The Forum, organised with the knowledge partnership of McKinsey & Company, aims to bring together a selective group of experts, business leaders and institutional representatives, from all over the Mediterranean region, in order to analyze and discuss specific themes and challenges related to infrastructure.
1st SESSION: FOSTERING CONNECTIVITY INVESTMENTS IN THE MENA REGION: THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENTS
In the aftermath of the Ukrainian war and pandemic, rising prices, unemployment and reduced supplies of raw materials are scaling up the threats to economic recovery and political stability in the whole area. Against a backdrop of increasing regionalization of value chains, re-friend and near-shoring and a quest for a sustainable energy transition, the war in Ukraine is disrupting national and regional strategies, and ultimately calling for an enhanced partnership between the two shores of the Mediterranean. At a time when the West and Russia are progressively decoupling, the trade, energy and infrastructure ties between the North and South Mediterranean must be strengthened, starting from the cooperation in the energy sector. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa are facing uneven economic recovery and different economic outlooks: oil&gas producers benefit from elevated energy prices along, while fragile and importing countries lag. Hence, more infrastructure, more connectivity and more sustainability are buzzwords that should enshrine and lead the path of regional investments and policies. Moreover, technology and digitalization are crucial to increasing the regional growth potential, fostering infrastructure connectivity and enhancing overall resilience. However, to be successful, the partnership should rely on sound private infrastructure investments in the region, addressing both the North-South and the intra-regional infrastructure gaps and bottlenecks.
International Finance Institutions (IFIs), as well as Regional Development Banks, are called to play a key role in infrastructure financing and to narrow the infrastructure gap, improve connectivity and foster a deeper integration between the two shores. IFIs have a catalyzer effect to crowd in private investments but national governments should ensure a proper and business-friendly regulatory framework. From this perspective, the new EU Global Gateway, the NDICI – Global Europe and the G7’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment could have positive effects on investments and connectivity in the region.
How to strengthen the infrastructure connectivity in the Mediterranean region and counter the economic and social impact of the Ukrainian conflict? Which investments have been prioritized to enhance trade connectivity in the Mediterranean area and create the conditions for further integration? Which investments should IFIs prioritize and what policies must be enacted by investment recipient countries?
2nd SESSION: THE QUEST FOR AN ENHANCED MEDITERRANEAN ENERGY PARTNERSHIP. FROM FOSSIL FUELS TO RENEWABLES: WHAT’S THE WAY AHEAD?
European energy decoupling from Russia is a game changer for EU-MENA energy relations. In the short term, the Middle East and North African countries are key oil&gas suppliers to Europe to phase out Russian gas, providing reliable alternatives to Moscow. The whole Mediterranean is rapidly affirming as a key energy platform, where energy connections between the two shores are more and more strategic. Recent discoveries of gas reserves off the coast of Cyprus boost this strategic energy partnership and will require new infrastructure to transport natural gas to Europe. When it comes to the green transition and the competitiveness of European economies, a just, affordable and sustainable transition cannot be timely achieved without increased cooperation between the two shores in the field of renewables and green hydrogen. Decarbonization is also a binding step for diversifying MENA economies, improving competitiveness, and climate resilience. However, to exploit the huge photovoltaic potential in the North African and Gulf countries, coordinated policies must be enacted and international climate finance must play a crucial role in fostering the green transition in the Southern Neighbourhood. It is thus crucial to increase the bulk of bankable projects and accelerate permitting procedures.
What comes next for the energy partnership between the two shores, both in the short and the longer term? Which is the role of NDICI-Global Europe and the Global Gateway to increase renewable energy generation in the Mediterranean and energy connectivity between the two shores? Which infrastructure investments are needed to boost the electrification of transport and logistics on both shores? How to better coordinate energy policies between the two shores and which role for the private sector?