Under the title “Coastal cities of the Mediterranean: port governance strategies and interaction with cities” a meeting of local authorities representing coastal cities took place in Tangier on October 5 and 6 to put on the table common themes as the impacts that port activities generate in cities that do not always have a voice towards port authorities. In this sense, MedCities is promoting a stable working group on coastal cities in which the members can raise concerns, share successful experiences of sustainability and at the same time cooperate with port institutions, research bodies and international institutions that provide support and financing for sustainable urban development.

The meeting brought together authorities from Dubrovnik, Izmir, Misrata, Saïda, Tangier, Tetouan, Tripoli (Lebanon), Tripoli (Libya). The port authority of Tangier Ville and international institutions such as the AIVP (International Association of City Ports), the Port City Futures of the LDE or the GIZ (German cooperation agency).

MedCities, organizer of the event, together with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the German cooperation agency (GIZ), understands that it is at the municipal level that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Agenda 2030 will be implemented with concrete actions. For this reason, it promotes the exchange of knowledge between local authorities in the Mediterranean region.

The Director of MedCities, Mr. Oriol Barba highlighted: “In the Mediterranean, cooperation schemes are becoming increasingly bilateral, losing the regional or local focus. “That is why it is so important to work with organizations that follow a regional approach such as the KAS and also the GIZ, which share this approach from the beginning”.

Barba also stressed the importance of the relationship between ports and cities in the Mediterranean and higher entities: “Decisions on the development of ports, especially large commercial ports, are taken far from local authorities, who have little or no weight in governance structures, but then they are the ones who must deal with externalities (positive and negative). There is a general imbalance between the impacts and the capacity of municipalities to intervene.”

Nevertheless, local authorities have demonstrated their lobbying power in very important decisions, especially through cooperation.

The meeting served to debate effective and transferable governance models between port authorities and local authorities that support the commitment to address key sustainability challenges in the Mediterranean (mobility, pollution, environment, heritage and socio-cultural effects).

As expressed by Mr. Mohamed Ouanaya, Treasurer of AIVP , President and General Director of the Promotion Society for the Reconversion of the Port Zone of Tangier (SAPT) and the Management Company of the Port of City of Tangier (SGPTV SA) : “The city-port relationship involves tensions, but it is important to develop cities while preserving their heritage. The AIVP is fully committed to sustainable development. Port cities are at the forefront of the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an approach included in the 2030 Agenda developed by AIVP that includes 10 objectives that indicate the main challenges for sustainable port cities and 46 action measures connected to the 17 SDGs.”

These objectives refer to adaptation to climate change, the renewal of governance, the improvement of the port-city interface and the protection of biodiversity.

Mr. Mustafa Zien, head of International Cooperation of the Tangier City Council (member of MedCities) highlighted the importance of multi-level agreements so that there is good communication between the different actors involved in the economic and social activity derived from ports and their impacts: “The city of Tangier is very attractive for tourism for many reasons. The port of Tangier MED is one of the most important in North Africa. In the local port, the key is the relationship of the port and the city. The port itself becomes a tourist destination, open to all. “The municipality of Tangier has taken into account this historical tourist value in its strategic plan.”

Josep Canals, Secretary General of MedCities, highlights that “when city councils work together for a common good there are fruits: a clear example of good practices can be found in Marseille (whose city council is a member of MedCities), which managed to bring together mayors from important port cities throughout the Mediterranean to request that it be officially decreed as an Emission Control Zone for sulfur oxides applied to ships sailing through the Mediterranean. In this sense, at the Conference of the Parties 22 (COP22) of the Barcelona Convention it was unanimously decided to propose to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to designate the Mediterranean Sea as an emissions control area in order to reduce the presence of sulfur in the petroleum fuel used by vessels compared to those outside the area. The IMO approved it in December 2022 for its entry into force from May 2, 2025.

Another example of a political initiative is the municipalities of Palma and Dubrovnik (both members of MedCities), which reached agreements with their respective ports to limit the number of daily cruise ships that dock there.

The Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development, adopted in the Barcelona Convention, is the roadmap to identify the SDGs in the Mediterranean region and a framework to work on topics as the ones debated in Tanger.

During the meeting, the working group debated issues of common concern to all cities, municipalities and port authorities (public and private):

Governance: the potential of relationships between local governments and port authorities to foster blue economy opportunities in terms of city development.

Mobility: land and maritime mobility as a key to connecting coastal cities with the interior.

Pollution: coastal cities and ports have the possibility of acting as a barrier to pollution that goes from land to sea. To unlock this potential, governance between the port and the city is crucial.

We know that the Mediterranean is one of the main basins for the accumulation of marine waste and plastic pollution. The European Parliament estimates that 230,000 tons of plastic are dumped into the sea every year, to which we must add 20,000 tons more, attributable to maritime trade (1).

Environment: port cities have a unique potential to address Mediterranean environmental challenges, including ocean pollution, waste in rivers or emissions from ships.

Heritage: in the Mediterranean coasts, ports and cities are historical axes and hubs of economic and social development. They are also spaces threatened by mass tourism. Cities and port authorities can develop shared strategies for heritage preservation, sustainability and development.

Socio-cultural dimensions: the increase in tensions due to the collision between the activities of port cities as commercial, industrial and economic centers with the challenges to their survival produced by intense mobility, air and water pollution and other externalizations, focuses on the need to have clear regulation in relation to port activities that balance economic, urban development and socio-ecological resilience.

These topics were analyzed in various round tables that had as a common denominator the discourses on the difficulties faced by local authorities in the south and east of the Mediterranean, especially in managing municipal waste to which the waste generated by the ports is an additional burden.

Finally, the debate “Perspectives of local authorities on port-city relations” was generated among the attending authorities with the aim of sharing the viewpoints of various port cities in the eastern and southern Mediterranean in view of identifying priorities for joint work within the network.

Participating in this debate were Erhan Ayaz, a specialist in international relations from Izmir, Ibrahim Ahmed Eshible, mayor of Central Tripoli (Libya), Wafaa Sheaib, Council Member, Saida, Mihaela Skuric, director of the Dubrovnik Restoration Institute, Daniel Ziouziou, vice president of the Tetouan City Council and Ahmad Kamareddine, Mayor of Tripoli (Lebanon), and representatives of Tanger city and port authorities.

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