This morning the President of the Generalitat, Artur Mas, spoke at the opening ceremony of the EU’s Informal Ministerial meeting with Southern European partners. The meeting was held in Barcelona’s Palau Reial de Pedralbes where representatives from the European Union member states and eight ministers from non-EU Mediterranean countries discussed the future of European Neighbourhood Policy.
The President alluded to the “umbilical cord” connecting Catalonia and Europe and how it has remained unbroken throughout history. “It continues to nourish our identity, our reality and our common project”, as well as “the Mediterranean commitment and sentiment of our country”, affirmed Mas.
Making reference to Sir Winston Churchill’s celebrated phrase “The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward”, the Chief Executive affirmed that “We Catalans can look far back into our history but we can look forward into new horizons which we will always imagine to be Mediterranean and European”.
The summit on Southern European Neighbourhood Policy celebrated today in Barcelona was co chaired by the European Union, the Spanish State and Latvia, the latter being the current holder of the Council of European Union Presidency. The opening ceremony was presided by the Prime Minister of the Spanish State, Mariano Rajoy, and Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
Also participating in the opening talks and co-chairing the event were the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn; Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkçviès, and José Manuel García-Margallo, the Spanish foreign minister. The Informal Ministerial meeting involved the participation of the 28 EU foreign ministers as well as foreign affairs ministers from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.
During his speech, President Mas, who spoke in Catalan, Spanish English and French, welcomed the attending representatives to Catalonia and made reference Barcelona’s longstanding “Mediterranean and European capital vocation”, citing the Book of the Consulate of the Sea, written in Catalan during the 14th century to guide consular courts on Mediterranean maritime customs and ordinances, as an example of this vocation.
In his intervention, the President expressed his confidence that the summit would be “a clear opportunity to reinforce Euro-Mediterranean cooperation and to revise European Neighbourhood policy”. Likewise, Artur Mas also stressed that it would be an equally good opportunity to review the role of the Union for the Mediterranean, with headquarters in Barcelona, and its potential as a key regional actor which, according to Mas, has yet to be fully defined.
In this regard, President Mas defended the notion that Catalonia “could play a key role in the region” as it has “accrued an important experience within the Mediterranean based on its extensive business presence, its significant cultural and social exchanges and a long tradition of political cooperation”. The President also expressed “the interest of Catalan society and its institutions to share relationships with our southern and northern Mediterranean neighbours”, affirming that it was due to its cosmopolitan, integrated, open and dynamic character that Catalonia is the economic, cultural and creative hub in Southern Europe that it is today.