"AlmaLaurea: an arrow to the bow of Europe"

16 May 2011

"Fascinated by the intelligence and the simplicity of the model. " In these terms Jean-Louis Guigou, Delegate General of the 'Institut de Prospective Economique du Monde Méditerranéen - IPEMED explains his gaining knowledge of AlmaLaurea ", confident that the Consortium could play a central role in the Euro-Mediterranean basin". The Professor, speaking at the International Conference "Human Capital and Employment in the Euro- Mediterranean Area", held on March 10-11 in Bologna, and jointly organized by AlmaLaurea and AlmaMater, as a strong supporter of the Euro-Mediterranean approach, provides an overview of the situation affecting the southern shore of the Mare Nostrum.

"The political crisis and the revolutions in place are the result of what we might call the European Contagion. Now, if we want these people not to be oriented towards the revolutionary perspective, we have to make an economic offer." "An offer especially focused on youth employment. " How? "Through the involvement and the empowering of businesses, through funding and facilities and through a reviewing of the training systems within the country," says the Director General of IPEMED. " In this case, we have many arrows in our bow: grants, collaborations between universities, links with the labour market and dissemination of analytical models such as those offered by AlmaLaurea".

What are, in your opinion, the effects of the "Arab Spring" on the labor market of the Mediterranean, in particular for the young graduates?
"In Egypt 70% of the population is under 30 years old, and this is the case of all the countries of the southern and the eastern Mediterranean. This means that in the coming years we will need to create so many jobs to absorb the increasing number of people entering the labour market . Instead of a rough analysis on current facts, I prefer to refer to some scientific work, as those that bring IPEMED in a discussion on the prospects of the Mediterranean by 2030. I was inspired by the table "L'emploi dans les pays méditerranéens : Evolution récente et perspectives" of Frederic Blank, Delegate General of FEMISE; as well as by his comments. In order to maintain the current levels of activity and unemployment, Mediterranean countries will need to create 34 million jobs in the next 20 years, about 1.5 million per year. A goal reached in the last decade, but that in 2030 could lead 150 million people of the southern shores of the Mediterranean out of work. However, today we are witnessing a higher growth rate that if sustained until 2030, will lead to the creation of 62 million jobs (about 2.7 million per year on average). If this is the case, we will have a 10 percentage points increase in the rate of activity, which means 30 million more in the economic active population relative to the inactive group. But this alone will not be enough to stop the growing number of inactive people. To achieve this goal the Mediterranean countries must create 95 million jobs, more than 4 million per year. Being able to achieve this goal means to keep the number of inactive population at around 64 million (for the 2007- 2030 period), which will turn in 20 years in the creation of 94 million jobs. But how to achieve the goal? It requires a massive reorganization of the production system from north to south, as Germany did with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and also the creation of jobs for the Mediterranean countries."

Do you envisage a common future for the Mediterranean Region?
"It 's necessary to talk about common futures, in plural form. Studies of "Mediterranean 2030" lead to three types of scenarios, and I agree with such vision. The first, crisis and marginalization of the Mediterranean. The main reason lies in the recession that is affecting Southern Europe and countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy and France, which combines perfectly with the long-term instability of the Arab area of the Mediterranean. Another possible scenario might be a situation of divergence between the two sides, that is the rehabilitation of Europe and its carrying on an incomplete economic and political transition in the South. In this case, only trade and a selective immigration could establish relations between north and south. Finally, the third scenario could be a situation of convergence thanks to a strong regional cooperation and a transfer of knowledge and capital. With the "Arab Spring, " the latter scenario could also occur. It will depend on the European co-operation with the free Arab countries."

What are the main projects to be undertaken and the main policies to be adopted for the construction of a Mediterranean region?
"The Arab countries on the path of democracy are facing a particularly critical stage, full of pitfalls. They can make a detour from Europe and look at China or at the U.S., countries interested in the areas of the southern Mediterranean for the quality of their raw materials. Otherwise, they can be absorbed by the "octopus of ethno-religious bigotry" as written by Edgar Morin, French philosopher and sociologist. Finally, they can turn to Europe as long as the policy direction will be clear, fast, ambitious and in stages. This will have consequences. In the short term, the EU will need to monitor closely and "accompany " the action and answer to questions, in contrast, the free countries of the Mediterranean will have to solve specific problems. Balance their budget, ensure external accounts stability, stabilize currency and exchange rates, offer guarantees to lending capacity, create a micro-credit fund. In the medium term, Europe should propose a plan to modernize and set up local regulation plans for every free country by mobilizing funds from the World Bank, the EIB European Investment Bank, KfW Bankengruppe and BAD, African Development Bank. In addition to bilateral aid it will be necessary to propose to countries of southern and eastern Mediterranean real policies of general interest. For instance: a financial institution for the development of the Mediterranean, as well as energy policy, food safety and then, three or four major common policies. In the long term, let’s say 10 or 15 years, it will be necessary to propose a concrete vision of political and economic policy. We must turn on the lights of hope. How? On the political level it is necessary to redefine the Barcelona Process (1993), the Neighborhood (2002) and the Union for the Mediterranean. The redefinition of cooperation between North and South has to be done in cooperation: no one can impose its vision to the other. But the experience of the last 15 years leads me to think that it is possible to create an "anchor" between the two shores. This type of anchor may be called " Mediterranean Community" as it was the establishment of the European Community in 1956, in institutional terms, by giving countries the status of "associate member" of the European Union."

What region is this?
"A huge region of the world with a strong role in multi-polar competition. On the economic front it will be necessary to suggest "an ecological model of production"(Hubert Vedrine). After the "industrialization" the "financial activities" and the "informatization " era the time of the "greening" of our production system has arrived. If all countries adopt the American way of life it would need four planets to meet the needs of raw materials. If Europe becomes a leader in ecological field it could share with the released Arab countries a new lasting model of human development. The countries of the southern Mediterranean will be favorable to this greening approach. And it is necessary to invent a new industrial, urban and ecological model across the northern and the southern Mediterranean."

What will be the role of return migration for the development of the southern shore of the Mediterranean basin?
"The return migration will be crucial. We saw how in India and China diaspora has played a strategic role in the transfer of knowledge, capital and technology. So I believe that through the inevitable democratic transition, return migration will be more than favored in all countries of the South Eastern Mediterranean. "

Do you think that the AlmaLaurea model can be a unifying framework for the creation of a system of higher education in the euro-Mediterranean region?
"I got knowledge about the AlmaLaurea model one year ago thanks to Professor Pierre Dubois. I am fascinated by the intelligence and the simplicity of the model. Without any doubt I believe that this model, meeting supply and demand of quality graduates, can certainly help to enhance the unification of the euro-Mediterranean basin ".

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