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The aftermath of COVID-19 in the Mediterranean

This year the Escola Europea, along with 10 partners from around the Mediterranean, will launch a new pan-Mediterranean project in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI-CBCMED). The project, called YEPMED (“Youth Employment in the Ports of the Mediterranean”), will work towards the development of port-logistics training and vocational (TVET) resources adapted to sector needs to strengthen youth employability in Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, France, Italy and Spain. This in turn will increase and upgrade local employment opportunities through the creation of real dual-learning programmes with job placements; and help set up collaborative national and transnational partnerships between port-logistics associations, operators, SMEs, training centres and VET providers, whilst introducing a PPP co-management process. The ambitious project is scheduled to run from 2020 to 2023.

When looking at any situation related to our industry, but in particular when looking at employment opportunities and trends, it is always prudent to take in the national and international context. This year the whole world was faced with an extremely potent and dangerous enemy – a new and extremely rapid strain of coronavirus – and we have already begun to see the consequences of the pandemic on the social, cultural and economic spheres. In this article we explore what exactly is the situation in the countries that are involved in YEPMED, in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The government asked the Tunisian Parliament for powers to issue emergency decrees for a period of 2 months, starting in April 4, 2020. The government stressed the imperative to engage in continuous re-assessment, to ensure the success of the three stages of deconfinement. The first stage has run from May 4 to 24, the second from May 25 to June 4, and the third (currently active) from June 5 to July 14, 2020. Restriction of movement between regions was lifted on June 4 and the country’s borders will re-open on June 27.


On 21 March, Prime Minister Hassan Diab Taboule in a televised speech urged people in Lebanon to implement a “self-imposed curfew,” adding that the lockdown measures will be enforced more strictly by the security forces. On 26 March, Lebanon imposed a partial curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. to try to slow the spread of the virus. On June 11, 2020, A curfew remains in place daily from 12 midnight until 5:00 a.m., to include private vehicular travel. The Lebanese government has extended the general mobilization until July 5, 2020.  Rafic Hariri International airport has been closed to regularly-scheduled commercial flights since March 19. It will remain closed until at least June 21.


In March 2020, Egypt has adopted many measures to stop the spreading of the virus, including suspending mass prayers at mosques, and shutting down of churches and other spiritual havens. The country also shut down shopping malls, restaurants, coffee shops, and nightclubs overnight, in addition to imposing a curfew starting from 8pm to 6am. On April 7, 2020, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called for the reduction of employees working in offices across Egypt, aiming to avoid a pattern of suspensions of work. He demanded that more employees be allowed to work from home, to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). Starting on May 30, every person is required to wear a facemask when entering all public institutions and public and private transportation. Egypt will open up its main seaside resorts for international flights and foreign tourists from July 1. The Government of Egypt will review all measures in mid-June.


On March 25, 2020 a state of emergency and curfew was declared. As of the 3rd of May, 2020, most sectors were allowed to resume work gradually, but schools, universities, gyms, public gatherings, church and mosque sermons remained banned, and a curfew from 7 pm to 8am remains in place as well as a curfew on Fridays. On May 21, the Government of Jordan announced the continued suspension of regular commercial passenger flights to and from Queen Alia International Airport through June 4, 2020. On May 29, the Government of Jordan announced that airports in Jordan will remain closed through July 1, 2020. The Government of Jordan announced that everyone must adhere to social distancing rules and wear masks and gloves when entering public places (including ministries, government departments, official and public institutions), and when entering places where services are provided directly to the public (including companies, institutions, malls, stores, medical clinics and health centers, cellular communications companies, electricity and water companies, banks, offices, buses, taxis, public vehicles and private vehicles with more than one person). Anyone violating the order is currently facing a fine.


On March 17, 2020, the French Government announced the nation-wide lockdown. The French Government has announced the second phase of deconfinement, which began on June 2, 2020. The 100 km limit on travel within France, which was in place since March, no longer applies. Groups are still limited to a maximum of 10 people in public spaces. Certain public services have gradually been allowed to open. Phase two is expected to last until at least June 21, 2020. Phase 3 of de-confinement is looming from June 22, 2020, and the government has provisionally set the date for the end of the state of health emergency next July 10. Exceptional measures could be maintained until November 10. On June 15, border restrictions and travel into France from European countries is planned to be lifted. Nevertheless, the decision on whether to relax/open border restrictions on arrivals into France from outside of the European Union is still pending.


On March 11, 2020, the Italian Government began the nationwide lockdown, following a dramatic outbreak in the Bergamo region. The lockdown was the strictest in Europe, and lasted for nearly two months. Gradual opening of activities started May 4, 2020. On May 17, 2020, the Italian government issued a decree providing that from June 3, 2020, persons traveling to Italy from member states of the European Union are permitted to enter in the country, with exemption for quarantine. For those traveling from other countries, travel to Italy will be allowed only for proven work, urgent health needs, or to return to their places of residence. Those travelers are required to self-isolate for 14 days under the supervision of health authorities, either at home or another address of their choosing.



The Spanish Government started the lockdown on March 16 2020. Gradual opening of activities started on the 4th of May 2020. Spain’s nationwide State of Emergency will remain in effect until June 21, 2020. The Spanish government is gradually relaxing some confinement measures in phases over the weeks leading up to then. Confinement measures will vary from region to region within Spain. At the time of writing, Spain’s air, land and sea borders remain closed for entry, excluding the land border with Andorra, with limited exceptions. This includes the land borders with Portugal, France, and Morocco (Ceuta and Melilla) and the sea borders in the Canary and Balearic Islands, as well as the sea ports in mainland Spain, with limited exceptions. At the time of writing, only Spanish citizens or citizens/legal residents of EU or Schengen countries may enter Spain.



The current strain of Coronavirus has greatly affected the social and economic paradigms present throughout the world – and with the impending recession the economic consequences seem dire. It will be years before the countries can go back to pre-Covid realities – in the cultural, educational and transport sectors in particular (among others). This is why international partnerships and projects that work towards the improvement of cross-border cooperation and the sharing of know-how are now pivotal for economic recovery. Without a functioning logistics sector, the economy of a country cannot recover. Without maritime transport, 80% of global freight and more than half of consumer fuel will not be delivered – vital for global recover and geopolitics. This is particularly true in the Mediterranean, where the existing and developing links between countries in the North and South of the basin, as well as between the West and East, are becoming essential lifelines in recovery. All of this needs to be considered at while at the same time keeping up with any digital innovations and smart technologies incorporated and developed by actors in the transport sector, along with the environmental factors that exist to ensure the health and safety of our Blue Economy (and by extension the globe).

YEP-MED will work exactly with this mission in mind – to help share knowledge, facilitate economic recovery and ease social strain by providing employment opportunities to people on the southern and northern shores of the Mediterranean basin. As economies open up following months-long lockdowns in the seven countries, the Escola and its partners are beginning to work to bear fruit of this new initiative. Stay tuned!


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