• Anwar Zibaoui
  • General Coordinator, ASCAME

Article translated from Spanish to English, originally posted in El Economista. Read the original here.

The 16th edition of MedaWeek came to a close on November 18th 2022. We are talking about the great Mediterranean meeting of the private sector, the event bringing together the main economic leaders of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. This year was a special success, with a total of 1.520 participants in person and another 24.500 online (from 44 countries) and 2.200 business meetings. Behind this multi-event business summit is the Association of Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce (ASCAME), which gathers more than 300 chambers of commerce from 23 countries, representing a total of 120 million companies.

This great representativeness is what allows MedaWeek Barcelona to leave behind concrete realities after its celebration. On this occasion, for example, it gave birth to the Mediterranean Mediation Court, which will be based in Barcelona with the purpose of strengthening legal security in agreements between Mediterranean companies. This is a new instrument at the service of companies and traders, to be able to resolve their conflicts, whether national or international, without the need to resort to legal proceedings and recovering, to a certain extent, the spirit of the Consulate of the Sea in medieval Barcelona. Another reality that this edition of MedaWeek has left behind is the creation, in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, of a Research Centre for the Green and Blue Economy, which reflects the commitment to promote a new model of chambers of commerce capable of responding to the transition of the current economic model towards an economy in which new sectors of the global economy, and especially the digital, green and blue ones, will play an increasingly important role.

The third major reality that MedaWeek has left behind is the embryo of a future Mediterranean Tourism Agency, whose task will be to create a single brand for the promotion of tourism throughout the Mediterranean basin with the participation of representatives from both the public and private sectors. An agency that is a necessity for an economic sector that represents 13% of the Mediterranean basin’s exports, 23% of activity in the services sector and employs more than 20 million people. Moreover, the region accounts for 20% of the world’s hotel accommodation capacity. Another commitment is to create, within the framework of Medaweek, a specific economic platform for young Mediterranean people to empower them, promote their ideas and facilitate the financing of their projects. In this edition, 30 projects of young entrepreneurs in the region were financed.

The objective pursued by ASCAME through MedaWeek is to promote major agreements that facilitate the rapprochement between the different nations bordering the Mediterranean, while consolidating this sea as an economic space capable of developing the entrepreneurial spirit of a region that has the necessary capacity to expand its GDP by 30% in the next 10 years and in which Europe can find alternatives to consolidate its economic future in a situation of growing economic complexity, especially in the energy field. Thus, the countries of North Africa have the necessary capacity to become suppliers of clean solar energy for European countries, while the recent discovery of a gas pocket in the eastern Mediterranean has already led to agreements between traditionally conflicting countries, such as Lebanon and Israel, which are essential to exploit a field capable of meeting Europe’s gas needs for a period of fifty years. These two elements could be the driving forces to promote an energy cooperation space in the near future capable of avoiding energy dependence on Russia.

Thanks to these achievements, MedaWeek has become an influential voice, able to open the door to the most ambitious regional projects for companies, while offering its participants the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge and understanding of changing trends in all economic sectors, as well as to discover emerging niches in industry and the economy. This is particularly useful for SMEs, which account for 90% of the region’s business fabric, 60% of its GDP and 70% of its employment. These small and medium-sized enterprises underpin the entrepreneurial spirit of the Mediterranean and channel the energies of its entrepreneurs. Indeed, they provide an outlet for a young workforce in a region where more than 60% of the population is under 25. A young workforce that is concentrated on the southern shore, while the European area is ageing. In Spain alone, between now and 2050, 240,000 immigrants a year will be needed to maintain economic activity. Moreover, the pandemic has highlighted the need for states to have their production centres, or at least part of them, close to their territory in order to avoid some undesirable situations, such as the shortage of masks during the first weeks of Covid.

The northern and southern Mediterranean must meet again. The widening economic disparities between the two shores call more than ever for the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean area with a specific weight in the world economy to be consolidated. This has always been the spirit of MedaWeek, which from the outset, when it came into being sixteen years ago, has striven to set up an agenda for economic cooperation at regional level that would enable progress towards progressive convergence at the economic and social level through the promotion of common sectoral policies. Serious thought must be given to the need to intensify dialogue between the two shores of the sea that we share, which must be transformed into the creation of common structures to facilitate it, such as the Union for the Mediterranean or ASCAME.

The Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce want to contribute to fostering this dialogue that should lead to the full economic development of the region. And it does so by setting an example in promoting dialogue, facilitating exchanges and promoting institutions that bring us closer together. The Mediterranean Mediation Court in Barcelona or the Green and Blue Economies Research Centre in Alexandria mentioned at the beginning of this article are proof of this.