The ”5th meeting of ministers of transport of the Occidental Mediterranean countries” (GTMO 5+5), inaugurated on Monday in Tunis, chaired by Tunisia (2007-2009), discussed the financial means likely to materialise the different priority projects of transport and infrastructure, with the prospect of implementing a multimodal transport networkfor the Occidental Mediterranean. The priority co-operation projects between the group GTMO 5+5 and the European Union (EU), concern the modernisation and inter-operation of the trans-Maghreb railway axis, linking Tunis, Algiers and Casablanca and the improvement of the services. The Summit also presented the opportunity for the launch of a feasibility study of the Maghreb high speed train named TGVM, linking Tripoli to Casablanca, via Tunis and Algiers, in addition to the examination of the possibility for the European Union to finance trans-border sections in the realization of the motorway of the Maghreb union. This is also about the emergence of the motorways of the sea in the Occidental Mediterranean. Tunisia presented, for this end, its candidature to the EU relating to Radès-Marseille/Radès-Gènes axes.
The Euro-Mediterranean projects between dream and reality !
Opening the activities of the meeting, Abderrahim Zouari, minister of transport, highlighted the role of basic infrastructure in the achievement of economic integration and boosting development, underlining the importance of finance as a key element in the materialisation of the objectives in the matter. The efforts made by the international financial institutions and the European Commission for the mobilisation of additional financial resources and the implementation of new financing mechanisms for the infrastructure projects, such as the FEMIP (Euro-Mediterranean Facility for Investment and Partnership), the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF), marked the speeches of the ministers present in the meeting. They also mentioned the investment facilities in the clean projects, with an ecological vocation and the problem of financing, mainly for the occasional credits. We should remark, in this chapter, that the differences at the level of financial aids granted by the European (EU)by head, varies from 1 to 40 between the countries candidates to membership in the Union and the Neighbourhood countries. The vulnerability of these institutions, as well as the margin existing between financing projects in the North and South shores of the Mediterranean, may, according to some experts attending the meeting, create doubts concerning the real chances of materializing these projects, at least in the long run.
The issue of financing looms on the activities of the meeting
The last troubles on the financial markets showed the fragility of the financial economy, which presents an additional opportunity for developing the real economy, through the reinforcement of the funds dedicated to basic infrastructure. All the officials present in the meeting agreed on this point. The context of the crisis did not prevent Antonio Tajani, vice-president of the European Commission in charge of transport, to specify that one of the solutions to limit the effects of the financial crisis, resides in investing in infrastructure. According to him, the expected objectives, i.e. the creation of trans-mediterranean multimodal transport network and the establishment of regional action plans in terms of transport and infrastructure in the region, should not be affected by the impact of the crisis, which would need on the other hand, a common work to harmonise the regulatory texts. According to the European Union Official, the development of the Maghreb region in general and its infrastructure in particular, remains one of the priorities for « the development of the Maghreb region is a very important pillar in our vision for the African continent. This is only the starting point for the improvement of development in Africa with the objective of controlling immigration coming from sub-saharan Africa, which should also worry the Maghreb region», he said. As to the representative of the European Investment Bank, Diederik Zambon, his message is to call for the private sector. This sector is, today according to him, called to participate more in the financing and realization of infrastructure and Euro-Mediterranean transport projects. The speeches were dominated by the issue of financing projects, mainly those of the ministers from South-Med countries, such as Karim Ghellab, Moroccan minister who insisted on the commitment of the North-Mediterranean countries and their sister countries in the South-Mediterranean in the infrastructure and transport projects. According to him «the fact of looking to Africa, all of sudden, should not let Europe forget those who are in the middle». A hint to the commitment of North-Mediterranean countries in in the Cherifian Kingdom, which relate mainly to a HST linking Tangiers to Casablanca. The Libyan and Algerian ministers, in their turn, enumerated the transport projects in their respective countries.
In a nutsehll, the meeting of the GTMO 5+5 includes all the fields and co-operation projects with the EU, in terms of transport, mainly the motorway of the sea in the Mediterranean, the creation a training institute for the sea professions, the de-pollution of the Mediterranean sea, the implementation of an integrated system for the control of maritime traffic, a supervision system for the activities in the sea and of assistance in case of accident. This co-operation will also include the implementation of an integrated exchange system of computerised data relating to maritime transport of merchandise (EDI), in addition to the identification and implementation of a system of indicators to evaluate the quality of the services in the Mediterranean airports. These projects will be submitted at the Euro-Mediterranean Forum to take place in Brussels next December.