Commission adopts proposals to enhance Barcelona Process

The European Commission adopted its proposals, on the 20th May 2008, for upgrading relations with its Mediterranean partners through the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean. Following the decision of the Spring European Council the Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner presented the outline of the structures of the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean which aim at giving renewed vitality and visibility to the EU’s relations with Partners in the Mediterranean region. The policy paper also outlines ideas for the kind of projects that would constitute visible and tangible efforts at improving the lives and livelihoods of the region’s citizens.

This latest initiative underlines the EU’s continued commitment to the Mediterranean region, an area of vital strategic importance in both political and economic terms. The Communication takes stock of the achievements of the Barcelona Process and envisages the new initiative to build on and reinforce these successes, while also acknowledging the shortcomings that have compromised more rapid development.

While the European Neighbourhood Policy already addresses the needs in the region by a differentiated approach in the bilateral relations with Mediterranean partners, the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean will complement this by building on the strong points as the expression of regional political commitment. The policy paper responds to the request of the European Council of 13/14 March, which approved the principle of a Union for the Mediterranean and invited the Commission to present proposals defining its modalities. The Barcelona Declaration, and its acquis remain the cornerstone of the new initiative and its goals and cooperation areas remain valid.

However, the upgraded political relationship extends and enhances the political level and framework for cooperation. It foresees biennial summits of Heads of Government, and the establishment of a co-Presidency to manage these summits and annual Foreign Affairs ministerial meetings, to sectoral ministerial meetings as well as senior officials and Euromed Committee meetings. A joint secretariat will be established to promote and follow up projects, while the Commission also proposes the creation of a permanent committee of Euro-Mediterranean representatives.

Projects are at the heart of the new initiative. The Commission has identified possible areas for projects that strive to promote growth, employment regional cohesion and economic integration. These areas include:

  • Energy.
  • Energy security.
  • Environment.
  • Civil protection.
  • Transport.

The implementation of such projects will be dependent on the mobilisation of additional funding outside the traditional existing budget allocations. Financial resources are expected to come from the private sector, international financial institutions and bilateral cooperation and contributions from EU member States and Mediterranean Partners.

The proposals will be presented at the inaugural Summit of Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean in Paris on 13 July, 2008.

What is the Barcelona Process?

Since its launch in 1995, the Barcelona Process has been the central instrument for Euro-Mediterranean relations, representing a partnership of 39 governments and over 750 million people. It has been the engine for movement towards peace, security and shared prosperity in a region where long-running conflicts and tenuous reform efforts have often impeded progress. The European Commission has supported the Barcelona Process with the provision of over €16 Billion from the Community budget since 1995.