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News Reflections on the Mediterranean Union

 By Dr. Ahmed Driss

21 February 2008

1) Is the proposed Mediterranean Union a valid framework to structure future Euro-Mediterranean relations?

Although one is tempted to answer “no”, it is both difficult and premature to evaluate the solidity of such a project in relation to the restructuring of future Euro-Mediterranean relations; firstly, because initially only the Mediterranean countries were seen as having a stake in this union, and also because, since then, the formulation of this proposition has been constantly changing and evolving. Effectively, the Mediterranean Union proposed by the then candidate Sarkozy, in his speech at Toulon in February 2007, does not have much in common with the Union for the Mediterranean outlined following the December 2007 tri-party France-Italy-Spain summit, after which the formal framework originally envisioned became a union based on a reinforced cooperation on clearly determined dossiers. This revision fell short of initial ambitions, yet overcame some major obstacles inhibiting the partnership.

Nonetheless, this will not in itself assure the general advancement of Euro-Mediterranean relations; on the one hand, many important actors cannot claim a Mediterranean identity or will be absent from the project by choice (as is the case with Turkey, which rejects the idea in its entirety), while on the other, sensitive issues such as territorial conflicts and the spread of democracy, will not even be considered. At most, the project will eventually benefit the Western Mediterranean Basin, a region already addressed within the 5+5 framework.

2) What purposes / needs might the Mediterranean Union serve that are not already encompassed by the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP)?
The three pillars of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership generally deal with the differing needs of a Euro-Mediterranean cooperation; yet, the project suffers from a lack of appropriation among Southern Mediterranean countries, which find that the EU does not consider them equal partners, that they are not granted full participation in the decision-making process, and that the issue of development is often sidelined in the cooperation proposals.

The Mediterranean Union appears to answer some of these worries. The many documents outlining this project insist, for example, on the principle of equality between its future members and the involvement of all in the implementation of its common policy. However, such worries remain ones of a procedural nature, and essentially there is nothing to suggest that within the framework of a Mediterranean Union things will improve.

3) What future do you envision for the proposed Mediterranean Union and the EMP?

In this early phase of reconnaissance, the question of the future remains uncertain. Nonetheless, the proposal of this union can be credited for having re-launched debate on the central character of the Mediterranean in regional geopolitics and on the importance of Euro-Mediterranean relations, not only for those countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, but for all the countries engaged in this process.

Amongst the diverse reactions of the non-Mediterranean European countries, one can identify a renewed interest in the Mediterranean, which is defined as a question common to all and not just to the Mediterraneans. In addition, this new project has highlighted the problems confronting the EMP, as well as the uncertainties relative to this process plaguing both sides. It is true that at this stage the bond between the unification project and the EMP is but fragile, yet the engagement of those countries that traditionally defend the Barcelona Process - such as Spain and Italy, which are in favour of the Union for the Mediterranean - should certainly allow the galvanisation of the EMP within a reviewed and improved format. It now remains to be seen whether this might eventually result in a Mediterranean Union - a Euro-Mediterranean community as we have defended it within the EuroMeSCo framework.     

Ahmed Driss is an Academic and Researcher in International Relations.
He is the Director of the Center for Mediterranean and International Studies, Tunis.

 By Dr. Dorothée Schmid

25 February 2008

1) Is the proposed Mediterranean Union a valid framework to structure future Euro-Mediterranean relations?

The framework proposed by the French government remains vague, particularly as regards the articulation between French diplomatic priorities and the interests of the EU and its 27 Member-States. The project was originally conceived in response to the Euro-Mediterranean work programme, with which it was destined to develop in parallel, rather than reinforce. The progressive re-orientation of the French project towards a more European direction results from a late recognition of the existing constraints, in both institutional and financial terms. It’s only through consultation with its other EU-partners that France will from now on succeed in envisioning efficient synergies with the Barcelona framework.

2) What purposes / needs might the Mediterranean Union serve that are not already encompassed by the Euro-Med Partnership (EMP)?

The idea of a periodic GMed, mirroring the G8 model - which would regularly establish the main strategic priorities for the region, without being as restrictive or dependent on costly administrative structures - is a good one. Any initiative promoting North / South interaction within the Mediterranean is welcome; it allows a better explanation, if need be, of the functioning of the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation policy such as it is managed by the Commission in Brussels. Furthermore, it is becoming evermore imperative to outline a genuine strategic vision for the region - something that has always been difficult within the Euro-Mediterranean framework, which remains dominated by its European actors. One can imagine that the Mediterranean Union will eventually encourage ad hoc cooperative initiatives, demonstrating greater flexibility and response capacity than existed within the Euro-Med framework. It is, however, improbable that new work themes will emerge. 

3) What future do you envision for the proposed Mediterranean Union and the EMP?

Two broad scenarios are possible: that of a French “sole rider”, which lacking means and perhaps fighters, is in my view fated to fail; or then that of a Barcelona re-launch via the Mediterranean Union – this if the French take the time to pursue a thorough audit of the successes and constraints of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, notably since the introduction of the Neighbourhood Policy. This would also presume an effort to redefine the shared priorities with the Member-States which have strongly reacted to the French initiative – such as Germany.

Dorothée Schmid is a Research Fellow at the Institut français des relations internationales , Paris, and specialist in European policies in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East.

Contact information EuroMeSCo Secretariat, Instituto de Estudos Estratégicos e Internacionais (IEEI), Largo de São Sebastião, 8, Paço do Lumiar, 1600-762 Lisboa - Portugal (email:
Phone: +351 21 030 67 00 ; Fax: +351 21 759 39 83
News type Inbrief
File link
Source of information EuroMeSCo
Keyword(s) Mediterranean-Union
Geographical coverage Euromed
News date 08/04/2008
Working language(s) ENGLISH , FRENCH