Saturday

23rd Feb 2019

Mediterranean Union to be launched

France will on Sunday (13 July) launch the Union for the Mediterranean – the brainchild of President Nicolas Sarkozy, which will bring together EU member states and a number of North African and Middle East countries.

"Do you know how moving it is for us to see the Arab heads of state sitting at the same table as the Israeli head of state, in a European capital?" Mr Sarkozy told journalists on Thursday.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Libya's leader has said the Mediterranean Union has "imperialist" designs (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

"For me, the presence of all these European and Mediterranean heads of state in Paris in the name of Europe and the Mediterranean is something deeply moving and it's the best news for peace in the Middle East … I hope we will be able to note a number of advancements," he added.

But there is already scepticism about what the new union can achieve after the original most exclusive and grander vision by Mr Sarkozy was watered down, predominantly at Berlin's behest.

In addition, up until the last minute, there was uncertainty over some leaders' attendance at the summit.

After much foot-dragging, Algeria and Turkey both finally confirmed this week that they will be present. But Jordan's King Abdullah has declined the invitation for personal reasons, while Libya's Muammar Gaddafi – who has called it "another Roman empire" and spoken of its "imperialist design" – will also not attend.

The Union for the Mediterranean was proposed by France last year to boost economic, political and cultural ties with the EU's southern neighbours .

In March, the bloc's leaders agreed on a final and more general version of the project, which is to include 44 countries – the EU's 27 members, plus Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey – as well as Mauritania, Monaco, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania.

The launch will be co-presided over by Mr Sarkozy and Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarak, in Paris' grandiose glass-domed Grand Palais.

Added value?

Already there has been some tension about what the summit can and should achieve, however.

In June, Arab leaders voiced concern about what it would mean for them to participate in the high-level meeting together with Israel, fearing it would imply a normalisation of bilateral relations.

Turkey has also expressed reluctance since the beginning, fearing the project would be an alternative for its EU membership bid. But the French government, which remains set against Turkey's full membership in the EU, has sought to work out the differences between the two sides.

Turkish daily Zaman on Friday (11 July) quotes a senior Turkish diplomat as saying: "When Turkey's place is mentioned in the final declaration, we want Turkey to be defined as 'Turkey, which is conducting membership negotiations with the EU' … And we have already received a positive signal on this matter."

Critics of the Mediterranean Union also note that controversial issues such as immigration and terrorism have been left out of the scope of the new set-up.

They also question its added value when compared to the current Barcelona Process – an initiative started in 1995 with similar ambitions to the new project, but which has stalled due to political apathy.

Sarkozy beaming at birth of Mediterranean Union

France officially announced the launch of the EU's new Union for the Mediterranean on Sunday (13 July) – the brainchild of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who did not hide his pride in seeing the birth of the project. Mr Sarkozy called the Union a chance for peace in the Middle East.

News in Brief

  1. May to meet Tusk on Sunday at Arab summit
  2. Report: Russia offered Italy's Salvini €3m for EU election
  3. EU and US could 'quickly' clinch mini-trade pact
  4. Belgium to gather evidence on Syria 'foreign fighters'
  5. Dozens of Tory and Labour MPs threatening to quit over Brexit
  6. UK will struggle on free-trade deals, EU says
  7. Juncker pledges climate action alongside Swedish activist
  8. Swedbank brings in external help on money laundering revelations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Brexit and Orban in spotlight This WEEK
  2. Swedish activist urges EU to double climate goals
  3. EP budget chair seeks clarity on Saudi lobbying and College of Europe
  4. Microsoft warns EU on election hack threat
  5. Brexit talks to continue after May-Juncker meeting
  6. Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all
  7. EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling
  8. 'No burning crisis' on migrant arrivals, EU agency says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us