Think EU-MED

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Europa Jaratouna - أوروبا جارتنا على

A new communication project of the European Commission, Eurojar, is officially being launched in Beirut on 24 June 2009. The project’s name “Eurojar” stands for Europa Jaratouna (Europe our neighbour) and aims to maximize the visibility of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The website, launched in May this year, has already published a series of articles on Euro-Mediterranean relations and the European Neighbourhood Policy. Articles, information, reactions and opinions are available on the website.

Eurojar is one of 13 projects funded by the Commission’s EuropeAid Regional Information and Communication Programme. The Eurojar budget amounts 1.5 million Euros and will last for at least one year. Europa Jaratouna seeks to increase awareness and understanding about the EU’s policies among the citizens of eight Arab countries, which are Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestinian Territories, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.

A consortium of media networks is realizing the multimedia project:
The leader of the consortium is the Lebanese daily paper L’Orient Le Jour. Every Monday, the newspaper publishes an article or an analysis about EU-Mediterranean cooperation. So far, the articles of L’Orient Le Jour have dealt with the prospects for a Euro-Mediterranean free trade area, the European Neighbourhood Policy, and the Euromed Audiovisual programme.
Furthermore, the pan-Arab press company Al-Hayat group will publish 52 articles over a period of one year. The French-Lebanese Le Commerce du Levant will present once every month an analysis or an economic or socio-economic report on one of the aspects of Euro-med relations. Last but not least, a group of Lebanese and Arab TV channels, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC), will broadcast 32 TV episodes on LBCI and LBCsat.

Web Links:
L’Orient Le Jour:
Le Commerce du Levant:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hibernation, Celebration and Revitalisation

The next 13th of July will mark the first anniversary of the Union for the Mediterranean. However, there is not an occasion to celebrate. Despite of the structural reforms with the establishment of the general secretariat in Barcelona and the Mediterranean University in Slovenia, the outcomes of this new framework are rather limited not only because the escalating conflict in the Middle East at the end of 2008 has slowed down any progress.

After six months of standstill there is some hope that the Union for the Mediterranean have come out of hibernation. Under French initiative, the delegations from the 43 members met in Paris on 25 June to discuss
a set of priority development projects in the field of sustainable development. The ministerial meeting addressed the main themes in the framework of the UfM, namely water and environment, transport, energy and urban development. A new impetus to regional cooperation is required to tackle drinking water shortages, pollution of the Mediterranean Sea, natural habitats and agricultural areas in the coastal areas which remain serious problems for the southern Mediterranean states.

The challenges in the Mediterranean region are today more demanding then ever. The proceeding of these transnational projects and an intensification of cooperation between Europe, North Africa and the Middle East is needed after the cooperation itself on the working level were put on ice and came to a near standstill for months. Since November 2008 no formal meetings among the heads of state and government have taken place. In contrary to the technical meetings of experts and civil servants in the framework of the Barcelona Process, the UfM framework foresees high level meetings. In the consequence, the meetings might have on the one hand a stronger political impact but can be on the other hand easier hindered by political events.

Although the member states have agreed to resume formal meetings, the financial crisis is now challenging the success of the planned projects. The financial crisis is hitting the real economy and businesses in the Southern Mediterranean are suffering from the recession. The gross domestic product growth for the Middle East is projected to decline from 6 percent in 2008 to 3.1 percent in 2009. Access to bank financing is increasingly difficult and investors hesitate to finance projects. The current EU budget for Mediterranean policy (16 billion euro from 2007 to 2013) is limited and many envisaged projects need further private loans and additional funding to be realized. Exceptions are projects in the field of energy as the expectations from the European side for an energy partnership are high. On initiative of Germany and France a solar plan was included into the list of projects of the UfM. The Southern Mediterranean countries are considered as a perfect source for solar energy due to abundance of sunshine. At least from solar power projects some results might be achieved if they bear fruit in the near future but this solely prospect is somewhat disappointing taking into account the high expectations in the UfM.