"Union for the Mediterranean", a renewed political momentum into Euro–Mediterranean relations

The Conference took place at a crucial point in relations between the two rims of a strategically important region for an enlarged European Union. The Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean, launched at the Paris Summit on July 13th, 2008, reflects the renewed commitment by all the partners to enhance dialogue and cooperation between the European Union and other Mediterranean rim countries. Three major issues were at the Agenda: a progress report on the partnership’s new concrete projects and their implementation, precisions on the new type of governance introduced by the Union for the Mediterranean, and political dialogue on the regional situation.

The “Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean” ministerial conference, held in Marseille from November 3rd to 4th, and co-chaired by the French and Egyptian foreign affairs ministers, Bernard Kouchner and Ahmed Aboul Gheit, ended in an overall agreement which made the ambition for a reinforced Mediterranean-focused partnership, as expressed in Paris on July 13th, at the Summit of Heads of State or Government, a reality.

This first Summit marked an important step forward for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EUROMED) while also highlighting the EU and Mediterranean partners’ unwavering commitment and common political will to make the goals of the Barcelona Declaration, the creation of an area of peace, stability, security and shared prosperity, as well as full respect of democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms and promotion of understanding between cultures and civilizations in the Euro-Mediterranean region, a reality.

The foreign affairs ministers of the countries party to the process, now called the ‘Union for the Mediterranean’, adopted a declaration on governance, projects and regional political dialogue.

"Union for the Mediterranean": Key initiatives to be launch or reinforced

  • De-pollution of the Mediterranean
  • Land Highways and Motorways of the Sea
  • Civil Protection
  • Alternative Energies: Mediterranean Solar Plan
  • Higher Education and Research, Euro-Mediterranean University
  • The Mediterranean Business Development Initiative

The governance of the process was clarified, particularly with regard to the role and functioning of the secretariat, responsible for implementing the specific projects. The new institutions will implement the major principles adopted at the Paris Summit, taking the direction of a more shared, balanced and lasting style of cooperation around the Mediterranean. This new form of governance will strengthen all the members’ ownership of the process.

The ministers also reached a unanimous agreement on the participation of the Arab League at all the meetings and at all levels.

The work programme of the Union for the Mediterranean for the year 2009 was adopted. The meetings taking place next year will allow the implementation of specific, regional projects in the six areas identified at the Paris Summit, of which all six came under review.

On the political front, an ambitious text was adopted. The ministers reaffirmed the will shared by all for the Union for the Mediterranean to contribute to peace, stability and development in the region. They affirmed the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative and reiterated their support for the Annapolis process and for the indirect dialogue between Israel and Syria. They welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon.

The Marseille meeting represents an undeniable  success for the momentum launched in Paris on July, bringing together the members of the European Union and their Mediterranean partners.

Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean will meet in the second half of 2009 in order to take stock of the progress achieved in the implementation of the working programme for 2009, and the projects agreed and in particular the key initiatives as agreed at the Paris Summit, as well as prepare for the next summit in 2010.