Euro-Mediterranean cooperation (historical)

1) The Global Mediterranean Policy

The EEC concluded as early as 1969 preferential agreements with the Maghreb countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia). Within the Global Mediterranean Policy (PMG) formulated in 1972, the European Community negotiated a series of bilateral trade and co-operation agreements with third Mediterranean countries (TMCs) with the exception of Libya and Albania. A special regime of agreements was spelt out for Greece, Turkey, Malta and Cyprus with a customs union or eventual membership in mind.

The EEC signed the first GMP agreement with Israel in 1975; then with Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in 1976; and with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria in 1977.

These agreements contained three main chapters:

  • Commercial Co-operation. The EEC imports at preferential tariffs agricultural, agro-industrial and horticultural products in conformity with quotas fixed per lists of products and reviewed depending on Europe’s economic situation (so as not to interfere with the Common Agricultural Policy). Industrial products are exempt from custom-duties, although the importation of textiles, foot-wears and refined petroleum products is subject to the quota system.
  • Financial and economic cooperation. Financial protocols specify the level of aid given to the TMCs. The aid takes various forms: grants, European Investment Bank loans at lower market interest rates and Commission loans at a 1% interest rate.
  • Social Co-operation. The EEC pledges to improve the standard of living of immigrant workers (most are from North Africa and Turkey), legalising family grouping and giving them social rights equal to those of European citizens.

In 1982, the Commission articulated a development plan for Europe’s Mediterranean regions (given Greece’s entry in 1981 and that of Spain and Portugal in 1986) and recommended that a new policy be adopted with regard to the TMCs i.e. encourage the diversification of the agricultural production to prevent surpluses in foodstuffs such as citrus fruits, olive oil and wine.

These co-operation agreements and financial protocols were renewed twice without significant change.

2) The Renovated Mediterranean Policy

In 1990, the Renovated Mediterranean Policy heralded by the European Commission had a greater budget at its disposal for the financial protocols with narrower objectives and strategies:

  • Support the Structural Adjustment Programmes elaborated by the IMF and the World Bank, with the particular aim of softening their social counter-effects
  • Promote the creation and development of small and medium enterprises.
  • Encourage the protection of the environment.
  • Finance actions of regional scope and thereby reinforce horizontal co-operation
  • Emphasize the importance of human rights with a new clause enabling the European Parliament to freeze the budget of a financial protocol if serious human rights violations justify it.
  • Help societal actors such as universities, the media and municipalities contribute efficiently to the development and modernisation of SMEs by setting up « Med » programmes of decentralised co-operation.

3) Euro-Mediterranean partnership

During the Barcelona Conference in November 1995, the foreign ministers of the 15 member states and the 12 TCMs, from then on « partners », (Maghreb and Mashrek countries including the Palestinian Authority as well as Israel, Turkey, Malta and Cyprus) officially approved the principle of the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean free-trade economic zone. This vast zone, planned for 2010, would be twice the size of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) with a population of 800 million.

In July 1996, the European Council approved the MEDA Regulation, serving as a legal base to Euro-Mediterranean co-operation. The Euro-Mediterranean free-trade economic zone is more than just another ambitious project for it is progressively becoming a reality: the Customs Union with Turkey, future membership of Cyprus and the Association Agreements with Malta, Israel, Tunisia, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan confirm it.

Since Barcelona, there have been three foreign ministers’ meetings to review and improve the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership process: Malta (also called « Barcelona II »), Palermo – an informal meeting – and Stuttgart (« Barcelona III »).

The process suffered a lot from the delays in the Middle-East Peace Process and foreign ministers of the countries part of the project will meet in Lisbon on 25-26 May 2000 to revigorate relations between the two sides of the Mediterranean. If everything goes well, this will be followed in november by the first ever Euro-Mediterranean Summit, to be held in Marseille during the French Presidency of the European Union.

See also: Barcelone Declaration