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The report explores post-COVID opportunities for fostering growth and for deepening regional cooperation in the Mediterranean region, with a focus on five Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia). In three thematic chapters, the report brings forward the analysis on how to deepen EU-Med integration by prioritizing regional value chains (RVCs), improving food security capacities, strengthening and digitalizing the health sector, and further developing the pharmaceutical sector.
Shifts in Global Value Chains and Opportunities for Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countries (SEMCs)
The report analyzes recent shifts in Global Value Chains, characterized by diversification and shortening, resulting from COVID-19 and the increased awareness of excessive dependence on intermediate goods imported from Asia. It argues that Mediterranean countries have the necessary assets, including the geographical and cultural proximity, as well as competitive labour costs, to take advantage of such a shift. At the same time, the report suggests that European companies have every interest in turning to Mediterranean countries for their manufacturing and/or input purchases, as well as further developing a larger scale Euro-Mediterranean regional market. Consequently, the report undertakes a meticulous and unique analysis by identifying which products, and in which sectors, Mediterranean countries could offer the intermediate goods needed by European firms.
The report highlights how it would be in everyone’s interest to promote the establishment of sustainable relations between European multinationals and companies in SEMCs, including forms of direct investment that empower and involve both parties, such as co-production models. At the same time, the report calls on Mediterranean countries to keep improving their competitiveness and, on the other hand, their "absorption capacity” which includes the quality of their education/training systems and the quality of the business environment, to enable them to benefit fully from the positive effects of foreign investment.
Enhancing Food Security
The COVID-19 crisis has had a negative impact on food security in Mediterranean countries, with increasing poverty levels and a potential increase in malnutrition among the region's populations, adding to the ongoing economic crisis. Yet, Mediterranean countries have the potential to improve their food security. The report recommends increasing the production through an agricultural strategy designed to cope with scarce water resources and climate change, improving logistics, reviving the Mediterranean diet, and promoting regional cooperation in the agro-industry. The report stresses the importance of launching a common agricultural programme for the Mediterranean, in order to have grouped purchasing approaches, a common storage policy, joint research and training projects, exchanges of best practices in irrigation and agro-ecology, harmonization of non-tariff measures, facilitation of trade at borders, and labelling of Mediterranean products.
Addressing Vulnerabilities: Health
In the health sector, the report states that a better response to epidemics relies on improving health systems, including through partnerships with the private sector, regional and international cooperation, in conjunction with the World Health Organization. The report emphasizes how digitalization can potentially contribute to improving health systems, by reducing the negative effects of the centralized and pyramidal organization, by allowing better prevention and monitoring of chronic diseases, and by providing access to all medical data. The report identifies the pharmaceutical sector as a priority in the five Mediterranean countries, as their production capacities in this industry have developed strongly over the last few years. Since the pandemic revealed the vulnerability of global supply chains within this sector, Mediterranean countries could benefit from the momentum due to their proximity with the European Union, the lower cost of their production factors, their production capacities, the presence of multinationals, and their skills in pharmaceuticals.
All in all, capitalizing on the knowledge and technical excellence of the CMI and FEMISE teams, this report contributes to better understanding the current challenges facing the region and the opportunities that exist. Our aspiration is that these analyses and recommendations will be useful for stakeholders that seek to seize existing opportunities to enhance collaboration and integration between EU and Mediterranean countries towards achieving a more sustainable and resilient future for the region.
Please cite the work as follows: Augier, Patricia; Moreno-Dodson, Blanca; Blanc, Pierre; Gasiorek, Michael; Mouley, Sami; Tsakas, Constantin; Ventelou, Bruno. 2022. “Post Covid-19: opportunities for growth, regional value chains and Mediterranean integration”, Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI) and Euromediterranean Forum of Institutes of Economic Sciences (FEMISE), February.