24/12/2010

Review of the EU’s Mediterranean policy

We chose to devote the last two weeks of the year with the publication of two reviews. The first concerns the Euro-Mediterranean and Euro-Arab relations while the second will outline the major events that have taken place in the Arab world in the second half of 2010.
First, it is noteworthy that during these six months of the Belgian Presidency of the European Union (EU), a slowdown in accession negotiations with Turkey have occurred.

Yet the country has several strategic assets for Europe (counterweight to Iran, relay of moderate Islam in the region, etc..). But it seems that the efforts realized as part of accession negotiations – which are signs of progress, modernization and stabilization of the country – are ends for the EU in this volatile region. However, Turkey has its own agenda and the slowdown of the process, even though the economy has never been so prosperous and promising, could lead the country to turn away from Europe.

As part of bilateral relations, Euro-Moroccan relations, meanwhile, are in good shape with the strengthening of the advanced status by three new cooperation agreements signed during the ninth session of the EU-Morocco Association in December 2010 .
The partnership with Morocco has a fundamental value in the region because it could precipitate the regional dynamic. But also because Morocco is essential to the European strategies of containment of migration and the fight against terrorist networks. The enthusiasm of the EU, however, contrasts with the lack of progress in negotiations on Western Sahara and with numerous violations of human rights identified in the country by human rights organizations.

With Morocco, Jordan is the only state to have accessed to the advanced status. This was concluded at the Ninth Association Council of 26 October 2010. In granting this privilege to Jordan, the EU hopes to get closer to a state with a strategic position and engaged in modernization reforms, which could become an ally in the region. For Jordan, however, this choice appears more focused on the business side, and should help boost a fragile economy.

Regarding the efforts in Mediterranean integration, the Union for the Mediterranean has stalled. Indeed, the Summit of the Union for the Mediterranean, originally scheduled in June 2010, postponed to November 2010, has finally not taken place and no date has been proposed. Two years after its launch, the UfM is stalled due to the breakdown of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians but also to a lack of credibility of the structure on the international stage. By targeting a pragmatic approach based on practical economic projects to promote a rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world, the project did not take into account the complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Mediterranean integration can not do without a real breakthrough in the peace process. The UfM supposed help to overcome the pitfalls of the Barcelona process, has apparently failed. And the current attitude of the EU is not likely to revive it. Indeed, the EU seems to have completely abandoned influence the negotiations and leave the political charge of this dossier to the United States. Yet, as Israel’s main trading partner and largest donor to the Palestinian Authority (financial aid, which in fact, covers the cost of the occupation), the EU has the cards to pressure on Israel to advance the negotiations.

This second half of 2010 was also marked by the gradual establishment of European External Action Service (EEAS). The EU hopes to break into world diplomacy. The diplomatic service will consist of 60% of European officials and 40% of seconded national diplomats. Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, will act as a conductor to create a genuine European diplomatic culture, freeing itself from national foreign policies to pursue EU strategic interests. But it is clear that changes are coming. With the actual launch of the EEAS, the EU has developed the instrument that it needed to weigh on the world stage. 2011 will be indicative of the ability and willingness of the EU to take its place in solving conflicts in the region. Because beyond the rhetoric and institutional reforms, it is through concrete and courageous action that the EU will gain in credibility in the Arab and Mediterranean World and will position itself as a political actor capable of influence in the peace process while safeguarding its strategic interests in the region.

Iman Bahri