Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Union for the Mediterranean

Press review : Week from November 3-7, 2008

Le Monde already announced it last Friday: the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Union for the Mediterranean in Marseille on November 3 and 4 would not be easy. The French newspaper depicts an Arab world upset by the consecutive brakes set by Israel against the participation of the Arab League in the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean. In Algiers, the impression was that  » Israel is leading the dance », while Rabat calls it an « incomprehensible and absurd » blocking. This disagreement led to the cancellation of a meeting of reflection on water that was foreseen in Amman last week.

Considering that barely four months after its creation, the Union for the Mediterranean is already « seeking a second wind », Le Figaro says the crisis between Israel and Arab countries comes from the difference of interpretation between them on the status of observer granted to the Arab League in the Declaration of Paris: « Traditionally, the Arab League participates in meetings of foreign ministers Euro-Mediterranean, but now she wants to be more systematically introduced, to the chagrin of the Israelis.  »

The Algerian daily « L’Expression » also criticizes the European Union by saying that « from the outset it seems there has been a misdeal insofar as the 27 EU member states, including countries with no Mediterranean shore, are involved, whereas this is not the case for Arab members of the Arab League. There is no reason that Denmark and Poland (just an example) are members of the Union for the Mediterranean, but not Kuwait or Qatar. » On the other hand, choosing a city in the North of the Mediterranean to host the secretariat makes the Algerian newspaper tell that « The Union for the Mediterranean with all its institutions located in Europe does not reflect the spirit that presided over its foundation.  »

Le Monde expressed mixed views after the meeting with an editorial entitled « The Union for the Mediterranean saved from the waters”, when the journalist Florence Beaugé qualifies as a » success for France.  » Ministers agreed in fact on many points as the seat of the Secretariat that will be based in Barcelona or the name of the forum that will no longer be « Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean » but simply « Union for the Mediterranean » which seems to be nothing but is quite a success for Nicolas Sarkozy. » Moreover, the Arab League has been accepted by Israel at all levels of participation of the Union and « two positions of the five or six deputy secretaries will be granted one to an Israeli, the other to a Palestinian. This is quite unprecedented.  » Florence Beaugé highlights nonetheless a « quite important » failure: « There is no post of secretary general », which « was not defined, as far Tunisia withdrew his candidacy » upset that he didn’t got the headquarters of the secretariat. No other candidate has yet been proposed.

The Spanish daily El Pais said that the secretariat will be installed in the property Palau del Pedralbes, offered to Alfonso XIII footing at its passages in Barcelona. El Pais underlines the benefit that the city will get from the establishment of the Secretariat, which will probably attract a number of lobbyists and satellites organizations.