Think EU-MED

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gaddafi Opposes the "Union for the Mediterranean"

Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi opposed the proposals for a Mediterranean union at a mini-summit in Tripoli where the leaders of Algeria, Syria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Morocco, and Syria met. The summit was convened to discuss the ambitious proposals by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy for a Mediterranean bloc modelled on and linked to the European Union. These initiatives aimed to promote a regionalist concept with North Africa and the Middle East, but they were strongly criticized by Gaddafi.

In Gaddafi’s opinion, the French initiative 'Union for the Mediterranean' might harm the “Arab and African unity efforts". The European States should understand that the Arab league similarly will not accept the destruction of its own unity. Gaddafi stated, "we are member states of the Arab League and also the African Union and we will not take any chances with damaging Arab or African Unity." Gaddafi has labelled the participation of African countries in the Mediterranean project a "violation" of resolutions by the African Union. The Libyan leader, who came to power in 1969, and has become the Arab world's longest serving leader, accused the EU of wanting to dominate its southern partners that were once under European colonial rule. According to the AFP news agency, Gaddafi said: "We are neither hungry nor dogs to be thrown bones”.

The Tripoli meeting came ahead of a broader gathering and launch ceremony for the 'Union for the Mediterranean' in Paris, scheduled for July 13 of this year. Gaddafi had already made it clear that he will not be present at the meeting.
Although no decision was formally adopted on the summit, the meeting sorts out differences over the EU plans. Just two countries are strongly supporting the "Union of the Mediterranean". First Egypt, because the EU has offered it co-presidency with France, and second Tunisia, which has been promised it could host the initiative's Secretariat. One of the dividing issues, which could also be seen as a major obstacle in the whole Barcelona Process, is the presence of Israel in the Union. Another more organisational point is that some Arab countries have requested clarifications from the EU over a number of issues relating to the new EU-Mediterranean structure, such as administrative structures, financing, and decision-making process of the Mediterranean Union. With some reason, Arab states fear that Brussels will dominate the decision-making process, which has already happened with the stalled Barcelona Euro-Med process.

So, it is not surprising that Gaddafi said that the Mediterranean Union proposal was just another "passing fad", which would make no more progress than the so-called Euro-Mediterranean partnership process launched in Barcelona in 1995. He may well have a point regarding the EU proposal after the modest outcomes of the Barcelona Process. However, playing a two way political game, like Gaddafi is doing with the European Union, does not helping one’s credibility as political leader. On the one hand, in July 2007, Gaddafi signed a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements with the EU; however, on the other hand, Gaddafi raised the idea of an African Union that was loosely modeled on its European counterpart. This dual strategy did not exclude his country from the economical benefits of the coming free trade zone with the EU, but also made him the glorious unifier of the African continent. Gaddafi’s game is simple, but for Libya, this might be an important opportunity to profit from both regional blocs.

• AFP: Kadhafi opposes Mediterranean Union plan
Gulf News

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