Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

REPORTERS

Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

Read more

#THE 51%

Sweden: A Feminist's Paradise?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Politics: parties under pressure

Read more

FOCUS

In Burma, the rise of radical Buddhism

Read more

ENCORE!

Haute Couture: the hand-stitched clothing made in Paris that sells for the price of small yachts

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Caution, another Cast Lead lies ahead'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Rising into the ranks of Haute Couture

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: How to Stop the Spiral? Israel Readies For Ground Offensive

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: How to Stop the Spiral? Israel Readies For Ground Offensive (part 2)

Read more

  • Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

    Read more

  • The third-place playoff: the World Cup game no one wants to play

    Read more

  • Suspect in Brussels Jewish Museum shooting drops extradition appeal

    Read more

  • Kurdish forces take over two oilfields in northern Iraq

    Read more

  • Are French high school students getting smarter?

    Read more

  • Italy’s Trentin wins seventh stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Disgraced Suarez leaves Liverpool for Barcelona

    Read more

  • In pictures: Chanel, Dior and so much more at the Paris couture shows

    Read more

  • French ‘Civic Service’ eyes massive expansion amid huge demand

    Read more

  • Amazon snubs French free delivery ban with one-cent charge

    Read more

  • In Pictures: Petrol station hit by Hamas rockets

    Read more

  • Manhunt as FIFA partner flees Rio hotel to avoid arrest

    Read more

  • Video: Living in Tel Aviv, under threat of rocket attack

    Read more

  • Video: Palestinians fear full Israeli military offensive in Gaza

    Read more

  • Ukrainian forces close in on Donetsk

    Read more

Paris hosts Mediterranean summit

©

Latest update : 2008-07-13

French President Nicolas Sarkozy chaired an historical news conference, accompanied by the Presidents of Syria and Lebanon, as they made the first steps toward future diplomatic relations, ahead of Sunday's Mediterranean summit. (Story by R. Ranucci)

View our special report on the Union for the Mediterranean. 

 


Back in February 2007 when he was still a presidential candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy launched the idea of a new political and economic entity dubbed the Mediterranean Union. The new organization would bring several countries from the south shore of the Mediterranean together with their European neighbours.
 
But this first version of the project failed to convince German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who suspected Sarkozy of wanting to create a political dynamic in the South that would compete with that of the European Union (EU).

From the ‘Mediterranean Union’ to the ‘Union for the Mediterranean’

Under the pressure of Germany, who didn’t want to be sidetracked and see its influence diminish, Sarkozy reviewed his proposal. Berlin’s expectations was that every single EU member be considered a full member of the new body (39 countries in total) and that the European Commission remained the driving force behind it.  Over just a few meetings, the Mediterranean Union became the Union for the Mediterranean. A change in wording that was significant, says Baorhan Ghalioum, a professor of political sociology at the Sorbonne-Nouvelle University in Paris. "The new project, once amended on the basis of the changes asked by Merkel and the European Commission, is nothing else but an improved version of the Barcelona Process,” he said.
 
Ghalioun considers that the UFM’s economic ambitions aren’t up to the expectations of the populations that make it up. "The UFM can’t be reduced to a few technical projects such as the fight against pollution and the construction of a highway that would link the whole of North Africa,” he said. It was a strategic mistake to conceive the UFM project in such a unilateral way and without consulting its European partners, Ghalioun concluded.

 

North Africa in favour of the Sarkozy initiative

The countries of North Africa welcomed the Sarkozy initiative. Morocco sees many advantages, both economic and political. According to Jawad Kerkoudi, head of the Moroccan Institute on International Relations (IMRI), Morocco “would like the UFM to play an active role in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Morocco-Algeria rivalry over Moroccan Sahara.” On an economic level, “the UFM financial aid would be much appreciated,” he added.

Tunisia, which is well positioned to house the headquarters of the General Secretariat, supported the French idea from the very beginning. Algeria finally ended up maintaining its participation, a decision Sarkozy announced himself. Libya was the only one to react angrily at the project. Muammar Gaddafi called it “a humiliation of sorts.”

 

“We’re neither famished nor dogs for them to throw bones at us,” he declared.

“The Turkish headache”


Whether Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will come or not is one of the clues that France hasn’t yet managed to solve. Turkey has been engaged in negotiations to join the EU since 2005  and now sees the UFM as a way for France to close the door to it.

According to Hasni Abidi, head of the Geneva-based Centre for the Study and Research on the Arab World and  the Mediterranean, “Turkey will never be content with a solution that amounts to a dead end instead of a full seat within the EU.”


Even if Sarkozy managed to convince more than 30 heads of state and government to take a seat beside Bashar al-Assad and Ehud Olmert, it doesn’t mean he succeeded, says Didier Peillon from the French Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS.) “The UFM can’t go beyond the ambitions displayed by the Barcelona Process, in particular because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of all the problems that belong to North Africa itself,” Peillon added.  “The only positive aspect of the summit is that it prompted new debate on the Mediterranean,” he concluded.
 

Date created : 2008-07-12

Comments

COMMENT(S)