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Libya's cities are now receiving support in the critical area of primary health care thanks to the efforts of a Portuguese member of the European Committee of the Regions, Antonio Luis Gomes.
The city of Vila Real de Santo Antonio, of which Mr Luis Gomes (European People's Party) is mayor, organised a set of workshops, debates and study visits on 1-3 September for 12 Libyan experts and politicians in response to a call for support that Libyan mayors channelled through the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM).
ARLEM was created in 2010 by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) to encourage more cooperation between local authorities in the Mediterranean region.
Mayor Luis Gomes described the event as "the beginning of an honest and pragmatic cooperation between Portugal, Vila Real de Santo Antonio and Libya".
The collaboration with the Libyan municipalities is "above all a journey of reflection and debate" that will contribute to the organisation of a local health-system in a country that is facing major difficulties and whose reconstruction effort the European Union wishes to help, he said, adding that "the reconstruction of Libya means a safer, strong and cooperative Mediterranean".
The programme focused on the challenges facing providers of primary health care in Libya - senior health officials from Sirte, a city on the front line of clashes of fighters associated with Islamic State, were among those who attended - and on sharing examples of ways in which authorities in the Algarve region of Portugal seek to provide primary health care. These include an innovative sight-saving project, "Caring", through which Vila Real de Santo Antonio has helped more than 10,000 people in the course of two years. The programme featured contributed contributions from the health providers in the private and public sector, as well as municipal and regional officials.
The Libyan delegation in Vila Real de Santo Antonio included the mayors and political representatives of Tripoli, Benghazi, Gharyan, Sebha, and Zintan. On 5 September, the Libyan politicians met several leading officials in the Barcelona offices of the Union for the Mediterranean, which was created in 2008 by national governments to foster cooperation in the Mediterranean region.
The invitation by Vila Real de Santo Antonio was a response to calls by Libyan mayors for support from European cities and regions in six specific areas. The request, which was presented by Abdlrauf Beitelmal, mayor of Tripoli, at a meeting in Nicosia in January 2015, prompted ARLEM to create a mechanism - 'the Nicosia platform' - through which to organise offers of help. The support also forms part of a long-term effort by the CoR to contribute to the EU's efforts to reduce instability in Libya.
Libyan municipalities have received similar support through the Nicosia platform in two other areas. At the instigation of Pedro Antonio Sanchez (EPP), President of the Murcia Region and member of the Committee of the Regions, the Murcia Region in Spain shared its expertise in water management in May 2016. In June, the Belgian city of Antwerp - with the help of Luc Van Den Brande (EPP), a former president of the Committee of the Regions - addressed problems of waste management.
A range of similar events will be held in the coming weeks on the following areas:
Management of historical sites, organised by Nicosia Municipality, Cyprus, 19-23 September
Monitoring and appraisal of municipal services, organised by Nicosia Municipality, Cyprus, 26-30 September
Waste and health services, organised by Nicosia Municipality, Cyprus, 3-7 October
Management of human resources, organised by Nicosia Municipality, Cyprus, 3-7 October
English-language skills for local-government officials, organised by the Maltese association of local authorities (date to be confirmed)
Libya and the European Committee of the Regions:
The European Committee of the Regions is the European Union's assembly of local and regional politicians and has a consultative role in the EU's policymaking. It is active in region-to-region and city diplomacy with partners of the European Union, and in 2010 it established the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), which brings together politicians from around the Mediterranean. ARLEM is the local-government arm of the Union for the Mediterranean, an inter-governmental institution with 43 member states - the 28 members of the EU and 15 other countries in the region.
In recent years, Libya has been given observer status by both the Union for the Mediterranean and ARLEM, and in July 2015, the CoR established contacts with Libyan local authorities, with a view to helping Libyan municipalities to improve services to their populations. At a plenary session of ARLEM in Nicosia, Cyprus, in January 2016, Libyan mayors asked European members of ARLEM for help in six specific areas. The result was the 'Nicosia platform', in which regions and cities across Europe - including Vila Real de Santo Antonio - are sharing their experiences and offering their know-how to Libyan cities.
The Nicosia platform is supported by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.
Source: European Union