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EuroMeSCo General Assembly
and Annual Conference held in Brussels
EuroMeSCo General Assembly was held in Brussels at the Egmont Palace on April 13 th, 2016. The participating members were informed that with arrangements finalized with the European Commission, the network would augment research and dialogue activities with partners which would be co-financed by the IEMed. The topics of the Working Packages to be developed in 2017-2018 will be defined by the Academic Secretariat upon proposals from members. The General Assembly also discussed applications from different countries to become full members or observers and among other applicant think-tanks, ORSAM (Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies) from Turkey was admitted as full member to the network.
During the next 2 days, April 14th and 15th,2016, the Annual Conference of EuroMeSCo was held with the title “Towards A Security Architecture for the Mediterranean: A Challenge for Euro-Mediterranean Relations” which was aimed to contribute to the preparation of the EU Global Strategy expected to be released in June. Mapping the security threats in the Mediterranean and current security framework in the Mediterranean were discussed at the plenary session, and parallel working groups discussed the papers prepared on “terrorist threat in the Euro-Mediterranean Region”, “Migration and Refugees: Impact and Future Policies. Case studies of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Greece”, “Youth Activism in the South and East Mediterranean Countries since the Arab Uprisings: Challenges and Policy Options”. During the debate on the paper prepared on “Terrorist Threat in the Euro-Mediterranean Region”, FPI Board Member Oktay Aksoy emphasized that the paper was focused solely on the ISIL threat and ignored the fact that Turkey was fighting 3 kinds of terrorist groups, one ethnic (PKK-PYD), the other sectarian (ISIL) and yet another, the so-called ideological (DHKP-C) and all these had spillover effects on the whole region. But since the EU preferred to be focused on the ISIL which had been targeting the EU member countries as well, the other threat groups had been ignored, whereas that also needed to be sufficiently diagnosed.
Moreover, parallel working sessions were held on “Hard Security Challenges in the Euro-Mediterranean Region”, “Socio-Political Challenges in the Euro-Mediterranean Region”, “Energy and Environmental Challenges and Geopolitics in the Mediterranean”. The last day, parallel meetings were held to kick off the subjects to be handled until the next Conference in 2017 which were identified as “Future of Syria”, “Transformation in Tunisia: the First Five Years” and “Mapping Migration Challenges in the EU Transit and Destination Countries”.
The Conference was concluded with a plenary session on the role of EU for the new security architecture for the Mediterranean which was chaired by the former Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Miguel Angel Moratinos. At that session, Pierre Vimont, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Europe pointed out that in the early 2000 the issue of security was dealt with hesitation and reluctance when it was brought up informally by the then French President and later at the Valetta Summit last year the issue was dealt very differently with the Sahel countries more interested but North African countries not much enthusiastic and the Europeans thought that they could go ahead on their own. So far the issue had been tackled piecemeal. Therefore, the problem was how to define a shared vision of what is needed for security and where it would fit in the Euro-Mediterranean partnership framework, what would be the geographical limits, what would the priorities be, where to place the terrorist threats, the radical groups, even a more broader perspective to include proliferation of WMDs, even further the support to provide for nation states like Libya to overcome their disintegration . He concluded that for a possible framework arrangement the Union for the Mediterranean was an economic organization, the African Union needed more time to gain sufficient experience, for the League of Arab States it was a difficult issue, the success of the coalition fighting pirates at the Horn of Africa may not always be repeated and the Helsinki process which had brought nations to cooperate in the Cold War atmosphere. Therefore, partners in the network needed more time to discuss the issue.
On the other hand, at the end of the session, the former Spanish Foreign Minister Mr. Moratinos summed up that there was need for a political strategy, many countries were prepared to discuss security cooperation, would it be met piecemeal or would a holistic approach be more suitable, should there be a prioritization of the threats posed, in assessing security arrangements taking into consideration of a wider geography was a necessity, a global approach and a more comprehensive security system may be discussed and that soft security issues, economic elements, etc. may be utilized to foster peace in the region and that Europe should be a more visual player in the resolution of conflicts in the region.
As one of the founding members of EuroMeSCo, the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute participates at the meetings of the General Assembly and the annual Conferences. This year Amb. (R) Oktay Aksoy, Board Member of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute (FPI) participated. Other participants from Turkey were Prof. Mensur Akgün, Director of Global Political Trends Center (GPoT), Dr. Sylvia Tiryaki, Deputy Director of GPoT, Assoc. Prof. Şükrü Erdem, Akdeniz University Center for Economic Research on Mediterranean Countries (CREM), Prof. Ahmet Evin, Senior Scholar at Istanbul Policy Center (IPC), Prof. Başak Kale, METU Center for European Studies and also Prof. Şaban Kardaş, President of Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM).