22nd Oct 2016

Arab countries complicate Med Union plan

  • A number of countries are making waves ahead of a summit set to launch the Mediterranean Union (Photo: EUobserver)

A number of Arab countries are worried that if they join the EU's planned Mediterranean Union together with Israel, it would imply a normalisation of bilateral relations, with the Algerian foreign minister stressing that an overall vision for the project still has to be agreed.

The Union for the Mediterranean was proposed by France last year to boost ties with the EU's southern neighbours – and to include Turkey in a political structure seen as an alternative to EU membership.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In March, the bloc's leaders agreed on a final and softer version of the project which would include Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Palestinian Authority, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Albania.

Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Monaco would also take part.

But Arab countries on Friday (6 June) asked for "clarifications on the consequences" of Israel joining the so-called Mediterranean Union, AFP reports.

"The membership of Israel was among questions we discussed and clarifications were urged on this," Algerian foreign minister Mourad Medelci said after a meeting of Mediterranean foreign ministers in Algiers.

"The Mediterranean Union must not normalise [relations] between Israel and Arab countries…The process of normalisation with Israel is linked to other debates and commitments," he added.

In particular, the Algerian foreign minister referred to an Arab peace initiative from 2002, which calls for the Jewish state to withdraw from the Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967, before talking about normalisation of ties.

Other issues

The official Mediterranean Union launch is planned to take place at a summit in Paris on 13 July, when France will hold the EU's rotating presidency.

However, a number of questions remain unsolved for some of the participants only a month before the start date.

In addition to Israel's participation, clarifications on other issues including the new union's institutions, financing and decision-making are needed as well, Mr Medelci said.

Southern Mediterranean countries fear that Brussels will dominate the decision-making process and the "overwhelming majority" of the 11 states participating in Friday's meeting in Algiers remain unconvinced by the term 'union' itself.

"Relations with the EU are unbalanced and decisions belong to those who now have money and know-how," Mr Medelci added.

For its part, Algeria has still not confirmed whether it will attend the 13 July summit.

Another country which is to still take a decision on joining the Mediterranean club is Turkey where "assessments are underway," Turkish foreign minister Ali Babacan said in May.

Recently, the country was irritated by a vote of French deputies to establish an obligatory referendum as a way to ratify Ankara's possible EU membership, calling such an approach "discriminatory."

This has made French diplomats nervous that Turkey may boycott the Mediterranean Union, according to reports in the French press.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity