that meeting, representatives of national parliaments of the Mediterranean States finalized and adopted the Statutes of the Parliamentary Assembly and decided to hold its first meeting in Amman, Jordan during the latter part of 2006. In September 2006, the Jordanian Parliament hosted the inaugural session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean. The Assembly also agreed to establish the seat of its permanent international Secretariat in Malta.

The second Plenary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean was held in Malta on 22 - 24 November 2007.

PAM –Structure and functions

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean was established to bring together all the littoral States of the Mediterranean on an equal footing (both in terms of representation – with five members per national delegation – and voting rights) ) under a unique forum of their own, to examine questions and take decisions on issues of direct interest to the countries of the region.

The structure of this “Agora Mediterranea” is also different from that of any other forum. It is a democratic institution, assisted by a governing body, the Bureau, which has an overall guiding and coordinating function. The Bureau is made up of eight representatives equally divided among northern and southern countries of the region. Decisions in the Assembly are preferably adopted unanimously, or alternatively, by majority vote. The work of the Assembly is supported by three Standing Committees dealing with political, economic and social affairs. The Statutes of the Assembly also foresee the setting up of Ad hoc Committees or Special Task Forces to collaborate on priority issues. The Assembly and its operative bodies are served by a Secretariat. The whole organization is financed by contributions from the Member States on the basis of a cost sharing formula. Participation in the Assembly is granted to its members, associate members and observers. The members are made up of littoral States of the Mediterranean region, whereas countries considered as having an interest in the Mediterranean can participate as associate members, and other institutions can attend the Assembly in their capacity as observers. Voting rights are not extended to associate members or observers. The General Secretariat headquarters started functioning in September 2007 in Malta.

Main challenges ahead

The absence of peace in the Middle East is one of the main problems that continues to jeopardize the whole process of security, stability and development in the Mediterranean region. Huge financial resources are allocated to arms and military expenditure. At the same time, the region has a much lower level of foreign direct investments compared with South East Asia and Latin America.

The PAM is ideally placed to organize discussions between Parliamentary representatives, civil society actors, the private sector and politicians. It aims to become the parliamentary centre of excellence on Mediterranean affairs, and to this end, it will be complementary to other regional bodies and institutions.

Promoting reforms on all levels, dialogue, investment and regional cooperation are the keys for sustainable development.

The PAM Committees meet regularly to discuss wide-ranging issues relating to the cultural, economic, political and social conditions in the region. By way of illustration, they include regional stability, co-development and partnership, cultural dialogue and good governance.

The United Nations defined the 21st century as the century of migration. Resources such as water are becoming scarce at a global level. For example, demographers estimate that the population of North Africa and the Middle East represents approximately 5% of the total population of the world, and that these people have access to less than 1% of renewable water resources. Lack of water will decrease food security. Consequently, it will contribute to migratory flows and tensions between States of the region.

The PAM closely follows the projects developed by all relevant organizations in the sphere of environmental protection and sustainable development. The establishment of a regional water management authority is just one of the recent proposals that the PAM intends to discuss in the near future. Furthermore the PAM will organize a Special Task Force (STF) meeting on Climate Change in Athens in April 2008.

The regulation of population policies and improved management of migratory flows are of great importance for the whole area. In the year 2000, the population of the southern Mediterranean countries comprised two-thirds of the total population of the region (450 million). Fifty years ago, this figure stood at around 150 million – only one third of today’s total. Population growth in the North is below 2% , whilst in certain States in the South it stands at 3.5%. In its previous meetings, the PAM discussed the problem of migration. It will be attentive to demographic issues in the region and make concrete suggestions to the governments of the region. The PAM supports the setting of a Mediterranean Inter - regional observatory on Demography and Migration, as proposed at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which could provide real data about demographic growth and population movements across the Mediterranean region.

The Second Plenary Session of the Assembly

The Second Plenary Session of the Assembly was held in Malta on 22 – 24 November 2007. The members examined the mission statement of the PAM, which contains a five-year work plan and a calendar of activities based on a working strategy paper built on the precept that the Mediterranean is our common heritage. The document also lists priority questions that have been assigned to the respective Committees of the Assembly. During the Plenary Session, the Assembly adopted amendments to its statutory instruments and eight Ad hoc Committees and Special Task Forces were set up in accordance with the Statutes of the Assembly to conduct a detailed examination of specific questions. The Assembly also decided to take another important political step in the direction towards preparing in 2008 a draft of a “Mediterranean Charter” on a common vision for the region.

The Assembly also invited the French Ambassador responsible for the Mediterranean Union initiative to be briefed on the proposal. During the debate, members emphasized that the Mediterranean parliamentary dimension already existed: the PAM. This was acknowledged by the Ambassador, who further confirmed that the project would be serviced by an executive body that would closely coordinate and cooperate with the PAM.

Finally, the Second Plenary of the Assembly also marked the official inauguration of the Secretariat of the PAM, the Spinola Palace, by the President of Malta.

The Mediterranean Dialogue

The complexities that abide in the Mediterranean can be attributed to the strategic and navigational importance of the region. They are also the result of the succession of powers that have established themselves in the Mediterranean and the consequent occupation brought about by the movement of persons within the region. The make up of the region is a reflection of the succession of powers that have occupied the region. The empire builders were followed by the crusades, colonisation and super power rivalry. The cultural diversity, civilisation and values of succeeding powers and the human movement that took place as a result left their mark on the character and way of life in the different sub regions of the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean is endowed with a unique regional heritage that should be preserved and apportioned in a way as to enhance cooperation and promote trust among the littoral states. However the need to harmonise the wider cultural influences that exist in the region has not as yet been possible.

We are living in a time of change brought about by the accelerated advancement in the field of communications and the information technology that have increasingly promoted globalisation. Change is inevitable, and change must come from within in a planned manner failing which it will come about through external forces and influences that bear upon the daily lives of our citizens. At the regional level the choice is to take up the challenge of change in a progressive manner, thus to counter the trend that is likely to lead towards the infamous clash of civilisations.

The Mediterranean needs a forum of its own that will serve to promote a collective regional identity, through dialogue among the states of the region, on issues that have a direct interest on them.

CSCE

The Mediterranean dialogue is relatively of recent datage. The inclusion of the Mediterranean on the international agenda is the result of Malta’s determination to include a Mediterranean Chapter in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. The Maltese approach introduced in the early stages of the CSCE OCSE was based on the concept that there can be no security in Europe without security in the Mediterranean and vice versa.

The 5+5

In 1983 French President Francois Mitterand called for the setting up of a Forum in the form of a security initiative bringing together the five members of the Arab Maghreb Union: Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia and their immediate neighbours to the North: France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain. The Western Mediterranean Dialogue was set up in December 1990. It was meant to secure closer cooperation between countries west of the Mediterranean, through improved economic cooperation, limiting the disparity in population growth and encouraging more efficient management of resources to enhance regional interdependence. A number of working groups were set up to deal with thematic issues such as the environment, multilateral financing institutions, infrastructure and technological development. Unfortunately by 1992 the process was brought to a halt. This pause is attributed to the fact that at the time Libya was subjected to international sanctions on its alleged support of terrorism. Also the Arab Maghreb Union ceased to function due to the situation in the Western Sahara that caused friction between Algeria and Morocco.

In 2001 Portugal relaunched the process and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the ten member states met in Lisbon. The meeting in Portugal was followed by annual meetings that were held in Libya, France, Algeria, Malta and Morocco. Several ongoing initiatives have since been launched dealing primarily with Migration issues, Defence initiatives and Tourism. Libya also took the initiative to call meetings of the Speakers of the Houses of Representatives of the member states of the dialogue.

Mediterranean Forum

In 1994 Egypt and France came up with a second initiative that was intended to include all the Mediterranean states. A hard core group of eleven states was set up to launch the Mediterranean Forum in their meeting in Alexandria. The core group was to be enlarged to include all the Mediterranean States. However in view of differences that exist among some members of the core group itself it was not possible to take up in an effective manner the enlargement of the Forum. To this day the Mediterranean Forum is still made up of: Algeria, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey.

A year later the EuroMed process came into being and as a result the experience of the Mediterranean Forum was short-lived. In the years that followed the Mediterranean Forum transformed itself in a grouping of like-minded states that in principle sought to make up a Mediterranean lobby to advance the objectives of the Barcelona process. It has also taken a very important initiative through the drawing up and adoption of a code of conduct to combat terrorism.

The Euromediterranean Partnership

In the year that followed, the Euro Mediterranean Conference was held in Madrid setting up a comprehensive partnership between the then 15 members of the European Union and twelve Mediterranean partner countries, namely, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus and Malta. The 1995 Barcelona Declaration - Barcelona Euro-Mediterranean Conference - adopted by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the participating countries was made up of three chapters intended to establish a common area of peace and stability, creating an area of shared prosperity, and the development of human resources, promoting understanding between cultures and exchanges between civil societies. The process was supported by a substantial financial investment.

This venture was welcomed by all those interested in the Mediterranean. Through the individual Association Agreements concluded with ten of the Mediterranean partner countries (Malta and Cyprus as candidates for membership in the European Union had their own protocols) progress was registered. However at the regional level progress is slow and often stalled as a result of the situation in the Middle East. To some of the southern states, in the course of time, the process has gradually changed its bearing. Whereas the Barcelona Declaration was the key instrument of the process, in the course of time other documents came into being such as the Mediterranean strategy document, the ESDP, the European Neighbourhood Policy and action plans. Again some of the Mediterranean partners consider that some of these new instruments vie with the Barcelona Declaration. The ENP in particular was conceived for the European peripheral states and later extended to the Mediterranean partnership. Not all the Mediterranean partner countries are ready to finalise agreements on the European Neighbourhood Policy.

A renewed interest in the Mediterranean

In recent years there has been a marked interest in the Mediterranean. Several initiatives have been advanced that go in the direction of promoting an exclusive Mediterranean dimension.

Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean

In 2006 the Parliamentary representatives of the littoral states of the Mediterranean met in Amman, Jordan to set up the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM). The Assembly brings together all the Mediterranean representatives on an equal footing to discuss issues that are of direct concern to them or the region. It will be recalled that Parliamentary Diplomacy among Mediterranean States took the form of a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean (CSCM) that was established in Malaga in 1992. In 1995 the CSCM met in Valletta during which the Maltese parliament proposed the setting up of an Association of Mediterranean States to be made up of a “Council, an Assembly and a Secretariat”. This was followed by another meeting that was held in the year 2000 in Marseilles where agreement was reached to “set up, in the long run, the Parliamentary Assembly of Mediterranean States”. The coordinating Committee met in Nice in order to draw up the Statute of the PAM that was adopted in the Fourth and Final CSCM held in Napflion, Greece in 2005. The project was inaugurated in Amman in 2006 in the course of which the Assembly adopted the main instruments of the new assembly and agreed to locate the headquarters of the PAM in Malta.

The Mediterranean Union

The newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for the setting up of a Mediterranean Union. A Summit is due to be held in July to launch the Union. Both as Malta and PAM we are following the evolution of this proposal. The French are carrying out several consultation exercises to enable them to determine the form and shape that this will take. Ambassador Alan Leroy, who is respeonsible for the project, also addressed the PAM Assembly in Malta last November.

What appears to be innovative is the fact that this Union, shall include sector based projects. It is more than the normal inter-government institution but rather a partnership between governments and the private sector as well as NGOs, Banks and other constituted bodies.

The 6+6

At the governmental level account should be taken of the recent decision taken in Marrakech to transform the 5+5 into a 6+6 that would include the addition of Egypt and Greece. Of course this decision gives to the dialogue a different approach that is wider than the original Western Mediterranean concept. We will have to see whether the enlarged project will replace the 5+5 and the Mediterranean Forum.

Mediterranean Dialogue and Diplomacy

There is a relationship between the three initiatives that, while acting independently, could complement one another. The PAM represents the Parliamentary arm of the regional dialogue, the importance of which is construed on the latitude that parliamentarians enjoy in their dealing with the government and their constituency. The future 6+6 could become the inter-governmental think tank. The Mediterranean Union does not appear to dwell on political issues but rather on specific projects of interest to the region. The innovative approach of the Mediterranean Union appears to be in the sort of public/private partnership that would involve non governmental interests in the promotion of sectors of direct concern to the region.

Of course the often repeated question is what relationship exists between the Euro Med process and these new initiatives. There is certainly no attempt to have the Euro Med process replaced by any of these recent initiatives. If anything they all seek to complement the work being carried out by the different regional fora. (AZ)

Link to the official website:http://www.apm.org.mt/


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