26th Apr 2019

Brussels to keep control of 'Mediterranean Union'

  • The Mediterranean: Brussels is not keen to let the sea slip away (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Commission on Tuesday (20 May) unveiled plans for a Mediterranean Union, taking care to emphasise its low-key vision for the new political set-up.

Rather than a radical shake-up of relations between the bloc and it southern neighbours, external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner said the proposals represented an "upgrade" in current relations and stressed that the EU's 13-year-old relationship with Mediterranean countries - known as the Barcelona process - remained "valid."

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

The new model will be formally launched on 13 July in Paris with a series of concrete projects, and foresees regular summits and ministerial meetings.

The commissioner noted: "It is very clear that this project is not directed against Turkey."

When the idea for a new Mediterranean organisation was first floated last year by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who presented it as a far more dynamic and exclusive club, open only to states with a Mediterranean coastline, he tried to sell it as an alternative to EU membership for Turkey.

But his original vision was appreciated neither in Ankara nor several other EU capitals, including, most importantly, Germany, who was concerned it would pit northern member states against their southern counterparts.

In March, all 27 EU leaders gave the nod to Mr Sarkozy's general idea but with some restrictive conditions - happily taken up by the commission, which was also not a fan of Mr Sarkozy's more elaborate plans.

"I see a possibility for a fusion that will be a success, and it will be the only way to make a success of this project," said Ms Ferrero-Waldner, of the 'Barcelona Process - Union for the Mediterranean' as it is now supposed to be known.

The new union will bring together 44 countries, including the 27 EU member states as well as Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Albania, plus Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Monaco.

The commission is suggesting that the structure be backed up by a new secretariat - the location of which remains to be decided - that will organise summits and help co-ordinate projects. The projects are to focus on areas such as infrastructure and the environment.

The Mediterranean Union is to have a co-presidency from the EU and a Mediterranean country lasting two years.

EU to hold the reins

In an significant blow to France's grander vision for the project, the commission also suggested that the presidency on the EU side be kept firmly within existing EU structures.

France had wanted to be a presidency country for the first two years, but the commission suggests the role should fall to the EU foreign minister or commission president, under the new EU treaty - keeping political control of the process firmly in Brussels' hands.

Despite the reining in of the project, Paris welcomed the commission's plans.

"The French authorities are delighted by the commission's presentation in such a short time," a statement said. "A deeper examination of the commission's proposals must now take place."

Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'

Following an investigation into the Dieselgate scandal, the European Parliament recommended a single commissioner should be responsible for both air quality and setting industrial standards. But only the Greens want to commit to carry out that advice.

EU and Japan in delicate trade talks

The Japanese PM comes to Brussels to discuss the first results of the new EU-Japan free trade deal, plus WTO reform - a sensitive topic before he moves onto Washington to face Donald Trump.


Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all

The foreign affairs minister of Haiti calls for the replacement EU-Africa, Caribbean, Pacific 'Cotonou' agreement of 2000 to be updated to take account climate change, infrastructure and tourism to help the country transition away from aid-dependence.

News in Brief

  1. Talks to merge Germany's two largest banks collapse
  2. EU and Japan back Iran nuclear deal despite US
  3. China addresses EU concerns on belt and road plan
  4. EU: Russian citizenship plan 'attacks' Ukraine sovereignty
  5. Deutsche Bank hands over Trump loan documents
  6. UN: Europe is badly prepared for new refugee crisis
  7. Macron to set out 'Yellow vest' counter measures
  8. Italy requests EU action plan for new Libya migrant wave


All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Migration and climate are EU's top priorities, Macron says
  2. Greens commit to air quality 'super commissioner'
  3. Far-right Facebook networks removed before Spain election
  4. EU and Japan in delicate trade talks
  5. Closer EU-Caribbean ties mean greater prosperity for all
  6. Details of EU Brexit talks with Blair and Soros kept secret
  7. Weber vows to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  8. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us