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German Education needs full Restructuring

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Authors: Nicolas Böhmer and Ajmal Sohail

In education and as a result in economy Germany seems to fall behind.

Shortage of skilled workers – this term disappeared somewhat in German media due to other important issues but it hasn´t lost its urgency. In contrary, Germany faces massive changes in various areas and these changes are much more complex than many have realized so far. In fact, skilled workers are more sought after then ever. The CNT Alliance has spoken with many entrepreneurs and people in management about various subjects, the shortage of skilled workers, education, educational background and educational system among them. First and foremost, we understood the employers often have a much different understanding of the term “Skilled Worker” than employees. And the politician’s communication is, again, a different animal.

Highly educated and most wanted skilled worker are enmeshed, well paid, further educated, protected and “imported” from other countries. But already “just” well educated skilled workers face a phenomenon: Enterprises like to hire people with a decent education which can quickly work at full speed in a strictly defined position with neither extensive education nor training on the job. A good, broadly based and profound qualification can become an obstacle since enterprises prefer particular and narrowly educated and therefore cheaper people – but also since the job definition doesn´t envisage flexibility: the companies still prefer “simple duty”-loving people believing in hierarchical structures who just do a defined job after strict guidelines. Holistically thinking and acting people being able to cross-link and multilaterally experienced will be filtered by the companies’ on-line job application portals right away.

But exactly such multi-disciplinary people would be needed today in nearly all areas and enterprises to cope with the fast change and the digital transformation. A rising number of leaders understand digital transformation cannot be explained away anymore and the simple duty-loving people provide the wrong, narrowly defined skills and they are inadequate for the challenges ahead. A remarkable number of the simple duty-loving people do not like the digital transformation, they perceive it as a threat to their job position and most importantly to the gathered sinecures. Besides this, the digital transformation asks for the extra mile which is not welcome to those people. The simple duty-loving employees become truly problematic as soon as they quietly and clandestinely oppose all alterations and sometimes even sabotage them. Such problematic simple duty-lover can be found from the basic jobs through all workers and management levels up to the C-level management.

Among the job applicants, we recognize a two-sided image. On one hand, a rising number of employees – based on our research more than half of the young and agile people – seeks for a fulfilling, exciting mission gaining appreciation within a coherent team to create success of the enterprise or organisation. On the other hand, many job applicants prefer simple, clear targets and commands and have no ambitions whatsoever to play a significant part – often due to small salaries hampering any ambition. It becomes more challenging for both sides to fulfil all the unsaid expectations. All this puts more difficulties in aligning a company towards future. And employees too have difficulties to find a proper job.

Jammed right at the beginning

The CNT Alliance has done research among educational facilities and supporting organisations in Baden-Württemberg and has undertaken several dialogues and analyses on all levels. The first educational obviations happen in day care. Beginning of August 2019 Carsten Linnemann, Member of the Bundestag, got onto an important issue: He asked for a pre-school programme for those kids with deficiencies in the knowledge of the German language. He then was berated, and the left-wing parties accused him of right-wing populism – but they did not understand that he actual has taken position close to their left-wing core. He named the striking failings in the educations system in an awkward way and in the following he was accused of discrimination. The named failings of the educational system do concern not only, but most often kids from migrants.

Language lessons are offered often in day care and are often financed by external sources – and evenly often not given according to the needs of the kids, but preferred according to budget, administration and options. Furthermore, due to the lack of appropriate teachers often the child-care workers take this duty over. Usually without corresponding education for themselves, with direct impact on quality. On top of this, some day care centres are understaffed therefore the language lessons are held as part of the normal day care routine with the same staff and the number of people as every day – resulting in a general drop in quality. There´s limited appreciation in the administration for such language lessons and similar: organization become more complex, puts more pressure on the already thinning staffing level and must be done along many others more. Under the line we see the funds being gathered, the activities are booked, but often merely delivered and pressure on the staff in the day care centres rises. Fail in leadership all along the line and to the disadvantage not only to the kids from migrants but all kids at the day care centre.  

Each year many kids enter primary school and quickly perish due to the lack of knowledge of the German language. Young people with potential become problematic – exactly what Carsten Linnemann said. And our experience shows such kids rarely receive the required attention in our standardized processes at public schools and will not be turned form problem to potential. But these young people with all their potentials are needed to create the future.

Educational stone age

Most schools still “produce” simple duty-loving people – people best in recalling memorized knowledge and applying it. That is much easier to schedule, educate and rate. Those not fitting into this scheme (e.g. lack of abilities or language skills) quickly get to the boundaries of the educational system and will be “selected”. This happens each year through the system of classes and ratings, up to the upper grades. Differently put: Those knowing the expectations and being able to correspond can take the chances. And those being able to e.g. cleverly quote existing knowledge, putting it into nice documents, presenting or writing it eloquently will receive nice ratings. All this creates employees being able to do exactly what there are told and requested. They rarely provide the abilities to think out of the box. Own developments, even forwardness, critical examination and the search for answers, lateral thinking and creativity are not wanted, even frown up and result in low ratings.

Such abilities – important in times of quick and profound changes – are neither asked for or facilitated at our schools, except for a few private schools. The schools truly are living after an educational programme of the last century which doesn´t suit our dynamic times at all. In this respect, the inadequate digital transformation of the schools by lacking hard- and software and on-line tools is just the tip of the iceberg. There´s a deficit on all levels of understanding all the new topics hitting the “educational concrete” with raising speed an intensity: the whole educational body hasn´t prepared itself for the new challenges, hasn´t acquired knowledge and tools, hasn´t ideas for developments in structure, content and education. On top of it, the educational body hasn´t really understood: all the topics are coming at high speed and need to be integrated equally quick. Furthermore, this also means lengthy, inflexible structured and conducted educational courses with pre-defined content will not work: the dynamic environment requires content, structures and the nature of education equal dynamism. The digital transformation changes itself and the whole environment so quickly, an educational model with given, static concepts and content will not work anymore. This is from hell for every responsible person in education.

Most tragic: digital transformation cross-links topics, something impossible for public schools today – and today it cannot teach such a cross-linking and superordinated thinking. Predominantly in higher education, the system lives through clearly defined, strictly defined and excluding subjects taught by highly qualified academics which then rate the students. These subjects sometimes live in competition to each other, there exist “relevant” and “neglectable” subjects and resulting in the fight for money for each subject ad faculty.

This change, fuelled by the digital transformation, is – as the CNT Alliance describes it –a social-technological change. This change happens multi-disciplinary, demands the cross-linking of even contrary issues and requires the going-together of areas and competences in order to achieve results and successes. “Interdisciplinary teaching” is discussed here and there but does exist in very few (private) schools only. However, the socio-technological change demands a comprehensive thinking and acting – a cross-linked thinking and acting which urgently needs to be taught at schools. Some people in the educational system stated similar thoughts but do not see the paths for the change.

Symptomatic for the “escapist attitude” of the educational system is the statement by the Minister of Education Baden-Württemberg, Mrs. Susanne Eisenmann, positioning herself fiercely against the students of the Fridays for Future Strikes: she supported the severe fines issued the City of Mannheim. She takes position against many students with qualities the German future urgently needs: an integrated, fact-based view and the willpower for change. But few have expected the strong worded reactions by the students, their supporters, organizations, the social media, media, but also by politicians. The City of Mannheim quickly withdrew the fines and stated, “fines should be very last measure”.

All this despite Susanne Eisenmann had to declare in fall 2018 Baden-Württemberg has done much poorly than before in recent studies about education:

“We quite simply have slept through a few little things during the past two decades.”

Her promised offensive in education focuses on improvements in the administration and is seen as questionable by many. Particularly in view of the huge challenges for more dynamic educational content and concepts in order to react to the recent demands, and to develop a vision and to imply them through strategies. And this to the benefit of the students and certainly not to the benefit of the administration. The recent approach is not much about education, and it exhibits the non-existence of visions among politicians. And the contemplated centralized university-entrance diploma (Abitur) for all Germany is just about to strengthen the old structure with classes and grades, too – and it doesn´t help at all: This just eases the steps from administered pupils to administered students and finally administered employees. But the German education politics needs a vision, and not a better administration.

In July 2019, Susanne Eisenmann demanded 1’080 new teachers for Baden-Württemberg. This figure seems to be legit in the face of 10000 additional teachers she said are needed until 2030, mentioned at the beginning of 2019. The CNT-Alliance, however, expects a 50% higher number. And these teachers do not grow on trees: In Berlin, more than the half of the 2’700 newly hired teachers are students themselves. These teachers are career changers coming out of other professions and now tackling the job as a teacher. These teachers can be good, but this situation also unveils Germany missed out countrywide to educate enough teachers and offering them decent conditions of employment. Quite a few teachers do never enter their jobs after the education, leave the job after a short period of time or even go to another country where they find better conditions. There are other professional categories in Germany affected by this phenomenon.

There´s another problem the politicians pussyfoot around: Not permanently appointed teachers in Baden-Württemberg get their resignations letters before summer – and will be re-hired after summer into the same position or a much similar one at a school just a few miles away. On first sight, the government saves several million Euros – but these teachers subsequently are paid by the employment office. This implies huge administrational efforts and creates extra costs never have been measured entirely – based on the information given to us this sleight of hand will not save any money but simply empties another wallet. Depending on the point of view this hurts between 650 and 1’680 teachers in Baden-Württemberg (all Germany approx. 4’900). Most tragic: This contemptuousness and this disadvantage in favour for saving money hits the students at the end.

Academization and appreciation

Contemptuousness respectively lacking appreciation doesn´t only hit the teachers and other professions, but also the graduates of many types of schools. There is an alleged solution: a study at a university and a title, both meaning a lot in German society. Meanwhile, several politicians as well as managers in Germany have been convicted carrying fake doctorates and not reached the degrees in their courses. It simply is tempting since the appropriate titles open doors, mean more money and the standing rises. Hunt and hunger for titles going on and lead to changed perception of values. Therefore, contemptuousness hits people without titles even if their work is desperately needed, e.g. nursing staff, crafts people, and many more.

Such paradigms and behaviours are divisive for society and include many more shady sides. The CNT-Alliance was invited to rate the presentations of the project work within an MBA study course as a second opinion at a university in Baden-Württemberg. The project work was relevant for the MBA, it included Credit Points. Summed up, the quality of the presentations of most project works lied on a disappointing low level. Sometimes, even fundamental aspects were missing, thus such presentations in fact were incomplete. Others were prepared and presented so badly; we understood the relevant issues only after we´ve asked a couple of questions. Other project works were so simple they would have been enough for a lower education only – but not for the MBA.

An associated problem are the requirements for the students which have been lowered for certain issues in many predominantly higher educations – also because students try to push through their personal interpretation of their accomplishments using the legal process. The schools try to avoid such confrontations, they are wearing. This is where the rigid system with grades and ratings severely hit back to the educational system and make them look absurd. The teaching staff is suffering much, and we heard teachers thinking about to withdraw from teaching. This might be possible for academics being also employed in the economy, but it is no option for those fully entangled with the system. Not a good situation for education.

Most disastrous: such a system releases badly educated graduates into the world, being equipped with standard knowledge, possessing a stable persuasion and nice titles. This toxic combination becomes a rising problem for enterprises. Some told us they often must first educate graduates to elevate them onto the level they originally were hired for – and for which they are much overpaid. Even worse for companies in which such dazzlers haven´t been uncovered over a long period of time due to their acquired eloquence and the established sphere on control until it´s crashing down like a house of cards. With much effect on cost.

Such graduates often are equipped with a remarkable all-inclusive mentality. They expect much from the employer, predominantly a fully safe job, a 9-to-5 schedule, free weekends and a nice salary. These safety-conscious simple duty-loving aren´t much interested to found their own enterprises and to put themselves into the headwinds of a start-up. The Ministry for Economic Affairs and the business development bank KfW bewail this situation, since start-ups thrive innovation and the digital transformation: Germany needs founders.

The Ministry for Economic Affairs and KfW understand the prospering economy being the main reason for the lacking readiness to become a founder. The CNT-Alliance questions this point of view since the Germany state of economy is cooling down for two years already – so this cannot be the sole reason. Besides the founder adverse surrounding with vast administration burdens, much spreading regulations and half-baked laws we identified the educational system as the obstruction to develop and support people being interested in founding a company. An educational system focused over decades on being the „supplier“ of simple duty-loving people for the administration and big corporations simply isn´t ready to do the opposite.

Education – lost out chance for the future

Depending on the “political general weather situation” the education in Germany is highly appreciated and supported but the next day just marginally respected. Vital in education is the integration of all the refugees – or better: the non-integration. This huge potential of people being willing to work – the vast majority – is much important for Germany since the country needs the manpower simply due to the demographic development. But much too often they fail in the German language classes where refugees advance slowly compared to the refence figures and show troubles to reach a usable level. Whether the courses have been adequately designed and the necessary attendance has been ensured is a question among the people of concern only. They are not answered by the institutes since this issue never was thoroughly observed and surveyed. But these standard courses and teaching materials particularly do not suit the needs of the refugees (and Germany), obviously.

On top of this, many refugees do not get the idea of the German education and training system which – in contrast to the one their home countries – is much more demanding, tightly structured and works much different. It certainly isn´t easy for people having been in laws, administration, government and municipalities, education, but also specific technical functions and similar in their home countries now must start all over again in Germany. Since the foundation, specific expert knowledge, preconditions and processes are different here, specific formations, graduations and certificates are required, or certain abilities simply are not needed in Germany. We face it with helplessness since we have no suitable educational programmes and support offerings for these people – and there are no ambitions to change this situation. This is a potential given away which then must be “fed through” by the employment offices just causing costs – instead of working in the economy. The frustration of these people after lengthy, unfruitful visits of the administrations is visible and seizable. Many of them think about going back to their home countries which is, in most cases, simply impossible. They are trapped between the systems.

Germany loses out a much higher potential with those people going – or better: falling – through the normal educational system. First, the educational system isn´t compatible with future and, at the other hand, isn´t fully compatible with human beings. A rising number of experts in education and economy take the position to eliminate the educational system descending from the very past times with its classes and ratings in favour for a future-oriented concept. For instance, if the content is taught through courses, pupils and students of any age, provenience, with and without disabilities not only could go the same school – depending on their abilities they also would participate the same courses which would increase their social skills, too. Cross-linked thinking and working would also be stimulated and finally there would be equality of opportunity for all. An interesting intellectual approach also for the digital transformation: Such an educational system would equip and foster competences, abilities and knowledge among young people so much needed to create the future. And such concepts would also work for further education, predominantly the concept of developments and innovations emerging out of the diversity of the participants.

During the digital transformation a company usually launches several test products – hardware, software and/or services – to check the market, to gather customer feedback and to develop itself as well as the offered services/products further. Such tests haven been and are executed in education too, and various educational concepts have been tested over many years and decades in many countries including Germany. In contrast to economy, this hasn´t led to developments within the educational system in Germany at all. But economy urgently needs a major push in education for being able to cope with the rapid changes and the international competition. And Germany needs this push in education and the integrating forces of a fresh education system to bring back together again the society which is drifting apart today.

The education system of Germany is in need for full restructuring, since it already causes harm to the country according to a number of educational specialists, politicians, and people from economy. The responsible politicians, however, ignore this situation. Society and economy already feel it increasingly every single day. Also, because the procrastinated digital transformation and the often-lacking orientation towards the issues of future and the future itself put several hundred thousand jobs at stake – which will let society go to pieces much quicker than it already does. Education is like the climate change: there are some evidences and many facts but today things still look pretty much OK – but they are not OK.

Co-Founder and Co-President of the Counter Narco-Terrorism Alliance Germany; consulting, research, communications specialist and entrepreneur; develops strategies and subsequent concepts for economy, communications and politics; information gathering; analyst, translator, writer and content developer; international experience in industry, technology, media tech, research and education institutes, governmental entities, politics, the UN and more

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Vienna Process: Minilateralism for the future of Europe and its strategic neighbourhood

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On the historic date of March 08th – International Women’s Day, a large number of international affairs specialists gathered for the second consecutive summit in Vienna, Austria. This leg of the Vienna Process titled: “Europe – Future – Neighbourhood at 75: Disruptions Recalibration Continuity”. The conference, jointly organized by the Modern Diplomacy, IFIMES and their partners, with the support of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, was aimed at discussing the future of Europe and its neighbourhood in the wake of its old and new challenges.[1]

Along with the two acting State Presidents, the event was endorsed by the keynote of the EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Excellency Olivér Várhelyi. The first, of the three-panel conference, was brilliantly conducted by the OSCE Sec-General (2011-2017), current IFIMES Euro-Med Director, Amb. Lamberto Zannier. Among his speakers was a former Deputy Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Center Ms. Monika Wohlfeld. Discussing pan-European and regional issues of the southern Europe, this is what Dr.Wohlfeld outlined in her intervention:

The list of global and regional challenges that affect the Euro-Med region is too long to discuss here in depth. Clearly, the region experiences soft and hard security challenges and conflicts over ‘territorial claims, the proliferation of weapons, terrorist activities, illegal migration, ethnic tensions, human rights abuses, climate change, natural resources disputes, especially concerning energy and water, and environmental degradation’.[2] The Covid-19 pandemic lay bare and enhanced many of these challenges, in social, political and economic as well as security realms. The Euro-Med region is also not well equipped to tackle these problems and difficulties in a cooperative and coordinated manner, despite the existence of some common organizations, institutions and agendas.

So how to foster dialogue and a cooperative approach on addressing common challenges in the region? I will focus largely on security in a broad sense and the notion of cooperative security.

The OSCE (or rather its more unstructured predecessor, the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe) has in the recent decades been presented as a possible example for co-operative security arrangements in the Mediterranean region. The idea of a Conference on Security and Co-operation in the Mediterranean (CSCM) did not get a lot of traction in the region so far. It has been argued that such a project must succeed and not precede cooperative regional dynamics it seeks and that the conflictual patterns of relations, which exist across the Mediterranean, therefore do not lend themselves to cooperative security frameworks. The absence of a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace would preclude parties in the region from applying cooperative security methods that have proved effective in the framework of the CSCE/OSCE.

An additional difficulty is that this possible example for cooperative security arrangements focuses largely on the interaction of states while it is increasingly clear that civil society and its organizations may have a necessary and constructive role to play in this respect.

Nevertheless, the notion of cooperative security framework(s) has been supported by many analysts, not only from the northern shore, but from also southern shore of the Mediterranean. Abdennour Benantar, in his discussion of possible security architectures for the Mediterranean region, analyses the security situation in the region and asks whether the concept of cooperative security, as developed in the European context, could be transposed or applied in the Mediterranean.[3]Benantar argues in favour of creating a regime of security cooperation in the Mediterranean, while taking into account the sub-regional diversity of the Mediterranean region.

One key conclusion of the discussion of CSCM is that not extending existing European models, or exporting models of cooperative security to the Mediterranean region, but rather using such models as sources of inspiration and support to subregional or regional cooperative security efforts is likely to be more successful[4] in establishing cooperative security principles and frameworks in the Mediterranean.

Another key finding is that with multilateralism under pressure globally and regionally, new concepts deserve attention. One such concept is minilateralism or selective and flexible cooperation, currently being developed in the context of the problems faced by multilateralism globally. As Stewart Patrick explains, ‘states increasingly participate in a bewildering array of flexible, ad hoc frameworks whose membership varies based on situational interests, shared values, or relevant capabilities. These institutions are often ‘minilateral’ rather than universal; voluntary rather than legally binding; disaggregated rather than comprehensive; trans-governmental rather than just intergovernmental; regional rather than global; multi-level and multistakeholder rather than state-centric; and ‘bottom-up’ rather than ‘top down’.[5] Thus, while multilateralism is under pressure, there are possible ways of bottom-up, smaller in terms of numbers of states involved and flexible approaches.

A Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung strategic foresight exercise for the MENA region in 2030 suggests there are opportunities for common approaches and co-operation on long-term challenges that affect all states of the region. Thus, there are key risks and opportunities that might enhance cooperation. ‘With this as a starting point, through building single-issue institutions and multilateral trust, other chapters for cooperation might open up.’[6]

This observation could benefit from being placed in the perspective of the concept of minilateralism, presented above. With multiple, flexible layers of such minilateral cooperation, cooperative security approaches can be introduced into various regional formats in the Mediterranean. They deserve the political and financial support of all state or non-state actors that engage on behalf of multilateralism and cooperative security.

Before closing, few words about the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, which  is a regional institution, funded by the governments of Malta, Switzerland and Germany. It trains diplomats and more recently also civil society activists from the Euro-Med region who work and live together for the duration of the Master’s degree, accredited by the University of Malta. The Academy thus functions as a regional confidence-building measure, per se

In 2009, when this author joined the Academy, a course on security studies has been developed, which emphasizes non-zero sum game approaches, cooperative security and conflict prevention and conflict resolution aspects. Twelve cohorts of students later, using their written assessments of the impact of the course as well as conversations with alumni (many of whom are reaching top jobs in their countries), it changed the way they view security issues and conceptualize solutions to common security challenges.

It could be giving hopes. There is increased emphasis on youth and confidence building in the Euro-Med region, and strong interest and support from Northern African countries in the academic training the Academy provides. However, the pandemic and the economic situation in the region do not bode well for prospects of projects such as the Academy. One very recent positive development I can share though is that the German Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs has renewed its funding for the German Chair for Peace Studies and Conflict Prevention at the Academy for the next two years.

This is the author’s main take on the situation: It will take support, time and patience to advance minilateralism and also multilateralism as a way of addressing common challenges in the Euro-Med region. We need all hands on deck for this, especially during the difficult moments the region experiences currently.


[1]This highly anticipated conference gathered over twenty high ranking speakers from three continents, and the viewers from Australia to Canada and from Chile to Far East. The day was filled by three panels focusing on the rethinking and revisiting Europe and its three equally important neighbourhoods: Euro-Med, Eastern and trans-Atlantic (or as the Romano Prodi’s EU Commission coined it back in 2000s – “from Morocco to Russia – everything but the institutions”); the socio-political and economic greening; as well as the legacy of WWII, Nuremberg Trials and Code, the European Human Rights Charter and their relevance in the 21st century.

[2] Stephen Calleya, Security Challenges in the Euro-Med area in the 21st Century. Routledge: London, 2013, p. 9-10.

[3]Abdennour Benantar, Quelle architecture de sécurité pour la Méditerranée ?.Critique internationale2015/4 (69), https://www.cairn.info/revue-critique-internationale-2015-4-page-133.htm

[4]IstitutoAffariInternazionali, ‘Towards “Helsinki +40”: The OSCE, the Global Mediterranean, and the Future of Cooperative Security’, Documenti IAI 14 08 – October 2014.  https://www.new-med.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/iai14081.pdf

[5] Stewart M. Patrick, Making Sense of ‘Minilaterialism’: The Pros and Cons of Flexible Co-operation’, CFR Blog, 5 January 2016. https://www.cfr.org/blog/making-sense-minilateralism-pros-and-cons-flexible-cooperation

[6] Mediterranean Advisory Group, MENA 2030: A Strategic Foresight Exercise. KAS Med Dialogue Series, June 2019, p. 11. https://www.kas.de/documents/282499/282548/MAG+MENA+2030+A+Strategic+Foresight+Exercise.pdf/1ebaaba2-7457-9c67-e7a4-2121326d4c51?version=1.0&t=1562234211698

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President of Malta at the Vienna Process: No Europe without its Neighborhood

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On the historic date of March 08th – International Women’s Day, a large number of international affairs specialists gathered for the second consecutive summit in Vienna, Austria.[1]Along with the two acting European State Presidents, the event was endorsed by the keynote of the EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Excellency OlivérVárhelyi. Still, one of the most anticipated talks was that of the President of the Republic of Malta, Dr. George Vella.

In his highly absorbing keynote, Excellency President focused on the Euro-Mediterranean and its promising prospects:

President Vella covered a wide array of issues concerning the Mediterranean region, including prospects for and improvement of existing channels of dialogue and cooperation, the ever-changing dynamics of the region, an assessment of the developments in the Western, Central and Eastern parts of the region, and the roles of the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) in addressing the Mediterranean’s challenges. This text is a brief recap highlighting the key points of the Maltese President’s intervention at the Vienna Process March’ event.

Excellency President started his keynote by calling for stronger and more coherent Mediterranean dialogue channels in order to effectively solve or at the very least address the region’s challenges. He pointed out that, “there is a high level of institutionalization at parliamentary levels. There are in fact no less than 23 international parliamentary institutions. Many countries are members of more than one organization with inevitable overlapping and repetition; for example, Greece is in 13 organizations, Andorra in 2 and Malta in 7. Most organizations are purely deliberative, however there is little cooperation, competitionor division of labor; this hinders interregional cooperation. I mention the 5+5 Western MediterraneanForum, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Med7. These are examples in which Malta is very actively involved. I find it quite ironic that a strong regional cooperation organizationwith proven credentials like the OSCE does not have yet a tangible Mediterranean dialogue.”

His excellency, then, proceeded to address the dynamics of the Mediterranean region, stating that “in the old days, the Mediterranean was seen as a playground for the superpower bickering and escalation. Nowadays it is actors from the region itself that flex their muscles often at the expense of the stability of others. When we speak of the Mediterranean, we often, perhaps unknowingly, commit the mistake of projecting this as a homogenous, uniform region; this is not the case. One can attribute the lack of success, if not downright failure, of certain policies because we forget about the regional dynamics and continuously changing realities of this region.” Therefore, he calls for a focused assessment of developments in the region that addresses the region from Western, Central and Eastern perspectives in order to grasp the particularities of the experiences of each and to escape the one-size-fits-all approach to assessing the region’s developments.

President George Vella then urged us to ask ourselves a very pressing questions, “what the EU, which is ideally placed to positively influence developments, is actually doing?” He stated that he welcomes “the launch of a new agenda for the Mediterranean which clearly states that a strengthened Mediterranean partnership remains a strategic imperative for the EU.” He further highlights the importance of addressing the gap between theory and practice. Here, he refers to the New Pact on Migration and Asylum in the EU; Excellency explained that what truly matters is not what is written in agreements, but rather what is implemented, pointing out that “questions still very much remain on the fair and equitable implementation of its [the New Pact’s] provisions.”

Mr. President also addressed the dire issue of the lack of solidarity in the region. He said: “While the responsibilities of the states of first entry are clear and stringent, solidarity through relocation remains uncertain in the rest of the pact.It appears, indeed, that relocation, which one can consider as the most effective tool of solidarity, remains entirely voluntary.

As solidarity in the region would lead to more stability, President Vella draws attention to the primary role that youth ought to play in bringing stability to the Mediterranean. He proposed “a system of circular migration and organized mobility for the young Mediterranean generations; a sort of a Mediterranean Erasmus+, giving participants exposure to European realities which they would eventually take back home with them to use in boosting their economies.” This is not the first time his excellency raises this suggestion; in fact, he has done so previously on multiple occasions including in the Young Mediterranean Voices Forum.

President Vella also tackled the dimension of hard security, stating that “we need to do much more to eradicate the flow and the sales of armaments and ammunition. Apart from the obvious security dimension, we also need to consider how the exportation and supply of weapons to countries in the Mediterranean is resulting in political competing and conflicting spheres of influence. In times when multilateralism is wrongly being put into question, I feel we need to do more to increase its pertinence and relevance in global affairs.”

He seemed to very much welcome UN support, presence and visibility in the region; this was evident in his following statement: “There is ample room for the UN to take a more active, hands-on approach to resolving ongoing conflicts. Libya is a case in point, and recent indications that the UN might involve its own personnel are more than welcome. The UN’s message was to keep tensions down and to avoid open conflict, I askwhether the UN, henceforth, could also have a role in effectively bringing stability to the country through a possible physical presence. Greater visibility of the UN on Mediterranean matters has long been on Malta’s agenda.”

Finally, President George Vella closed his highly absorbing keynote by informing the conference participants that Malta is bidding on a non-permanent seat in the United Nation’s Security Council during the term 2023-2024 in order to be a “voice for dialogue, sustainable growth, [and] equality in the Mediterranean and beyond.”

Congratulating to Vienna Process partners on their sustained work in promoting the cross-European dialogue and understanding, and especially to IFIMES for the role played by its Euro-Med branch headed by Ambassador Lamberto Zannier, Malta went even further. This important southern EU member state already expressed its wish to host one of the planned Vienna Process conferences on Europe and its neighborhood in a due time. 

*the above article is based on the informal transcript and conference recordings, which may have nonintentionally caused minor omittances or imprecisions in the reporting. Ms. RolaElkamash also contributed to this text.


[1]This leg of the Vienna Process titled: “Europe – Future – Neighborhood at 75: Disruptions Recalibration Continuity”. The conference, jointly organized by the Modern Diplomacy, IFIMES and their partners, with the support of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, was aimed at discussing the future of Europe and its neighbourhood in the wake of its old and new challenges.

This highly anticipated conference gathered over twenty high ranking speakers from three continents, and the viewers from Australia to Canada and from Chile to Far East. The day was filled by three panels focusing on the rethinking and revisiting Europe and its three equally important neighbourhoods: Euro-Med, Eastern and trans-Atlantic (or as the Romano Prodi’s EU Commission coined it back in 2000s – “from Morocco to Russia – everything but the institutions”); the socio-political and economic greening; as well as the legacy of WWII, Nuremberg Trials and Code, the European Human Rights Charter and their relevance in the 21st century.

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French Senator Allizard: Mediterranean – Theatre for future Europe

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On the historic date of March 08th – International Women’s Day, a large number of international affairs specialists gathered for the second consecutive summit in Vienna, Austria. This leg of the Vienna Process titled: “Europe – Future – Neighbourhood at 75: Disruptions Recalibration Continuity”. The conference, jointly organized by the Modern Diplomacy, IFIMES and their partners, with the support of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, was aimed at discussing the future of Europe and its neighbourhood in the wake of its old and new challenges.[1]

Along with the two acting State Presidents, the event was endorsed by the keynote of the EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Excellency OlivérVárhelyi. The first, of the three-panel conference, was brilliantly conducted by the OSCE Sec-General (2011-2017), current IFIMES Euro-Med Director, Amb. Lamberto Zannier. Among his speakers, the first to open the floor was French Senator Pascal Allizard, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Vice President (and its Special rapporteur for Mediterranean issues). Discussing regional issues of the southern Europe, its relations with the black sea and with North of Africa, this is what Senator outlined in his intervention:

As 2021 is the ten-year anniversary of the Arab spring, Senator Pascal highlights that a decade later, the events of the Arab Spring are crucial to the problems of today. Europe should reevaluate the region through European lens. Excellency Alizard criticizes Europe, due to the fact that it tends to take a step back from the region of the North African affected area of the Arab Spring conflict as there is an abundance of issues which are unlikely to be solved with ease. One must still do its duties difficult or not to question the region. Turning a blind eye to the problems there is something that Senator says Europe tends to do to elevate their consciousness.

However, one must look at the problems head-on. The biggest concern is that there is an explosive growth in population, a rise in radicalism and the Black Sea is what separates that northern conflict region of Africa and the Mediterranean coast of Europe.

The Mediterranean Sea is known to be one of the most crucial routes to transport illegal cargo such as drugs, hydrocarbon and human trafficking into Europe, specifically through Spain and Italy. It’s crucial for Europe to have a discussion and plan for this region as it is a necessity to keep Europe safe. The different countries along the Mediterranean must come together to create a cohesive, inclusive yet firm diplomatic strategy to answer all the challenges. The region along the Mediterranean Sea is a strategic area for Europe as there are many ships that come from around the world into those ports.

Senator Pascal proceeded by stating that the eastern Mediterranean region escalated after the discovery of significant oil and gas reserves. It is also the ongoing war in Syria, and the destabilization of the region with yet unsettled situation in Libya (with presence of multiple external players which generate instability).

Senator reminded the conference audience that Europe must also mention the actors in the Mediterranean on the European side;

‘’The European Union is a leading player, at least for the display of its normative ambitions, also for its diplomacy of the checkbook and its discourse on human rights. However, the EU is not a power in the state and sovereign sense of the term, and it systematically curbs the sovereign aspirations of its own member states. The EU does not yet project itself sufficiently as an international actor capable of implementing a foreign policy. The EU appears, I believe, seen from the Mediterranean at most as a soft power which, in word, watches over the balance of power in the region. And the hopes placed in EU policy dedicated to the Mediterranean have been in vain, to the extent that they do not seem effective, neither economically nor politically, at least from my point of view, insufficiently. And if on the northern shore a few countries are interested in the Mediterranean area, we can see that this is not the center of European concerns and that no common vision is really emerging.’’

Unification of that region is vital, because if the Mediterranean nations do not collaborate as a union and show their strength, control of that area could fall into the hands of Turkey, Russia and China. Turkey walks bold on the so-called Exclusive Economic Zone in Euro-Med, which would – if accepted – project its power in the Mediterranean, giving it a more prominent regional political role. Russia, which is once again becoming a key player in the Middle East, in the Black Sea area, in the Mediterranean and even in Africa walks bold too. Lastly, China which mainly projects itself through its trade, investments, and its bilateral agreements is pressing on maritime space too. Lately, Chinese military navy can be also seen.

The navies of the regions are preparing for a hardening of relations at sea in a strategic area where world trade flows, but also now, for the exploration, the exploitation of hydrocarbons. This is why questions of sovereignty are once again emerging, naturally in the sense of our concerns.

Hopefully the new US administration will also pay attention to the Mediterranean Sea and not just the Indo-Pacific. 

The only way to establish more of a grip in the Mediterranean theater is cooperation. This is also the key to success for all the European nations gathered around unified code of conduct and rule of law.

Concluding, Excellency Pascal stated that the European Union must recognize realities of unresolved conflicts that are interwoven, as well as to understand the new challenges that can threaten the very fabrics of the Union: security, demography, unregulated immigration. If not equal to these challenges, the universalist European model might lose its grounds beyond point of return – warned Senator.

*the above text is based on the informal French language transcript as per conference recordings, which may have no intentionally caused minor omittances or imprecisions in the reporting.


[1]This highly anticipated conference gathered over twenty high ranking speakers from three continents, and the viewers from Australia to Canada and from Chile to Far East. The day was filled by three panels focusing on the rethinking and revisiting Europe and its three equally important neighbourhoods: Euro-Med, Eastern and trans-Atlantic (or as the Romano Prodi’s EU Commission coined it back in 2000s – “from Morocco to Russia – everything but the institutions”); the socio-political and economic greening; as well as the legacy of WWII, Nuremberg Trials and Code, the European Human Rights Charter and their relevance in the 21st century.

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