The Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, faithful to its history with the Mediterranean, will continue positioning the Mediterranean as a cornerstone of our efforts and activities in the coming years. I am pleased to reaffirm our commitment to strengthen Mediterranean economies and bilateral relations with other Mediterranean chambers, because only a strong, well-connected Mediterranean, in which social and economic development is promoted, will become an international decisive agent again. We must stand united and continue along the path towards a region of progress and opportunities.

Nowadays, the current situation in the Mediterranean region is quite particular. It has one of the highest unemployment rates for young and trained people in the world. 45% of its 450 million inhabitants are under the age of 21 and, given this demographic pressure, the region must create 50 million new jobs by the year 2030 to maintain stability. The total population of the Mediterranean countries, especially in the south bank, has doubled in the last 30 years.

This strong demographic growth has been accompanied by high urbanisation, the acceleration of the industrialisation process and the 4.0 revolution. Besides, the South-South Mediterranean trade is the least integrated into the world: only 3.3% compared to 62% of the EU and 26% of ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations).

Businesses and chambers of commerce are the actors called to play a strategic role as institutions responsible for boosting economic activity and fostering cooperation between entrepreneurs and economic agents in the countries of both Mediterranean shores.

We need to increase competitiveness through the development of a coherent quality policy, the improvement of the environmental regulation and the reorientation and enhancement of research and development. The alignment of standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment systems of Mediterranean partners should be basic pillars for establishing a broad market for goods.

The Mediterranean is indeed a challenging region, but together we can achieve progress. We still have time to return to the spirit of Barcelona 95 and revitalise trade and investment to create a zone of shared peace and prosperity.