Think EU-MED

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Union for the Mediterranean is Coming Closer –What Will Come?

The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (also Barcelona Process)was initiated in 1995 to improve and develop the EU’s relations with neighboring Mediterranean states. The goals and ambitions of this multilateral project have, thus far, not fulfilled the high expectations. One of the reasons for the lack of success may be due to the failure of the Mediterranean States to cooperate with one another (no wonder, as Israel is also part of the Barcelona Process). Perhaps the most essential origin for the shortfalling lies in the uncertain and shy policy of the EU itself. The EU did too little to attract the southern neighbors from executing economic and political reforms. Now, a new "Mediterranean Union" shall continue the Barcelona-Process with some modifications in the design.

The French president Nicola Sarkozy first proposed the idea of a new Mediterranean Union during his national election campaign in 2007. This resulted from the conclusion that the Barcelona Process failed in achieving its goals and that EU external relations focused rather on the Eastern European neighbourhood.
Sarkozy's proposal should be a kind of exclusive club between the Mediterranean neighbors and five EU member states (France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Malta). Not only would this Union keep out the other EU states, this plan would also indicate that it would be more beneficial for Turkey to join this Union than to join the EU. So, this proposal would have fulfilled Sarkozy’s goals to improve the relations with the French-speaking states in Africa and to keep out Turkey, as he is a strong opponent of Turkey's EU membership.

Sarkozy's proposed Mediterranean Union

While this proposal attracted support from the EU Mediterranean states, other EU states, especially Germany, criticized the plans because the new union could compete with the EU or the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and split the EU down the middle.
In addition, why let pay Europe for a project that would mainly help French companies acquire lucrative contracts in water management, sea purification, and nuclear energy that do not have German Chancellor Angela Merkel's support? Merkel wanted more EU focus and funds placed into the Union's expansion to the east and did not want to shut the EU-door for Turkey. Also, some Mediterranean partner states, especially Algeria, backed Merkel's efforts.

After long negotiations between Sarkozy and Merkel, both agreed on a revised union with the participation of all 27-member states. The new agreement, entitled 'The Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean', would be managed by a rotating co-presidency involving one EU and one Mediterranean partner country. Nevertheless, it also stated that all 27 EU countries would be eligible for co-presidency under the Commission's plan, and the Commission has also made clear that this project is not directed against Turkey’s EU accession ambitions.
The Union’s main areas will be energy, environment, civil protection and transport, and a focus on crime, terrorism, and illegal immigration. Potential projects of the forum are new sea traffic routes, depollution of Mediterranean waters, improvements to maritime security, and exploitation of solar power in North Africa to help meet the energy needs of the region.

Although EU leaders backed the “Union for the Mediterranean” at a summit in March, the final design of the Union still remains uncertain. The EU-Mediterranean summit in Paris on July 13, under the French EU Presidency, must bring clear results as the EU leaders could adopt a final version at their summit to be held in Brussels on June 19-20.

European Commission: Euro-Mediterranean Partnership/Barcelona Process

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