The Euro-Mediterranean dialogue: prospects for an area of prosperity and security

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09/10/2014

The official starting point of the EU-Mediterranean relations – after the less known Global Mediterranean Policy (GMP) launched in the 1970s – was the ambitious initiative of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP, or Barcelona Process), established by the Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, held on 27 and 28 November 1995 in Barcelona. The aim of the Partnership was to strengthen relations with the Southern Mediterranean Partners through three main objectives and to lay down a broad framework of political, economic, financial, social and cultural relations with these countries. This process has been going on for 13 years now, but its efficiency and success are doubted for several reasons.

The breakdown of the Middle East Peace Process has a huge effect on the progress of the EMP, mainly on the political and security chapter. Due to this factor, the political and cultural dimension, which is considered to be more successful, is also hindered and, according to analysts, the results certainly leave room for improvement. The predominance of the European Union in this process is also a target of criticism, because it gives the impression of inequality among the members of the Barcelona Process. The proposal put forward by Nicolas Sarkozy during his electoral campaign to establish a “Mediterranean Union” cannot only be seen as an alternative to Turkish membership in the EU, but also as a sign of dissatisfaction with the existing EMP. According to the original plan, which created serious tension between France and Germany, the Mediterranean Union would have ten member states, five from the northern shore and five from the southern shore; it would have been entirely independent and would not have been a part of the Barcelona Process. In her speech, Angela Merkel warned Sarkozy that if the Mediterranean countries wanted to establish a union completely apart from the other European countries, such a union would be a crucial test for Europe, with the result that Germany would turn more towards Eastern European countries, while France would turn more towards southern countries. In the end, the proposal was integrated in the Barcelona Process under the name “Union for the Mediterranean” (UfM) and it certainly gave a boost to relations between the northern and southern coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. On the occasion of the Conference of Foreign Ministers in Marseille, held on 3 and 4 November 2008, the project was given a concrete form by the designation of Barcelona as the headquarters of the UfM and by the determination of a new institutional architecture. But the question is: will this new structure ensure a closer and more efficient process? This project was so dear to the French presidency of the EU, but what will happen next?

Convinced that there is a need for a Mediterranean policy based on solidarity, dialogue, cooperation and exchange, the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) – which aims at being a leading and unifying force on the intellectual social-democratic European scene – and Fondazione Italianieuropei – an Italian think tank designed to promote a Europe-minded political culture – decided to publish a report on EU-Mediterranean relations. The objective would be to analyze the state of play of the EU initiatives towards that region. In order to give a balanced image of the EMP and to enable the reader to have an overview of different opinions, the report consists of articles written by a number of authors from both the northern and southern shore of the Mediterranean region. The report is divided into three main parts, each of them focusing on different topics. The first part offers a historical overview of the past European projects in the Mediterranean. The second part gives an analysis of the economic relations between the two shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The third part is a collection of articles giving an assessment of the political dialogue between the EU and its Mediterranean partners. The report concludes with a critical work on the future prospects of the Barcelona Process and the UfM.

This publication, edited and introduced by two independent think tanks, will be helpful in our task of supporting a consolidation of the Euro-Mediterranean area, which has to be based on democratic principles, respect for the rule of law and human rights, the strengthening of regional cooperation and of social and environmental integration.

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