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News Renewal of the Union for the Mediterranean

On June 25th, the first ministerial meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean on Sustainable Development was held in Paris. For many participants in this meeting, it was a "revival" of the process of UM even if the union still faces enormous challenges.

A Union for the Mediterranean blocked since the winter

Launched at the Paris Summit of July 13th 2008, the Union for the Mediterranean has witnessed a blockage with the Israeli operation on Gaza during last winter. Since then the Arab members did not wish to resume dialogue in a situation of war between Israel and Gaza.

In fact since its conception the UM raised a decisive question of "method": shall the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be resolved first to allow the creation of the UM or should the UM be launched now to encourage Peace in the Middle East?

"The projects are not enough" criticized Didier Billion, co-director of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) and specialist of the region. "This is not the way we will put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict", “this issue will be resolved first through policy" he says on Euractiv website.

For his part, N. Sarkozy had drawn a parallel between the launch of the Union for the Mediterranean and the European Union’s, referring to the ECSC as a project that has brought the European Union we nowadays know. However, the researcher points out that "the ECSC is a project that would not have been initiated until a political agreement between France and Germany." "It is the policy before the projects, he concludes, not the reverse."

After Gaza, re-launching cooperation

Resuming the UM despite last months’ conflict in Gaza and a palpable tension between the Arab countries and Israel was the challenge that awaited the members of the UM on June 25th in Paris.

Le Monde welcomes the Franco-Egyptian ability ( the UM is currently co-chaired by both countries) to bring together the Israeli Minister of Environment, Gilad Erdan and Minister of Economy of the Palestinian Authority, Bassem Khoury, with their UM counterparts. It was the first time since the outbreak of the Israeli offensive on Gaza in December 2008 that such a meeting had taken place. "A few months ago nobody would have bet on our chances of reaching up such a meeting. It shows that those who always want that project to fail are wrong. We can say that the UM is revived" said H. Guaino to Le Monde. "We get the momentum again" said Minister Borloo. Projects are going faster than the political process."

The Moroccan daily Le Matin focuses on the will of Henry Guaino, special adviser to the French President, to lead a project of water supply and water treatment plant in Gaza as a "priority" of the UM. "For the first time, we are having a meeting of ministers so consequently a political meeting: the proof that we overcome, although it is difficult, the tragedy in Gaza". Mr. Borloo said that the project was concerning "about 20% of the water needs of the Palestinian territories.”

Questioned by AFP, the Israeli Minister of Environment, Gilad Erdan considered the meeting as a "very important step forward."

On Euractiv website, the French leaders involved in the UM believe that if the process could be revived it is because the "method" differs from the Barcelona Process and "because (we) changed the parameter of cooperation". The meetings of the Barcelona Process were gathering ambassadors and experts together, whereas those of the Union for the Mediterranean meet Heads of State and Government, a “valuable asset", according to Gilles Mentré. Such view is shared by the President of the Arab World Institute, Dominique Baudis, who explains on Euractiv that "it was a mistake to launch the Barcelona process only on a ministerial level. When the initiative is taken by the Heads of State and Government, the political impact is stronger."

"We discussed the need to reactivate the Union for the Mediterranean in its technical aspects and sectors," said Aboul Gheit. For the Egyptian leader, it is now time "to achieve the original idea of the UM, which was not designed to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or conflicts between countries, but to strengthen the relations" between countries bordering the Mediterranean.

Sustainable development at the heart of the UM

L’Express reminds the somewhat "apolitical" aspect of the meeting in a context of obvious political and diplomatic tensions, the purpose of the meeting being to coordinate the national policies of the 43 member states of the UM concerning ecology. Four major issues were highlighted: water management, transport, energy and urban development. The regional situation constitutes an emergency: with one of the fastest growing rate of urbanization of the planet, the Mediterranean area knows the consequences of water stress due to increased population pressure on the coast.

“This meeting provides an important impetus (...) it allows us to move from a policy framework to an effective implementation", has also declared the Egyptian Minister of Industry, Rachid Mohamed Rachid, who chaired the meeting.

The Barcelona Process and the Mediterranean Union: Possibilities for the future
UpM : Le concret enfin en marche
L'environnement relance l'Union pour la Méditerranée - Projet sur l'eau


Contact information n/a
News type Inbrief
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Source of information MEDEA
Keyword(s) Union for the Mediterranean, UfM
Geographical coverage Europed
News date 21/08/2009
Working language(s) ENGLISH , FRENCH