12-10-2012

Opening Speech by PAM President and Prime Minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan H.E. Sen. Dr. Fayez al-Tarawneh - PAM VII Plenary Session in Malta – 12-13 October 2012

Opening Speech by PAM President and Prime Minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan H.E. Sen. Dr. Fayez al-Tarawneh  -  PAM VII Plenary Session in Malta – 12-13 October 2012
Mr President, dear Colleagues, fellow parliamentarians, delegates, observers and guests, ambassadors, it is my great pleasure to be able to open the work of our 7th Plenary Session.
I would like to start by thanking Hon. Michael Frendo for hosting our most important annual event, the Plenary Assembly. I also would like to convey to the Croatian Parliament and to the people it represents my deepest condolences following the death of the Speaker, H.E. Boris Sprem. This event takes place 5 years after our first operational session of the Assembly, which was hosted here in Malta in 2007. I would like to pay tribute to Malta, which plays an increasingly visible role in the Mediterranean. As I am sure you know, Malta hosted the Summit of the Heads of States and Governments of the 5+5 Western Mediterranean Group just over a week ago, in relation to which our Assembly ensures the parliamentary dimension.
I will share with you my vision for the Mediterranean and the institutional role of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean in achieving that vision. More particularly, I will present you with PAM’s 2nd Strategic and Action Plan for the next five year period from 2013-2017.
Since the establishment of our Assembly in Amman, Jordan, in 2006, the political dimension of the Mediterranean region has changed radically. The most dramatic change relates to the democratization process of the Arab Spring, which calls for special attention from our Assembly.
The peoples of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya have fought for their freedom, and democratic elections have taken place in their countries. Major constitutional reforms have been voted in Morocco, Jordan and Algeria. Syria is imploding in bloodshed with thousands of civilians victims of a vicious civil strife. A procrastinating international community appears impotent in the face of the massacres in Halab, Homs, Houla, and Tremseh, in addition to the numerous untold appalling human rights violations that are a daily occurrence throughout the country.
PAM must be able to adapt to these new and rapidly-evolving situations finding quick solutions and approaches to meet the challenges as and when they arise.
When I look at the conclusions of last week’s 5+5 Dialogue Summit, calling for the inclusion in their work plan of energy, food security, migrations, counter-terrorism, environment, education, vocational training and people to people contact, among other areas, it is comforting that our three Standing Committees have identified in Ankara the same priority areas. I wish to take this opportunity to thank their members for the excellent work accomplished.
Our debates have proven to be so effective that they have led to tangible results and increased cooperation in many important fields. For example, following the PAM meeting in Ouarzazate, the President of the Republic of Tunisia personally requested the support of our Group on Energy, to provide a specific support to his office; further still, the League of Arab States, one of our closest partners, has requested PAM to co-organize a meeting with them, in order to streamline our efforts and ensure a complementary approach.
PAM now needs to continue consolidate its institutional and representative role for the Mediterranean through initiatives promoting democracy and socio-economic progress. The PAM 2nd Strategic and Action Plan for the next five-year period, 2013-2017 explains how we are going to do this.
The basis of our 2nd Strategic and Action Plan, which is now before you, was discussed at our Bureau meeting in Ankara. It very briefly outlines the history of PAM since 2006, before taking stock of the achievements made during that initial work period.  Next, it defines the strategic focus of the actions to be taken in the coming years, and finally it sets out bullet points of the specific actions to be undertaken in each of our three Standing Committees.
Let me now refer to some of PAM’s milestones achieved during the 1st Action Plan.
First and foremost, PAM was granted Observer Status at the UN General Assembly in December 2009, which has been the key to consolidating PAM’s institutional role in the region, facilitating dialogue, confidence building and economic progress.
The same year, PAM was entrusted with the parliamentary dimension of the 5+5 Dialogue, which holds meetings at sectoral Ministerial levels and the Heads of State Summit. In some respects, the 5+5 Dialogue has partially bridged a gap in our own structure given the absence of a PAM inter-governmental pillar to mirror our activities at an executive level. PAM works in a complementary manner with the Italian and Mauritian co-presidency and will participate at a ministerial meeting in December this year and a larger event in Mauritania in March 2013.
Another aspect of sub-regional cooperation, relates to the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) which associates 12 countries. Some of our members are concerned about the costs of setting up and running a new Assembly with such a restricted membership and the possibility of duplication. I would therefore like to invite the countries concerned, 10 of whom being full members of PAM (except Moldova and Bulgaria) to take full advantage of the experience gained from our Assembly in serving the parliamentary dimension of the 5+5 Dialogue, and consider the prospect of our Secretariat serving the SEECP. Moldova, by the way, has expressed its interest in becoming an Associate Member of PAM.
To promote parliamentary diplomacy through interaction and information exchange at national and international level, PAM has also set up the Biannual Meeting of Secretaries-General and Annual Meetings of PAM Ambassadors in New York, Geneva and Malta. Moreover, PAM is now undoubtedly internationally recognised as a major partner in supporting UN peace initiatives for the Israel-Palestine peace talks thanks to its unswerving commitment to conflict resolution, neutrality and independence. PAM has also been part of important diplomatic missions to sustain the democratization processes in several States following the Arab Spring revolutions.
PAM is a major player in developing inter-religious and intercultural dialogue too, and has organised numerous meetings and missions aimed at bringing peoples closer together. Particular mention should be made of the excellent cooperation with the Parliamentary Union of the Islamic Conference and of the PAM visits to the Vatican State, where, on two occasions, a PAM delegation was received by Pope Benedict XVI, after which the Holy See became an Observer Member of PAM.
Coordination with our members is guaranteed through the system of Focal Points in each national Parliament, which facilitates information flows, exchange best practices and lessons learnt, and conduct surveys. This service has facilitated many initiatives taken by PAM in the specific areas falling under its mandate. For example, in the social sphere, by supporting gender equality and education programmes for women; in relation to environmental issues, by calling for a shift from fossil fuels to the use of sustainable energy, by highlighting the dangers of a disaster similar to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and by promoting the rational use of water and the development of  a coherent framework for renewable energy; in the economic sphere, PAM has set up a unique tool, the PAM Panel on Foreign Trade and Investments, calling for the establishment of a Mediterranean Free Trade Area and a financing mechanism to fund SMEs and drive job creation throughout the Mediterranean. The success of the instrument is evident, and our Energy Group has been recently tasked to facilitate the creation of the “Mediterranean Community of Energy”.
So, while we can be proud of our achievements, this is hardly a time for complacency! To the North, where youth unemployment peaks at around 50 %, the future of the Euro is jeopardised by public deficits and speculation, often associated to a questionable role of rating agencies; while to the South, the democratization process is in its formative years, and there are still many conflicts to resolve and fundamental human rights violations are commonplace. Moreover, terrorism remains a prevalent and ever-changing threat throughout the region and a major concern for all our nations. We should not underestimate what is going on in Mali.
Having taken stock of the results of the last five year period, in Ankara, the PAM Bureau concluded that while our core values remain unchanged. There is nowan urgent need to substantiate PAM’s work by consolidating, quickening and deepening the actions to be undertaken over the next five year period.
The 2013-2017 Strategy Plan explains how these three approaches will impact on PAM’s contribution to confidence building, political dialogue, outreach strategies, parliamentary diplomacy, dialogue among civilizations, as well as the development of trade and investments policy, and the consolidation of its institutional role in the region.
The actions are too numerous to be detailed here, but the guiding principles are that PAM needs to further build parliamentary dialogue by focusing on strengthening its partnerships through a multi-stakeholder approach, with the participation of international and regional organizations relevant to the region. We will therefore intensify our co-operation with the United Nations, European Institutions, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the parliamentary assemblies of a number of regional organisations, such as the Arab Maghreb Union, the Islamic Conference, the Gulf Coordination Council, OECE, the Council of Europe, and NATO, as well as the Arab Parliament, to mention a few.
As a direct consequence of our UN status, PAM is opening, at no cost to PAM, three diplomatic offices to ensure coordination with the United Nations and other international organizations based in New York, Vienna and Geneva. I wish to take this opportunity to personally thank the Hon. Tonio Borg, Maltese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, for having agreed to make available the Embassy of Malta to the UN in New York for this purpose. Our Secretary General has recently held a bilateral meeting with his counterparts in the Arab League in order to reactivate the PAM liaison office in Cairo, similarly to what he is doing for our planned liaison offices in Vienna, Rome, Barcelona, and Paris.
From an institutional perspective, in addition to our involvement to support the Middle East Peace Process, PAM will continue to extend this vocation to other “hot spots”, working for stability in the Balkans, in the East Mediterranean and the West Sahara. In order to accomplish this, we need to establish rapid deployment capacity where and when required.

PAM will also strengthen its institutional role with financial institutions to take more concrete steps towards the establishment of a financing mechanism for SMEs and job creation throughout the region.

As to intercultural and interreligious dialogue, PAM will continue to promote inclusiveness and combat all forms of extremism, discrimination and racism. As a result of PAM’s increasing role in international diplomacy, PAM has been invited to become a member of the “Group of Friends” at the high-level segment of the UN General Assembly in New York on 26 September 2012, to support the action of the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations.
I would like to make a final point on the role and functioning of the Union for the Mediterranean, which is still in a situation of impasse in spite of a number of formal declarations. As was reiterated by President Francois Hollande in Malta last week, we also hope the UfM will overcome these obstacles and eventually be able to play its role as “Agency for promoting Projects” in the region.
We equally wish for Spain (one of our founding members) to return to our organization. I am also pleased to inform you that Mauritania, a member of the 5+5, last week formally requested to join our Assembly.
The specific points of the PAM Strategic Action Plan Agenda 2013-2017 are very detailed and you will hear about them from the Presidents of the three standing committees.
That said, all that remains for me to do is to invite every one of you to give careful reflection to this important document, and consider how you can each - individually and collectively - contribute to the realization of this marvellous project for the Mediterranean. As the Hon. George Vella has repeatedly said, “PAM is not a talk show”. I would add that “this Mediterranean is our Sea, our Region and we all have both the privilege and responsibility of participating in shaping its future and responding to the challenges it sets us.
PAM – as the only pan-Mediterranean organization is the body that international and regional institutions look to for guidance and direction in the future. And this is an enormous responsibility for us all!
In conclusion, allow me to apologise to you all for the fact that this evening I will be obliged to fly back to Amman due to a tight political agenda in my country. I wish to re-affirm my full commitment to the Assembly and I wish you all success at this 7th Plenary Session. I also would like to convey my best wishes to the future President, whom will have a huge task ahead, and who will be able to count on my sincere support.
Last but not least, Our Secretary General of PAM deserves an applaud from all of us. His continuous efforts, diligent work and creative thinking are great assets to this Assembly. With limited budget, and in acute deficit, Dr. Sergio Piazzi and his wonderful staff are keeping a great momentum and promising future. But we have to help. I appeal to the Member Countries with arrears to give priority to our Assembly to pay their dues. And maybe for this Assembly to consider raising the budget to cope up with the expanding activities of PAM. Thank you
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