The Economic and Social Committee (ESC) has published its opinion on spatial planning and interregional cooperation in the Mediterranean area. The ESC stressed the serious spatial imbalances faced by the Mediterranean region with its increasing geographical fragmentation and isolation of its outermost areas. In particular, the globalization of the economy, mainly concerning the most technologically advanced companies, sectors and regions, is progressively marginalizing the less developed businesses, sectors and regions. The region is unstable and rapidly changing and is being weakened as development is increasingly being drawn towards Europe's core regions. The Committee considers that the only way to overcome these imbalances is to adopt a multicentred development pattern. The Mediterranean must become a development centre within a wider Euro-Mediterranean strategic area. To do this, it must strengthen its internal cohesion, integrate its sub-areas and pursue joint Euro-Mediterranean development. The Committee proposes that a spatial planning policy should be adopted for this purpose, in particular as regards the development of trans-European and trans-Mediterranean networks and interregional cooperation. In this context, the list of priority projects approved at Essen should be extended to restore spatial balance and integrate the two sides of the Mediterranean. The Committee also considers that all existing interregional cooperation instruments should be checked to ensure that any projects which affect the Mediterranean area agree with common spatial planning guidelines. In addition, other Community programmes, such as INTERREG, should take the Mediterranean into account. The Commission should give priority to financing pilot projects and feasibility studies, which help to integrate sub-areas within the Mediterranean, which promote integrated development plans between the Mediterranean countries of the European Union and other Mediterranean countries and which pave the way for investment projects in the Mediterranean region.
Cyprus, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Malta, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey