The GEMM network history

Posted by gmm.admin on July 15th, 2010 filed in Senza categoria

How the GEMM Network was born
by Evelina Fortunato, Azzam Boujemm and Ahmed Hamma, Aykut Oncel,  Fahad Zyoud

The term network commonly refers to an interconnected series of components, systems or entities. The GEMM Network [GEMM: Governance Empowerment Network Model] fulfils this definition: it brings together a multiplicity of local authorities in the Euro-Mediterranean area that are united by a common determination to develop and consolidate relations of cooperation in a perspective of future sustainability.

The idea behind GEMMA was always to set up a network of local authorities, and the work has passed through various stages. As a result of operations undertaken during the twinning process between the local authorities that initially joined up, it has been possible to involve other local authorities from outside the original partnership.
The twinning of local authorities was a measure introduced by the European Commission in 1998 with the objective of providing assistance to countries that were candidates for entry into the EU in the process of institution building, and to help them in the adjustment of their national administration to the Community acquis. In this context, the twinning process is a first step towards establishing linkages and identifying areas of concern, and provides a strategic contribution to the promotion of common interests. Twinning accords between municipalities are therefore incentivised by the European Union since they are instruments of cooperation between European regions and also between European regions and regions of the wider Mediterranean area. Twinning guarantees increased added value compared with more generalised kinds of cooperation, because it aims to produce visible results, establish links of permanent cooperation, and promote exchange in a wide variety of fields – social and cultural, economic, tourist related, commercial and scientific.
In this context, the commitment of the partners in the Project has made it possible for GEMM to act on two fronts: the creation over time of twinning accords has proceeded in step with the sharing of tools to make the twinning a success and of methods to extend the partnership still further.

This is why the GEMM Network can be seen as a logical outcome of the earlier stages of the Project, for the partnership agreements set up within the GEMM context were precisely the embryonic form of the network. We shall now look at this story in more detail.

As anticipated, the partnership brought together local authorities in Italy and in countries of the Mediterranean Economic Development Area (MEDA), with the aim of encouraging the transfer of good governance as applied to three particular areas – the labour market, development of the historical and cultural heritage, and mobility and transport – from the former (Italian) to the latter. The first step in this transfer process was an on-the-spot analysis of local districts in the three countries that are the co-leaders of the Project (Morocco, Jordan, Turkey). The aim was to identify, on the basis of the information gathered, a path of development for the particular local district and city in question. Parallel to this, action was taken leading to the signing of the first pilot twinning accord between Agadir, New Al Hashimieh and Ortakent Yahsi, the three joint co-leaders of the Project, and the respective Italian Provinces Salerno, Cagliari and Potenza. The measures proposed as a result of these bilateral partnerships form the point of departure for the creation of future projects in the context of subsequent finance programmes targeting individual areas.
These first, bilateral partnerships led to the creation of “constellations” of twinning accords, aimed at achieving a form of collaboration that could go beyond one-to-one contacts and facilitate exchanges between a multiplicity of players. These expanded twinning operations laid the foundation for the creation of a lasting South-South and North-South network of twinned municipalities committed to cooperating mainly in the three broad thematic areas indicated above.
As the twinning programme broadened out to include other local authorities in the MEDA area, various parties came together to draw up a design for the network and to identify the tools needed to operate it. These were the Municipality of Sassuolo, as official Project Leader, and TECLA [Association for Local and Transregional Cooperation], as Project technical assistance provider, together with the three persons responsible for the twinning arrangements (Messrs. Azzam Boujemma and Ahmed Hamma for Morocco, Mr. Aykut Oncel for Turkey and Mr. Fahad Zyoud for Jordan).The twinning activity as well as the adhesion process has been coordinated, as a whole, by the TECLA Association.
In a formal sense, the network was set up through the signing of a Protocol of affiliation to the GEMM Network drawn up in Italian, French and English. Besides explaining the objectives of the Project and of the GEMM Network, the Protocol consists of 10 articles defining the advantages of affiliation and setting out the governance of the network. According to the Protocol, the Network is run by three committees dealing with the three aspects – the labour market, mobility and transport, and development of the historical and cultural heritage. Each of the three committees is represented by a President, appointed from among the members of that particular committee. The President of the GEMM network must be from one of the MEDA countries.
By belonging to the GEMM Network it is possible for members to utilise a cooperation platform supplied by EUROPOLIS – the Euro-Mediterranean Political Observatory for Local Innovation and Development, an Association of local bodies and local government experts, set up in the context of the SMALT Project (International Forum for Local Authorities in the Regions of the Mediterranean), promoted by the Campania Regional Authority. Use of the cooperation platform is a means of ensuring the economic sustainability of the initiative. EUROPOLIS has been entrusted with the platform management since it works to coordinate regional networks in the Euro-Mediterranean Basin, promoting, implementing and managing projects aimed at developing active relationships between Local Bodies, Universities, Research Centres, Associations and other institutional players in this broad geographical area.

The platform provides the space where members of the network can propose topics, submit needs and proposals for solutions, exchange experiences, set common objectives, and put into practice the spirit of cooperation that permeates the network. The platform has in fact been restructured and strengthened for the GEMM Network, with further tools for electronic dialogue and the sharing of information.

The cooperation between  TECLA Association and EUPOLIS dates from way back. In the context of the SMALT initiative, TECLA already committed itself to promoting strategic relations between the countries on the south and north shores of the Mediterranean, by signing a Memorandum of Understanding. The aim of this was to facilitate the dialogue between the public and private sectors, and to set in motion joint processes to plan and carry out projects on shared priorities for sustainable growth in the Euro-Mediterranean Basin.
The search for other local authorities, apart from those who already partners in the Project, to approach with invitations to join up to the GEMM Network, has developed through various stages and along various channels. In the first place, the three experts in twinning arrangements, from the three countries that are co-leaders, have focussed their attention on the three countries to which they belong, i.e. Morocco, Jordan and Turkey.
Besides the twinning work carried out by these three experts, other channels have been explored to search for and identify local authorities interested in the Network. The TECLA Association, in its capacity as an association bringing together various Italian Provinces, has invited all member Provinces to notify any contacts they have with local authorities in the MEDA countries (i.e. municipalities, provinces or départements). This search method follows the pattern of Community planning in which contact networks are created that can be drawn on to help boost cooperation in all potential measures for regional cooperation.
Parallel to this, a significant action has been launched by the the TECLA office in Bruxelles, the European Office UPI-TECLA. Several requests have been sent out inviting notification of any contacts between local bodies or authorities in the MEDA area interested in joining up to the Network. This is an invitation addressed to numerous parties, with different positions and aims, but all suitable for the sort of cooperation provided by the Network. These include all of the following: the local authorities that were part of the Project’s initial partnership; Italian Embassies in the relevant countries, and the Embassies of those same countries in Italy; public and private organisations involved in other projects that operate in the relevant geographical area, and that are partners in other projects financed by the MED PACT Programme; other associations or networks operating in the Euro-Mediterranean area such as Arco Latino [the “Latin Arch”]; and finally, the Department of Regional Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  An important contribution has also been made by Mr. Ziad Moussa who, as technical assistant to the GEMM Project, has suggested further contacts useful for expanding the Network.
From analysis of the composition of the Network it is possible to deduce what difficulties have been encountered and in what countries. In particular, the three co-leader countries have gathered a greater number of cities joining up to the Network through the direct action of the three experts in twinning. In the case of other countries however, the difficulty of expanding the Network derives not only from the lack of a direct line of contact or an effective intermediary, but also from the entrenchment of a system that obliges every step to pass through a central authority, thus slowing down and complicating the authorisation process. It is clear that, in its initial phase, the Network must make the most of the tools at its disposal, such as the platform and the contacts already consolidated, if it is to achieve wider coverage.
The GEMM Network, formally constituted on 11 June 2010 at Agadir, will utilise the platform available to it as it strives to stimulate dialogue and to keep it vibrant, with a view to strengthening and capitalising on the existing partnership also with a view to future initiatives. This objective is consistent and fully in line with the determination to create continuity between what has been achieved in the MED PACT Projects, and the action of other programmes targeting the Euro-Mediterranean area, such as the CIUDAD Programme, aimed at strengthening the focus on sustainable development, economic development and sustainable urban planning.
The path followed in the four years of the Project’s life has not always been easy, and has encountered difficulties common to the other projects undertaken in the context of the self-same programme. However, the Network is certainly the most tangible result of the cooperation born of the GEMM Project.
By virtue of its size, and irrespective of the size of the individual local authorities that are joined up to it, it is incumbent on the Network to voice the sum of the different experiences and different desires for change. It represents an opportunity for regional development, an opportunity for mutual support and partnership in the process of cooperation required by the newly constituted Union of the Mediterranean. The hope is that the Network will provide additional value, quality and advantages to its members.
To date, the following local authorities and associations belong to the Network

Expert in EC policies appointed by the TECLA Association to handle twinning operations and to provide technical assistance to the leader of the GEMM Project.
Technical expert appointed by the Municipality of Agadir.
Moroccan twinning expert.
Turkish twinning expert.
Jordanian twinning expert.
The Community acquis is the body of common rights and obligations which bind all the Member States together within the European Union. Thus the Community acquis comprises not only Community law in the strict sense, but also all acts adopted under the second and third pillars of the European Union and the common objectives laid down in the Treaties. The Union has committed itself to maintaining the Community acquis in its entirety and developing it further. Applicant countries have to accept the Community acquis before they can join the Union. Derogations from the acquis are granted only in exceptional circumstances and are limited in scope. To integrate into the European Union, applicant countries will have to transpose the acquis into their national legislation and implement it from the moment of their accession.
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