Magharebia (Washington DC)

North Africa: Security, Economy Dominate '5+5' Summit

Algiers/Nouakchott — At their first post-Arab Spring meeting, leaders of ten Mediterranean states pledged to jointly tackle new common security challenges.

Heads of state and government of ten Mediterranean countries concluded the two-day summit in Malta on Saturday (October 6th) with calls for strengthening trans-continental collaboration in the fields of security, defence, immigration and economy.

"Our main objective at the Malta Summit is to create the foundation for a strong co-operation in various fields, including security and economy," Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said in opening remarks at the first "5+5 Dialogue" since the Arab Spring.

Participants called for activating the group as a framework for consultation between the two shores of the Mediterranean.

The northern Mediterranean countries need to "help solve problems facing southern shore countries, especially in unemployment and lack of training as concerns strengthening the dreams of young people in the south to immigrate to the north", according to the final communique known as the Valetta Declaration.

"Southern European countries also need to contribute to solving this problem by helping south Mediterranean countries harmonise training opportunities with market needs, provide more work opportunities and raise awareness among young people about finding opportunities in their own countries now that the importance of immigrating towards the north has receded due to the economic crisis in Europe," the statement read.

In addition to economic challenges, leaders of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia, along with European partners Spain, France, Italy, Malta and Portugal discussed new security threats after the Arab Spring.

They expressed their determination to combat terrorism, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said.

Participants highlighted the link between security conditions on both shores, which makes European partners concerned with helping their southern neighbours counter security challenges.

Tunisia proposed forming a joint intervention force to monitor shores and rescue immigrants, and Algeria called for creating an observatory for food security.

Democratic reform was also high on the agenda.

"If we manage to enhance the Arab Spring and make sure that it doesn't turn into an autumn or a cold winter, major investment opportunities will appear in the European economy and the Mediterranean countries will stabilise," said Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.

"Events in North Africa are historic and have consequences on all other countries," Gonzi said. He also called for "putting an end to violence" and consolidating "democracy" in the Maghreb as well as "peace and prosperity".

In his turn, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki said that changes in North Africa "don't pose a threat to Europe".

"Don't be afraid of salafist Islamic groups," he said. "We want Islamic democracy, not autocracy."

European countries "will find many opportunities in our region", according to the Tunisian president. "Europe is our destiny," he said.

"The region has witnessed developments that will contribute to its stability," Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said. "Our countries are now trying to reconcile democracy and governance."

He described the 5+5 group as "a model for co-operation and integration", whose "values can help overcome problems" in the two regions.

"Dialogue will help us counter the challenge of terrorism, transnational crimes and arms smuggling. All this requires a change of mentalities," Ould Abdel Aziz said.

The leaders vowed to confront the "deep causes" of illegal immigration. "The management of migratory flows cannot be done through control methods only," the Valetta Declaration read.

The Euro-Maghreb dialogue group also agreed to create a joint taskforce between the ten countries to combat illegal immigration.

Concerning the Mali crisis, participants called for a speedy solution that would preserve Mali's sovereignty and territorial integrity but stopped short of referring to a military intervention. Efforts should be made to deal with the situation and its effects on the region's stability through a political dialogue, attendees concluded.

Participants agreed to hold two meetings for youth ministers from the ten countries in Nouakchott, to be scheduled later. They will hold a foreign ministers' summit in March next year.

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