MedaWeek Barcelona (Mediterranean Economic Leaders' Week), the main meeting point for the private sector, came to an end on Friday 19 November, where the Mediterranean spirit was once again on display throughout the three days. This fifteenth edition featured 18 forums, general and thematic seminars, focusing on strategic sectors, actors and countries in the Mediterranean region. MedaWeek also featured more than 280 high-level speakers and was attended by more than 18,000 participants, mainly entrepreneurs from more than 45 countries, who did not miss the annual meeting of the platform with the largest influx and influence in the Mediterranean-Africa-Europe axis.
Barcelona has once again confirmed itself as the economic capital of the Mediterranean, despite the pandemic, the economic, social and health crises. In many Mediterranean countries there are other major economic and social trends that are developing in a more positive direction and which are counteracting the doom and gloom scenarios.
Barcelona, in its increasingly decisive role as economic capital and bridge between the shores of the Mediterranean, has once again hosted this 15th edition of the Mediterranean Economic Leaders' Week organised by ASCAME, the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, together with the collaboration of some twenty organisations from the three continents spanning the entire Mediterranean Sea.
Barcelona presented its credentials at the Barcelona Forum: Capturing more value and new business opportunities in the Mediterranean, in which all the city's economic and business institutions took part to promote Barcelona for its geographical and strategic location, as well as for its capacities and infrastructures and its model as a reference for exchange, dialogue and integration, as a platform city, a decisive centre of the Mediterranean Sea and a global economic benchmark.
This year's forums covered key sectors for the Mediterranean region, such as the African continent, the Euro-Mediterranean relationship, renewable energies, the green and blue economy, agriculture and food, the social economy, women entrepreneurs, young people and start-ups, the health sector, Islamic finance, the hotel industry and the cruise sector, as well as the new emerging sectors of the creative cultural industries and sport, among others. MedaWeek Barcelona was also characterised by the presentation of new multilateral funding initiatives and projects to support the regional private sector.
MedaWeek Barcelona is once again committed to Mediterranean economic integration. The region is no longer just an opportunity for European companies, but a necessity. The need for a more inclusive Mediterranean policy has been highlighted, in which youth, women, mobility, energy, and academic exchanges are discussed. The future of Europe will be played out in the South, where the destiny of Europe and Africa is linked, and the Mediterranean is the natural space of this axis: a new axis for the future with more than 1.8 billion inhabitants.
COVID-19 has shown that, due to the weakness of globalisation and economic interdependence, there is a need to take stock and change course as this inevitably recalibrates the formation of supply chains and trade flows around the world. Regionalisation is a huge source of opportunity. In this context, the Mediterranean region could become a thriving complementary North-South production frontier. Europe has a historic opportunity to influence the development of this new alliance with a geographical dimension that expands into the Mediterranean and Africa, where MedaWeek Barcelona consolidates itself as the annual economic and business platform of this new Europe-Mediterranean-Africa alliance.
Mediterranean countries cannot wait for this health and economic crisis to pass and let time pass, as the risk or cost of not moving forward with economic integration would be much higher. The effects of change could anticipate a new strategic orientation for a region that has been planning its integration for almost 25 years.
The region is in need of economic transformation and Europe is looking for new sources of growth and to relocate companies wishing to return from Asia. Concerted policies promoting a co-location approach and infrastructure modernisation in the Mediterranean would be appropriate.
Climate change and water scarcity will amplify the impact of different conflicts and create new challenges. The expected growth of tourism, maritime traffic, aquaculture or the search for hydrocarbons in the coming years requires measures to manage these uses and achieve the sustainability of their enormous wealth.
The Mediterranean is one of the regions most affected by climate change and faces a number of risks, such as water scarcity, high levels of pollution, reduced rainfall, drought and loss of biodiversity.
The Mediterranean Green Economy and Renewable Energy Summit covered key sectors such as solar, wind, hydro, and the circular economy to build a more sustainable and resilient Mediterranean. The summit provided a comprehensive overview of the development of the renewable energy market in the region and the latest trends and called for a clearer policy framework and guidelines for renewable energy development, creating synergies and strengthening public-private partnerships. The growth opportunities that the Mediterranean markets can offer were also presented, with investments of more than 90 billion euros expected up to 2030.
The potential of the region is considerable. It has a hydroelectric power system, wind resources, and some of the highest solar radiation in the world. Technically, the region could be self-sufficient, covering its needs and even those of the rest of the world through solar energy. Thus, it has been stressed that resources should be at the service of the Mediterranean, its economies and its people. Now is the time to stimulate this sustainable growth in the Mediterranean. It is the first step towards a future that must increase cooperation between the shores of the Mediterranean, protect its ecosystem, and promote sustainable growth in line with the 2030 Agenda.
The diversity of our region should be a major driver for growth and integration, for the economy, start-ups and internationalisation. Mediterranean talent without borders creates value, an inclusive and adaptable style that cultivates the ability to bring out the best in a diverse environment.
The great energy of the Mediterranean is its human capital. This energy must be used to rebuild the region. The Mediterranean DNA is rebellious, creative. It is synonymous with innovation. It has enabled it to overcome many crises and to continually reinvent itself to inspire and offer an ambitious horizon and the possibility of growth and entrepreneurship.
In the Mediterranean, the creativity and potential of young people and women must be harnessed. They must be given the support, opportunity and freedom to make their contribution. Entrepreneurship and innovation must become a priority. A new vision that formalises the great Mediterranean ambition to become a knowledge economy among the leaders in the world will be essential. The Mediterranean must be transformed into the 'Startup Region', the region of nations that think and act like a startup that elevates entrepreneurship as a priority.
In the Mediterranean countries as a whole, the female unemployment rate is around 50%. Moreover, the outlook predicts a bleak future if women are not at the heart of this partnership. It is impossible to move forward without building together a society based on equal opportunities; otherwise it will not be able to reach its true potential.
The total merchandise trade of the 22 ASCAME member countries amounts to some 5,600 billion euros. Overall foreign trade in these countries represents almost 45% of GDP. In addition to the trade in goods within the region, investments amount to approximately 2.19 billion euros.
One of the current challenges for the Mediterranean region, in order to attract more investment and finance its development, is legal certainty, which remains a real challenge in terms of improving the business environment. Efforts are certainly being made in this context to facilitate procedures, but the multiplication of projects and partners, as well as markets, is accompanied by disputes, especially in a context marked by a plurality of legal systems and diverse local specificities. Statistics and studies show that the majority of arbitrations and mediations in the region are settled outside the Mediterranean region. Foreign direct investment and regional trade are growing and, as a result, the inevitable disputes they generate.
Hence the importance for the region to ensure the establishment of a more attractive legal framework to attract better flows and investments. The creation of a Mediterranean Arbitration Centre in Barcelona also aims to provide reliable information on the current situation of national arbitration centres in the 22 Mediterranean member countries of ASCAME. The project will be led by the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce where its headquarters will be established in the Consulat de Mar and will have satellite centres in several countries of the region.
A digital, green and blue revolution and an innovative culture have been set in motion, with the opportunity to reinvent the region's economies and offer an alternative that could shape the new Mediterranean, opening up great prospects for economic recovery and regional revitalisation.