03/11/2008

The Union for the Mediterranean, Challenges and Prospects

 

Seminar organized on Monday 03 November 2008, between 14.30-18.30, in the framework of the Arab week at the European Parliament (3-7/11/2008)

The Union for the Mediterranean, Challenges and Prospects

 

Moderated by former Portuguese ambassador Gonçalo Santa Clara Gomes of the Secretariat of Euromesco, the seminar focused on the Union for the Mediterranean. Participants were invited to comment on what they believed to be the added value of this new structure affixed to the Barcelona Process: Is it necessary? What are the changes to be made?

 

Abandonment of the political aspects

Recurring among the different interventions was the opposition to abandon the political aspect of the Union for the Mediterranean. Professor Heunemann of the University of Hamburg said that now the Barcelona process was « deprived of its normative component. » No reference is made to human rights while they concern the three baskets, the political, the economic and the cultural.

Ambassador Gomes has noticed that in 1995, participants of the Barcelona Process were ambitious in all dimensions. Fourteen years later, Europe does not speak more about democratization or human rights fearing to be taxed of imperialism.

Similarly, supported by the Barcelona process, the role of civil society seems now to be reduced.

 

A joint project ?

Presented as a new balance between the two shores of the Mediterranean, the project seems to be much more unbalanced than before. Prof.. Heunemann stressed that it was again a project proposed by Europe without consulting the South. According to Professor Driss of the University of Ifran (Morocco), the project is too European, even too French.

Prof.. Ahmed Driss of the University of Tunis meanwhile added that while most Arab countries appreciated the first form of the Mediterranean Union, the recovery of the structure by the European Union then deeply disappointed hopes. In addition, it leaves again some countries out of the partnership. The choice of the participating countries from the South is regularly questioned. Why Jordan and not Iraq? Why not Libya? Why not the Gulf States?

In conclusion, few expressed enthusiasm for the new phase of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, from the North as well as from the South. Unnecessary, redundant or simplistic, the Union for the Mediterranean seems not – yet – convincing.