Merkel criticises Sarkozy's Mediterranean Union plans
By Honor Mahony
German chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that French plans for a Mediterranean Union risk splitting the EU.
Speaking at a conference in Berlin on Wednesday (5 December), Ms Merkel indicated that if French president Nicolas Sarkozy pushed ahead with his proposals for a union of countries from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa the "core" of the European Union would be threatened.
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The chancellor said that "cooperation between some member states has to be also open to the rest and it has to be approved by all member states."
It cannot be that some countries establish a Mediterranean Union and fund this with money from EU coffers, said the German leader.
"This could release explosive forces in the union I would not like," she said, according to news agency DPA.
Mr Sarkozy floated the idea for such a union during his presidential campaign earlier this year.
Since becoming president in May, he has elaborated on the proposal saying in October that "in the Mediterranean will be decided whether or not civilisations and religions will wage the most terrible of wars...whether or not the North and the South will clash".
Under the plans, the group would tie southern Europe with Northern Africa as well as Israel and its Arab neighbours and tackle topical issues such as counter-terrorism, immigration, energy, trade, water and sustainable development.
Just seven EU states - Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain - are envisioned to take part.
Mr Sarkozy's Mediterranean Union idea – he suggested on Wednesday that France and Algeria be the main axis of the Union - has also raised eyebrows in Brussels.
The European Commission fears it will undermine the 12-year-old Barcelona process, aimed at promoting dialogue between the EU and ten countries on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean.
There are also fears that it is a ruse to enmesh Turkey – which would be a member – into the process and detract from its current EU negotiations, with Mr Sarkozy being strongly opposed to Ankara's EU membership bid.
Division of powers
Speaking at the same meeting, Ms Merkel also offered some criticism of the new EU treaty, a document that was formed under her presidency of the bloc, according to German newspaper Handelsblatt.
While praising the treaty, due to be signed next week, as representing "historical progress" she added that "naturally it is still far from the clarity of our constitution on how powers are really delineated."
Summing up the effect of the treaty, she said that "a lot will change in the European Union" noting that because not all loopholes in the document had been closed off, member states will have to keep a close eye on how it is implemented.