Henry Frendo short-listed for top Euromed post

Henry Frendo

Henry Frendo

A Maltese national, Henry Frendo, is understood to have been among a number of candidates short-listed to fill the post of head of the Euromed Foundation for Inter-Cultural Dialogue but the job is likely to go to a Bonn-based German national.

The Foundation is part of the Euromed Barcelona process and is aimed at encouraging cultural dialogue between Europe and its southern neighbours.

A British woman of Arab descent residing in the USA has been suggested as a second preference. Both she and the German candidate are currently employed by UN-related entities as project administrators, are well-travelled and have an academic background.

Malta had offered to host the foundation in Valletta but lost out to Egypt, backed by Sweden. It will now be based in Alexandria, Egypt, with its premises shared between the Alexandria Library and the Swedish Institute there.

Sources said that of the 170 candidates from some 40 countries who applied for the director's position, Prof. Frendo was the only Maltese national short-listed and interviewed for it and was apparently the second runner-up.

However, it seems that nobody resident in the Mediterranean region was being proposed by the panel for the top job, which was chaired by a European Commission director-general. It is understood that a French and an Italian national, both of them highly qualified, were on the short-list as well.

The foundation, which is being set up under the third pillar of the Barcelona process, is meant to act as a network of networks in fostering cultural dialogue in fields such as archives, libraries, museums, textbooks, translations and publishing, student and youth exchanges, training, comparative religion, migration, press and media and to publish a magazine giving visibility to ongoing cultural interactions between Europe and the Mediterranean region.

According to the website advertising the vacancy last April, its director would be expected to act as a "catalyst" and be the "prime mover" fostering cultural dialogue among the peoples of this region.

Contacted by The Times yesterday, Prof. Frendo said that as far as he knew there was no final decision yet. He admitted he had been short-listed and called to Brussels for a high-powered interview, which was conducted in French, Arabic and English.

He said that on paper the foundation was "a fantastic idea" and he hoped it would deliver "by drawing upon the best existing human resources in our region, giving a chance to those who were passed over, excluded or emarginated; it should have an outreach mentality opening up to peripheries across borders and help to reduce stereotyping".

It was about time that the Barcelona Convention's third pillar came to life "and not a day too soon", Prof. Frendo said. In his view, Valletta would have been an ideal venue for the foundation, although going to Alexandria could be read as "a European message, an outstretched hand".

Well-known as a leading historian, author and media personality, Prof. Frendo served as programme officer for the Middle East and North Africa with UNHCR in Geneva and later represented the organisation in Egypt and elsewhere. In Melbourne he taught European politics and ethnic studies and served as a consultant to the Australian National University, based at the Australian Institute for Multicultural Affairs.

More recently he has been active in work for the European Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the European Cultural Foundation, the Council for Cultural Cooperation, the Venice Commission, the International Association of Refugee Law Judges and other national and international bodies.

For several years he has also been co-editor of the Journal of Mediterranean Studies which is published by the University of Malta's Mediterranean Institute.

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