Calling for ‘a single shore’, the SI Mediterranean Committee meets in Barcelona

5-6 October 2009

With the vision of ‘a single shore’ for the Mediterranean, members of the SI Committee for that region convened in Barcelona on 5-6 October 2009, to further discussions on a range of issues affecting the Mediterranean, under the two main themes of “For a new impetus to the policies of cooperation and integration in the Mediterranean: the commitment of democratic socialism” and “Building a common future of inclusion, democracy and peace in the region”.

Hosted by the SI member Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, PSOE, and chaired by Elena Valenciano, Secretary for International Policy and Cooperation, Chair of the Committee, the meeting was addressed at its opening by the President of the Generalitat de Catalunya (government of Catalonia), José Montilla, and at its closing by the Mayor of Barcelona, Jordi Hereu.

Opening the meeting, the SI Secretary General Luis Ayala, who had arrived that morning directly from Athens, expressed the joy of the whole Socialist International at the victory in Greece of SI President George Papandreou and PASOK, which he said was a victory for us all. Social democracy was responding to people’s hopes and aspirations, and the SI was rising to the challenges we all faced. At recent meetings in New York we had set out our position on the key issues of the global economic crisis and climate change, and here in Barcelona we were demonstrating that the concerns of the Mediterranean were part of our identity. We were committed to bringing politics back, he said, with energy, determination and solidarity.

As Chair of the Committee, Elena Valenciano warmly welcomed all participants, saying it was difficult to find a more propitious place than this city for our meeting, being a dynamic, open, tolerant and multicultural space, which truly reflected the character of the region, and which had been unanimously designated the permanent seat of the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean. Socialists from the Mediterranean all lived on the same shore, united by the same sea, and our ideal was that all on that shore should share the same conditions for life, development and equality and that in a not so distant future all would speak with one voice. Aware of the enormity of this task due to the complex circumstances which affected the region, she said that we socialists were resolute in our determination to overcome the problems and fulfil our ambitions.

Welcoming everyone to Catalonia, José Montilla, as President of the Generalitat expressed his appreciation for the choice of Barcelona as the venue of this meeting in which participants would share reflections and debate on crucial regional issues. It was important to debate what type of a Mediterranean we wanted and on how to build a true co-existence between its inhabitants and a future of peace between its States. In this globalised world, he said, which has been suffering profound changes, the values and social policies of the Socialist International have taken on greater relevance. He felt deep pride that Barcelona had been chosen as the venue of the Union of the Mediterranean, as it is a truly Mediterranean city and it believes firmly in a Mediterranean which is socially, economically and culturally united.

During the two days, participants from Albania, Andorra, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, Palestine, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Western Sahara and the PES, debated a wide variety of issues, in particular on how to inject new impetus into the policies of cooperation and integration and on the key questions of democracy and peace in the region with particular attention to national situations in countries of the region. 

One of the most flagrant problems facing the region was that of conflict, and the Committee reaffirmed its determination to spare no efforts in contributing to their solution. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was of prime concern and participants called for road maps that are shorter, not endless, and above all road maps to be covered in full, so that the end goal could be reached. The Committee was encouraged by the dialogue underway between the two communities in Cyprus, which it welcomed and supported, and by the results of the first meetings held in regard to Western Sahara by the UN with the parties concerned.

Deficits in democracy in some countries of the region were addressed and particular concern was expressed about the situation in Albania where democracy needed to be reasserted and the demands in relation to violations and irregularities of the June 28 elections needed to be recognised.  The importance of good governance and combating political corruption was underlined, as stated in the document adopted by the Committee, “The way forward lies in democratic responsibility…Citizens deserve respect and consideration from their rulers. Nothing is less democratic than rulers with no sense of the ridiculous, who consider themselves above the people, above democracy and its institutions, and even above the most basic rules of dignity”.

The closing session was addressed by Jordi Herreu, the Mayor of Barcelona, a city that has had a socialist government for over thirty years. He highlighted the importance of the values of cooperation, solidarity and openness, which were all typical of Barcelona and its people. As the seat of the new Union for the Mediterranean, the city looked to the future with hope, wanting to be active agents in constructing the world we all wanted to live in.

The Declaration adopted at the end of the meeting highlights this spirit and the view of the socialists in the Mediterranean that although there is a north and south shore, for socialists it is a single shore, one of justice, equality, freedom, plurality, democracy and respect – a shore of peace.