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"Launching Mediterranean Basin", CTR-SAIS, December 2012, Washington D.C.

“Mediterranean Basin” to strengthen relations between U.S., Southeast Europe, North Africa

Mujo Selimovic shared the experiences of the MIMS Group in Libya, and outlined several specific proposals connected to strengthening stability and democracy in the Maghreb

At the Center for Transatlantic Relations – SAIS at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, a new project was launched: the “Mediterranean Basin,” with the goal of strengthening transatlantic relations of the U.S., southeast Europe, and the countries of North Africa, in economic projects, development of democratic networks of civil society organizations, and stronger political cooperation.

On the panel participated Andy Mullins (U.S.) and Pinar Ipek (Turkey), Visiting Fellows at CTR; Ambassador Josko Paro of Croatia; Saoussen Mahjoub, Vice President of Tunisian-American Young Professionals; and Mujo Selimovic, MIMS Group Director from BiH. The panel was moderated by Michael Haltzel, Senior Fellow at SAIS.

“We’re creating the conditions for stronger economic cooperation between the Western Balkans and North Africa, recognizing the successful cooperation that has existed for decades among these countries. An additional plan for this project is to engage companies and investors from the United States to work together to strengthen economic development in the Balkans and North Africa. Experiences that the countries of the former Yugoslavia have in the development of civil society organizations, strengthening the rights of women and young people, will be one of the segments of the project with the aim of supporting Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia after the Arab Awakening and democratic elections in these countries,” Andy Mullins, Visiting Fellow at CTR and member of the Executive Board of the America-Bosnia Foundation, said.

In his presentation, Croatian Ambassador to the U.S. Josko Paro welcomed the SAIS project and stressed the importance of strengthening economic cooperation among the countries of the Mediterranean Basin, emphasizing the excellent business relationship that existed before the “Arab Awakening” between Croatia and Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt. Croatia with its European partners is acting in support of the democratic transition of these North African countries.

Mujo Selimovic shared the experiences of the MIMS Group in Libya and outlined several specific proposals regarding the strengthening of stability and democracy in the countries of the Maghreb. Selimovic commented on similar problems of corruption and crime, and highlighted failures that occurred on this issue in the Balkans.

Pinar Ipek presented a Powerpoint presentation analyzing the situation in the energy sector in the region, which will be especially discussed in the continuation of this project.

“I am glad that a conference is being planned on the political aspect of cooperation of the countries of the Mediterranean Basin in Turkey, which has a strong political impact in both the countries of southeast Europe and the Maghreb,” Ipek said.

Saoussen Mahjoub of the Tunisian-American Young Professionals presented a series of successful projects between the U.S. and Tunisia. She asked for support in strengthening civil society organizations in Tunisia.

“Strong pressure needs to be placed on our leaders who still haven’t agreed to a new constitution, which they promised to do immediately after the revolution,” Mahjoub said.

“I support strengthening of relations between civil society organizations between the Western Balkans and North Africa, on which my organization will work together with you,” Mahjoub concluded.

In early February 2013 at CTR in Washington a series of meetings are planned, between entrepreneurs and high-level leaders, when the Brookings Institution will publish a book on the Mediterranean Basin, currently in preparation by Toperich and Mullins.

The Mediterranean Basin project at SAIS will be led by Dr. Sasha Toperich, Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations.

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