‘In response to walls and barriers,’ Carmelo Barbagallo says
Trade union leaders from eight Mediterranean countries including Italy gathered on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa on Thursday for a meeting to promote “a sea of peace and work”.
The meeting is in response to “those in the world who want to build walls and barriers”, said Carmelo Barbagallo, leader of Italy’s third biggest trades union confederation UIL, who organised the event.
The meeting was also attended by union leaders from Palestine, Tunisia (including Hassine Abbassi, a member of Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015), Algeria, Morocco, Egypt and Libya (with Nermin Sharif, the first woman general secretary of a trade union in north Africa) and by representatives of four religions.
The aim is to create a network of social forces capable of relaunching dialogue between countries that are experiencing “a crisis condition emblematically and sadly respresented by the exodus of people trying to flee from poverty and persecution across this sea”, a joint statement read. The parties called for “more courage and more determination” in tackling the migration crisis with a new, “inclusive” approach not “based on security alone”, but which brings together the economic, social and cultural dimensions accompanied by work to “create opportunities for growth and employment” in source areas.
In future, Barbagallo intends to extend the initiative to other Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Greece and Spain, and also to Syria “as soon as the difficult conditions in the country so allow”. Meanwhile, the unionists on Lampedusa agreed to meet once a year in each of the countries represented on a rotating basis.