11/07/2008

The Union of Mediterranean on the starting blocks: fear of a false start

D-Day-3 before the launch of the project of the Union of Mediterranean, and one impression: the enthusiasm for a new start in the Mediterranean policy of the EU has never seemed so low.

The new Union – which is not really one – could have hit the headlines of the European news if the Irish « No » on June 13th had not taken place. Europeans are now more concerned about their own future and seem less willing to initiate a major project in the Mediterranean. Also to notice that Nicolas Sarkozy has not even mentioned the project during his speech on France 3 the day before he took office as President of the EU. Did the French President already place his pawns elsewhere?

As far as the South-Mediterranean partners are concerned, support for the project has declined since its recovery by the European Union. The most virulent criticism comes with little surprise from Libyan President, Moammar Gaddafi. Libya was not part of the Barcelona Process and accepts uneasily the anchoring of the Union of Mediterraneanwithin the old framework of Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation. Only a Libyan observer will be sent Sunday to Paris. Although the other leaders of the South Mediterranean have announced their presence, prudence towards the project is palpable.

Following these reactions, it seems logical to question the legitimacy of the future Union of Mediterranean. What does it really bring in? Does it not fall in the failings it was denouncing? From a light configuration, it has taken weight with 43 members, against 39 for the Barcelona Process, and 23 for the Neighbourhood Policy. Initially a dialogue between equal partners, the South seems once more likely to have a too complicated European bureaucracy as interlocutor.

But the project has reawakened the debate on the Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation and therefore we want it to succeed. Let us hope that the summit on 13th of July will give new impetus to a blurry project… It will be necessary this weekend to show persuasion and eloquence to persuade all partners to invest in the new Union for the Mediterranean.

N.J.O.