Barcelona hosts on Monday the third Regional Forum of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), which will bring together foreign ministers, deputy ministers and representatives of 43 riparian countries to discuss how to boost regional integration and launch concrete projects to improve education , employment and development in the region.
At the appointment will not be the Generalitat of Catalonia because it is a ministerial meeting with representatives of 43 States and it is unusual for local or regional authorities to participate in this type of event, explained diplomatic sources.
In the previous meeting, in January 2017, the Generalitat was not invited to participate either. However, the then president, Carles Puigdemont, gave attendees a greeting in which he spoke of Catalonia as a "host country" and a "committed partner" with the European challenges.
The forum is being convened by the UfM co-chairs: the High Representative for EU Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi. The Spanish minister, Josep Borrell, and the secretary general of the UfM, Nasser Kamel, will also intervene at the beginning.
FORUM OF CIVIL SOCIETY
Before the Regional Forum, which will gather the ministers in the afternoon, in the morning there will be a civil society forum with employment as the main theme. Regarding the meeting of the ministers, the format will allow them to talk about all the challenges in the region. Diplomatic sources assume that migration, radicalization and conflict in the Middle East will emerge in the talks, even though they are not part of the organization's mandate.
In its 10 years of life, the UfM has always been burdened, as has the Barcelona Process that preceded it, because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, one of its assets is that Israel, which is a full member, sits at the same table as the Arab countries.
In addition, the philosophy of the UfM is precisely to promote specific projects that improve the lives of people from the point of view of employment, education, the environment, access to energy and transport networks. In fact, UpM has already adopted 51 projects for an amount of more than 5,600 million dollars, of which 34 are already in execution.
DESALINATION FOR GAZA
Precisely one of these 51 is the construction of a desalination plant for Gaza, a project for which 80 percent of the necessary financing is already committed, 456 million euros announced last March at a donor conference in Brussels. The plant will provide drinking water in an area where only 3 percent meets the standards required by the World Health Organization (WHO). Israel, the consulted sources say, supports the project.
The Barcelona forum is expected to have between 25 and 28 ministers and deputy ministers from both sides, mostly from coastal countries, while the rest of the countries will send lower-level representatives.
On behalf of the EU, along with Mogherini will be the Commissioner of Enlargement and Neighborhood, Johannes Hahn. Also attending the chair of the Anna Lindh Foundation, Elisabeth Guigou; the Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit; representatives of the European Investment Bank, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Council. Also the Regional and Local Euro-Mediterranean Assembly (ARLEM), through its vice-president and mayor of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre.
On this occasion, on the Israeli side, the Minister of Housing, Yoav Galant, is expected to attend, while on the Palestinian side the representative will be the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Riad al Malki.