The Mediterranean Citizens’ Assembly Foundation (FACM) held its 9th Meeting in Valencia from 11 to 14 November, placing the situation of millions of citizens in the Mediterranean at the centre of the international political agenda, a decade after the so-called “Arab Springs”. The proposals of this event, in which citizens from around twenty Mediterranean countries have participated, will be widely disseminated among the main Euro-Mediterranean institutions. On this occasion, under the title ‘From a Divided Mediterranean to a Shared Mediterranean: A Decade of Citizen Resistance’, a major interdisciplinary debate was held on the situation in the different Mediterranean countries. The participants, together with specialists, public institutions, and civil society, took stock of the citizens’ movements that we call “Mediterranean Springs” and their attempt to move towards fairer, more democratic, sustainable, and cohesive societies. The new perspectives arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and its negative effects on the population, the economy and society were also considered.
The event provided a space for dialogue and reflection where, in the midst of increasing instability and inequalities in the area, proposals were made on citizen solidarity practised in the framework of Covid-19. The urgent need for effective cooperation between representative public institutions and citizens to prevent hate speech, as well as to facilitate the transition to more sustainable agri-food and energy systems, was highlighted. Former MEP Vicent Garces, President of the ACM Foundation, pointed out that “the popular uprisings of 2010-2011 against authoritarian regimes in the southern and eastern Mediterranean, which brought democratic transformation and social justice, have unfortunately ended in a dead end for the most part.
This Meeting, 10 years later, renews the necessary transformative hope of citizenship”. The IX Meeting of the FACM counted with the participation of Joan Ribó, Mayor of Valencia; Joan Calabuig, Regional Secretary for the European Union and External Relations of the Generalitat Valenciana; Sergio Piazzi, Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (APM); Josep Canals, Secretary General of the Network of Mediterranean Cities Medcités, in the opening session, which took place in the Faculty of Social Sciences of the UV; Blanca Moreno-Dodson, Director of the Centre for Mediterranean Integration (CMI); Ioannis Vardakastanis, President of the Euromed Follow-Up of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC); Christophe Rouillon, Representative of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) of the European Committee of the Regions, and Albert Moncusí, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Valencia.
Mayor Ribó remarked that in Valencia “the FACM held its first meeting ten years ago and here we meet again at a crucial moment for humanity. A time in which solidarity and collaboration between peoples have proved to be the only useful tools in the face of the great challenges facing the Mediterranean region in the face of the climate emergency and also the worrying increase in hate crimes. Blanca Moreno-Dodson, the director of the Centre for Mediterranean Integration, which operates under the umbrella of the United Nations and with which the FACM has a collaboration agreement, pointed out that “despite the increasing inequalities in the Mediterranean, we must see the pandemic as an opportunity for change”, referring to how regional value chains have proved useful in the face of the difficulty of importing and exporting, thus pointing out that it is crucial to invest in agriculture to sustain our ecosystems but also for food security.
The analysis of the current situation of war and instability in some Mediterranean countries and the role of citizenship in the 10th anniversary of the “Arab Spring” was attended by leading intellectual, academic and social figures such as the French-Syrian political scientist, Salam Kawakibi, the Palestinian diplomat Hassan Al Balawi, the activist Virginie Lafèvre, representing the Lebanese organisation AMEL, which works for the inclusion of refugees; the Moroccan feminist Touria El Oumri; the president of the International Centre for Peace in Sarajevo, Ibrahim Spahic; the analyst and expert on the Middle East, Sébastien Bossois; the journalist and expert on the Mediterranean, Lola Bañon; the president of the Centre for International Mediterranean Studies in Tunisia, Ahmed Driss, among others.
In addition to the conclusions and proposals of the 9th Meeting which will be made public soon, the Advisory Council of the ACM Foundation pointed out that “Tunisia, where the uprisings had begun and the only country to have continued its democratic process, is today in an extremely worrying situation with the establishment of an authoritarian regime and the suspension of its elected Parliament”. Similarly, the FACM Advisory Council has warned of the “destabilisation of the countries on the north-eastern shore of the Mediterranean basin, whose citizens have shown a strong desire for European integration. The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina has deteriorated and requires an immediate reaction to stop the danger of a return to war, ethnic division and the destruction of state institutions”. The statement notes that “the FACM calls for citizen resistance to face the multiple emergencies suffered by the peoples of the Mediterranean”.
Past editions of the ACM Foundation Meetings have been held in Valencia (2010), Tunis (2011), Volos/Greece (2012), Istanbul (2013), Marseille (2014), Tirana (2015), Casablanca (2017) and Barcelona (2019). In all of them, the FACM promotes dialogue, proposals and citizen action, fostering democratic values of freedom, peace and respect for diversity, as well as environmental responsibility in the Mediterranean.