Union for the Mediterranean

Expected to become the new framework of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, the Union for the Mediterranean is a project launched by Nicolas Sarkozy during his presidential campaign in February 2007. Originally scheduled outside the European structures, the Union for the Mediterranean today takes the form of a revival of the Barcelona Process.

Following a speech (colloquium, « the Euro-Mediterranean relationship: think beyond Barcelona, Institut d’Etudes Européennes, FUSL / UCL) by Alain Le Roy, French ambassador in charge of the project of the Union for the Mediterranean , we were able to better understand the evolution and the current form of the draft.

First project: the Mediterranean Union

Suggested by Nicolas Sarkozy on February 7, 2007 at a public meeting in Toulon during his presidential campaign, the Mediterranean Union was a draft of supranational union bringing together the countries of the Mediterranean perimeter.

Origin: analysis of the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation

Each Euromed cooperative process has been a useful precedent. But some observations can be made:

  • The development gap between the North and South shores of the Mediterranean is the largest in the world between two contiguous regions
  • The employment situation in the countries of the southern shore is in crisis
  • Only 2% of European turnover was invested in Mediterranean, its investment being rather made to the east.

The Barcelona Process has shown its advantages but also its limitations. It must indeed not turn off their capacity to be with the United Nations, the only forum in which sit together Syrians, Lebanese and Israelis, Moroccans and Algerians. Similarly ENP has borne fruit in terms of bilateral relations with many European countries of the Mediterranean basin. But:

  • The Barcelona Process is not sufficiently balanced: it brings together 27 countries as an interlocutor of a divided South. This imbalance leads to inequality in the investment made by each of the sides in the process.
  • The Euro-Mediterranean cooperation is not visible from the populations of Southern Mediterranean. In fact 70% of the resources allocated to the European Euromed are budgetary aid, while only 30% are devoted to specific projects, visible to the public.

The idea of the Mediterranean Union, which is still that of the Union for the Mediterranean, is to work like the Jean Monnet method: bring the two shores of the Mediterranean around common projects. In Europe, this approach has borne fruit since around the ECSC was gradually built the European Union.

Potential members

It aimed to bring together :

  • European Union countries (Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal)
  • North African countries (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia);
  • Countries in the Near East (Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria)
  • Regional Unions (European Union, Council of Europe, European Monetary Union (euro zone), the Arab Maghreb Union, Arab League, African Union).


According to the baseline, the union will be based on three pillars policy:

  • A common policy of chosen immigration;
  • An ecological strategy (with joint management of water);
  • A common policy of co-development.

A fourth pillar could also be imagined for an integrated cooperation to combat corruption, organized crime and terrorism by devising a common judicial area.


From the institutional point of view, the Mediterranean Union inspired by its European counterpart. It thus would operate under the control of a rotating presidency. It would have a decision board, the Mediterranean Council, and a Mediterranean Investment Bank. The latter would be used to finance joint projects of members of the Union and thus help the struggling economies.


The Mediterranean Union aims to address the shortcomings of the Barcelona process by relying more on cooperation than on trade. It would include only the countries of southern Europe, supposedly more interested in the fate of the Mediterranean as the other Member States of the European Union.

When the Union of Mediterranean project was launched in February 2007, it seemed clear that Nicolas Sarkozy proposed it as an alternative to Turkey’s accession into the European Union. This relatively hidden goal was immediately decried by supporters of an European Turkey, which has helped considerably to reduce the enthusiasm of some countries concerning the new project.

Reactions and changes

Following his election in May 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy has started a campaign to increase awareness towards his Mediterranean project. The reactions were initially reserved among the European states and among southern neighbors.

European Reactions

The Mediterranean Union is not originally an European project since it covered only Mediterranean European countries. However, it has gradually taken an European hue.

Germany has expressed reluctance since the announcement of a proposed Union only gathering the European states next the Mediterranean Sea. Since then, Angela Merkel insisted for all EU member states to participate at the new Union and also stressed the danger of abandonment of the achievements of the Barcelona Process and the European Neighborhood Policy.

Slovenia which assume the Presidency of the European Union from January to June, 2008 expressed itself in terms more or less similar to the German comments, stressing the need to maintain the existing framework of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.

On the side of the Mediterranean littoral, reactions, when there were, were good. On December 21, 2007, the Prime Ministers of Spain and Italy, Romano Prodi and Jose Luis Zapatero expressed their support for the project of a Mediterranean Union. The « Declaration of Rome » is the first public support given to the draft Nicolas Sarkozy. It features a paragraph stating that the future European Union is not intended to supplant the accession process of Turkey to the EU.

At the Commission, the project has been greeted with scepticism. DG Relex said she saw a willingness to strengthen the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, and that it deserved to be discussed. The European authorities have, however, added that EU funding of the project was not possible.

In brief, Europe was not enthusiastic towards the French project but realized he raised the question of a real lack in the Euro-Mediterranean policy. That is why this project has continued to live.

Southern reactions

Nicolas Sarkozy himself has conducted tours in the Maghreb. He began his tour with a visit to Algeria in July 2007, but was then unable to rally Morocco, upset to be consulted in second place. The French President thus reiterated a tour in November and December following starting with Morocco. Muammar Qadhafi has been approached following the settlement of the case known as the « Bulgarian nurses ». Tunisian President Ben Ali has also supported the project.

According to Ambassador Le Roy, the idea of a Mediterranean Union met real expectations on the part of leaders of the southern shore of the Mare Nostrum. President Ben Ali, King Mohammed VI, President Bouteflika, President Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas expressed support for the project. Only three countries have not yet officially spoken on the subject: Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. The first two have so far other domestic concerns, while the reluctance of the first comes from the fear to see the new cooperation framework replace the EU accession process. Today Ankara has understood that the project was profitable and, despite the absence of any official statement, has already expressed the desire to participate.

The release and the agreement of the 27

Germany, although reluctant to some aspects of the Mediterranean Union, did not want to release the draft. In mid-February 2008, Germany meant the President French his desire to find a common proposal. Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel have agreed at a dinner last March 3 on a project rather than Union of the Mediterranean, or Mediterranean Union, but for the Mediterranean. This change underscores the change imposed by the German chancellor in the project. The latter has in fact demanded such a union to be built within the European Union.

The project now benefiting from the support of the primary couple of the European Union takes an entirely different consistency. It is presented to the European Council of 13 and 14 March 2008 and met an agreement of the 27 member states of the European Union.

The project of a Union for the Mediterranean

Following the European Council of 13 and 14 March, the project of an Union for the Mediterranean has taken shape in the form of a few sentences in the conclusions of the presidency under the title of « Declaration on the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean »

The European Council approved the principle of a Union for the Mediterranean which will include the Member States of the EU and the non-EU Mediterranean coastal states. It invited the Commission to present to the Council the necessary proposals for defining the modalities of what will be called « Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean » with a view to the Summit which will take place in Paris on 13 July 2008.

Three changes can already be seen in this statement:

1) the project is no more entitled Mediterranean Union, but Union for the Mediterranean;

2) the membership now includes all European Union countries, as well as the states bordering the Mediterranean which are non-EU member;

3) the project will take place within the achievements of the Barcelona Process.

Other details of the future Union for the Mediterranean are only ideas or drafts, the final frames will be determined on July 13, 2008 in Paris. Nevertheless, here is what the future Union looks like.


The Union for the Mediterranean introduces two original institutions:

  • a Co-Presidency: the Union for the Mediterranean would be managed by two presidents, one of the northern Mediterranean and one of the Southern Mediterranean. This innovation allows on one hand to eliminate the imbalance between the two sides, on the other hand to allow the appeal to a definite body which will serve as a bridge between the Euromed actors and policy makers.
  • a Secretary: Its function is twofold: on the one hand to suggest improvements or new Euromed projects, on the other hand, to implement the projects approved by the ministerial meetings of the Union for the Mediterranean.

Warning: Although the project appears to fit into a European framework, it will operate on a principle of intergovernmentality.


As mentioned above, the Union for the Mediterranean will include all countries of the European Union, plus the Mediterranean countries non member of the EU.

However, apart from official statements, the Southern Mediterranean countries have not yet signed any agreement or declaration concerning the Union for the Mediterranean.

Some states will be invited to participate in the UPM as observers as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) and the African Union (AU).

 » A Union of projects »

The Union for the Mediterranean was presented by its initiators as « a Union of projects for a project of Union ». There is therefore a willingness to work on the method of Jean Monnet, ie states to gather around concrete projects relating to a common good: here, the Mediterranean.

Some projects are already being negotiated and are intended to be implemented upon the establishment of the Union for the Mediterranean in July 2008:

  • De-pollution of the Mediterranean : plan launched by Euromed, boosted by the Union for the Mediterranean. The negotiations meetings have already begun.
  • Access to water
  • Management of irrigation water
  • Mediterranean sun plan: access to energy
  • Marine Highway between Alexandria and Tangiers, via Piraeus, proposed by Egypt
  • Creation of a Euromed centre of excellence in the following areas:
    • Agriculture and Desertification
    • resources, biodiversity and fisheries
    • Climate Change
  • Creating a Master Euromed (planned)
  • Bank archive Euro-Mediterranean (proposed)
  • Office Mediterranean Youth (for youth, students…)

Launched from July 2008, these projects will provide an impetus for other projects.

Many have considered the management of immigration in the future Union. However, a specialist in the field, Jean-Louis Debrouwer, « Director Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum » from the Directorate General for Justice, Freedom and Security of the European Commission, believes that this issue should not be treated with a frame Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Indeed, the logic of « road » is more appropriate, since just about some Mediterranean countries make no desire to regulate migratory traffic passing through their territory.


To the asked question of funding to Ambassador Le Roy, the answers appear less accurate. According to him, projects will be at variable geometries and operating on the principle of « coalition of the willing ». In other words, each project will go forward with those countries that are ready to participate.

Each project must find its own funding. Some of the projects may find their sources of funding in the community. It is also possible that a country of the South Mediterranean wish to devote a portion of its bilateral aid (from Europe) to a project.

Other sources of funding include:

  • Public-Private Partnership;
  • Some development agencies are interested in specific projects and are willing to finance them;
  • African Development Bank;
  • World Bank;
  • Arab Gulf Countries.

Since March 14

The European Council has mandated the Commission to devise proposals for the Euro-Mediterranean summit on 13 July. The purpose of this Paris meeting is to achieve a Declaration (not a treaty) common between heads of state who will decide the co-presidency, the secretariat and the definition of projects.

Commission Report

On May 20, the Commission published its report. It agreed with much of the Franco-German project submitted to the Council in past March.

The Union for the Mediterranean is a new start for the Barcelona process and this in three ways:

1) By strengthening the political level relations between the EU and its Mediterranean partners:

  • Biennial summits will be held successively in the EU and the Mediterranean partner countries.
  • The Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA) reaffirmed as the parliamentary dimension of the Barcelona Process

2) For a better sharing of responsibilities of Euro-Mediterranean multilateral relations :

  • A co-chairmanship with Europe’s chair to be occupied by the President of the European Union (which will join the President of the Commission if the Treaty of Lisbon has to be applied) and the High Representative for CFSP / Vice-President of the Commission, at the level of Foreign Affairs, while the selection of the chair on the side of the Mediterranean partner countries will be by consensus
  • A joint standing committee would prepare the summits and interdepartmental meetings, as well as meetings of senior officials and those of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (whose meetings are expected to be less frequent with the increased role of the Standing Committee). The joint committee will also serve as a rapid reaction mechanism
  • A secretariat as a point of convergence of initiatives projects. Its task is upstream and downstream of the project. It will be a part responsible for reviewing project proposals and submit them to the Euro-Mediterranean committee. On the other hand it will ensure the necessary follow-up regarding the search for partners and financing for the project. He will then report to the Euro-Mediterranean committee. The members of the secretariat will be selected on basis of skills and geography. A host country will be designated and will provide the premises, while the officials will be paid by their respective administrations.

3) For regional projects and sub-regional additional, useful for citizens of the region and to make these relationships more concrete and visible:

  • The selected projects will be « fully promoting cohesion and regional economic integration » and will « constitute projects visible and relevant to citizens of the region. »
  • Project funding will come from multiple sources: private sector, bilateral cooperation of EU member contributions Mediterranean partners, international and regional financial institutions, Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP) and Investment in the ENP (ENPI). The EU will finance projects only if they fall within the priorities it had previously set.

Examples of projects to be discussed as early as July 13 (details: see Annex I of the Commission’s report): Motorways of the sea, interconnection of the Arab Maghreb, pollution of the Mediterranean, maritime safety, plan solar Mediterranean…

Reaction of the European Parliament

On 5th of June, the European Parliament voted 562 votes in favor, 50 against and 30 abstentions in favor of the « Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean ».

The EP welcomes the role envisaged for the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA), but considers that it, « as a consultative body, should have the right to submit proposals and assessments. »

The MEP also issued some advices and warned against certain abuses of the future  Union for the Mediterranean’s project:

  • The EU should invest in a definitive resolution of the conflict in the Middle East. (This remark has been the subject of an amendment that was ultimately not voted);
  • The Commission must take action against violations of human rights committed by Israel against the Palestinians;
  • This project must not be stopped by cumbersome bureaucratic structures;
  • Concern that the enthusiasm is not as great on the side of the Mediterranean partner countries;

Responses from future members

EU members have all supported the Commission’s report. They will review and approve the proposals contained therein during the month of June at the European Council meeting. From the latter a concerted position will be exposed during the inaugural meeting of the « Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean » which will take place July 13 in Paris.

On the side of the Mediterranean partner countries, reactions to the draft are more mixed.

The Mediterranean Forum held in Algiers on Friday, June 6 was an opportunity for a number of Arab countries to seek « clarifications about the consequences » of the entry of Israel in the future Union.

In a limited Arab summit in Tripoli, Muammar Gaddafi expressed fear that this project does « tearing apart the Arab and African solidarity » and called on his counterparts in Syria, Mauritania, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco’s Prime Minister to dismiss the project. As for Turkey, she still fear that this project is a strategy to out the process of accession to the European Union.

France declares not to fear these anti-UPM divisions and announced that it was still awaiting replies from Algeria, Lebanon and Syria, other Arab countries having confirmed their presence in Paris on July 13.

The Co-Chairmans should be ensured North side by France, South side by Egypt. The headquarters of the secretariat is meanwhile asked by Rabat, Tunis and Malta. The question of its location will be decided before July 13.

Results on July 13 and follow up

For an overview of the day, see our Editorial of 14 July: « Barcelona Process: A Union for the Mediterranean », the diplomatic success hides the lack of consistency of the project.

On 13 July 2008, the Union for the Mediterranean knew a majestic inauguration with the presence of the representatives of 43 European and Mediterranean countries, and of international organizations and other agencies.

The Joint Declaration after this summit didn’t bring much news compared to the report published on May 20 by the Commission (see Sources below). Note that the text has suffered a last minute blockage because of a disagreement between Palestinians and Israelis on the term Nation-State, national and democratic State. These concepts induce difficulties of the peace process as the return of Palestinian refugees, the Jewish state and Palestinian state.

Joint Declaration of Paris summit on the Mediterranean.

The Paris Declaration specifies the importance of the Barcelona benefits. The new Euro-Mediterranean policy is still built on three main pillars: policy and security, economy and human, social and culture. Concerning security, the partners said they wanted to invest in the direction of a region free of weapons of mass destruction. Another theme holds great expectations, that of immigration: the signatory countries have expressed willingness to facilitate the legal movement of people.

On the bilateral level, the association agreements concluded within the framework of the Barcelona Process and action plans of the neighbourhood policy will be maintained.

Despite a continuation of the outline, the Union for the Mediterranean nevertheless represents a number of contributions to former shapes of Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation:

  • a increase in the level of political relations between the two shores of the Mediterranean;
  • a better sharing of responsibilities in multilateral relations;
  • more concrete  and visible relationships through additional projects and more useful for the citizens of the region;
  • the financial level, diversification of sources and a better ability to attract new financing and to coordinate them.

The Paris Declaration has remained very vague and general. The modalities for implementing the new « Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean », ie structures, locations, details of projects, financing, … will be determined at the next meeting of Foreign Ministers in November 2008.

See the press review of the week from 3 to 7 November 2008 on the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Union for the Mediterranean (+ Editorial of 7/11/2008)

See also Special File on the Union for the Mediterranean.