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French Version

Is Europe beeing built to the Mediterranean's detriment ? - UNESCO / Euromediterranean Forum

The main aim of the Barcelona Process, launched in 1995 by the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, was to establish a Euro-Mediterranean area of dialogue, exchange and cooperation in a view to ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in the region. It is generally accepted that the process did not live up to expectations.

Some believe that this was due to a lack of political determination and involvement on the part of the states on both shores of the Mediterranean. Has the fact that the Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) are shortly to join the EU really slowed down cooperation with the Mediterranean countries in the South?

European enlargement to the east is seen as a historic necessity. In Charles Pasqua’s view, it is a good thing for Europe to re-establish its borders; European construction and cooperation with the southern shores of the Mediterranean should not be put on the same plane.

European states have a genuine political commitment to the CEECs, but a distinction must be made between the energy applied to this enlargement and cooperation with countries in the South. It should be noted that the integration of 10 new countries will take time and will be difficult (Inigo Mendez De Vigo).

The Maghreb economies are complementary to those of the countries shortly to join the EU. The latter’s integration does not represent serious competition for goods from the southern shores of the Mediterranean. Nonetheless, direct investment, a key to development, has fallen in Mediterranean countries, as Central Europe has become a politically stable area where investments can be made more safely.

The idea that Europe has forgotten the Mediterranean must be put into perspective: the last major enlargement (Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland) concerned 60 million inhabitants, mostly concentrated in the Mediterranean basin, compared with the 65 million new arrivals in May (Michel Barnier).

Should a boost be given to cooperation with Mediterranean countries in the South?

The economic inequalities from one shore of the Mediterranean to the other will have a destabilising effect on Europe in the future. Forecasts show an ageing of Europe’s population in the medium-term, compared with a demographic explosion in Maghreb countries. The entire European continent is affected by the issue of immigration. On the strength of his experience as former French Minister of the Interior, Mr Pasqua pointed out that he does not believe in the use of repressive measures alone to lessen the problems of immigration and considers that cooperation must be encouraged.

Ways and means

There is no point in spending money on cooperation if it is not linked with a process of democratisation (Barnier). The experiences of Greece and Turkey are most revealing in this respect. Loukas Tsoukalis and Ahmet Sever agreed that membership, or the prospect of membership, acts as a catalyst for internal structural change. Without minimizing the economic advantages, Greece’s membership of the EU also led to changes in the internal political balance between conservatives and reformers (Tsoukalis).

A new political outlook must be offered to the Mediterranean countries in the South. The leading Mediterranean countries, France and Spain, must show their political determination to be the driving forces behind cooperation (Miguel Angel Maratinos).

Mr Barnier pointed out that the Commission will shortly be presenting a "new neighbourhood instrument", an initiative designed to strengthen cooperation. Article 56 of the draft constitution drawn up by the Convention also states that the EU should develop a special relationship with neighbouring states, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness (De Vigo). However, moves towards the democratisation of Mediterranean countries are also awaited, together with the emergence of a degree of political unity with the Maghreb Arab Union.

Europe's lack of involvement in the resolution of crises such as the Israel-Palestine conflict is also a major obstacle to the success of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation (Jacques Lanxade). The Union's credibility is at stake here.

The specific case of Turkey

Turkey is a perfect case for analysing relations between the West and Islam and the theory of a clash of civilisations. This country has a historic mission to show that Islam, democracy and secularism can live together in harmony. The EU has much to gain from the success of this project and should become more actively involved (Sever). As far as the clash of civilisations is concerned, the EU sets an example of an approach aiming at stability and leading to economic growth (Lanxade). As Mahmoud Ben Romdhan pointed out, the Mediterranean area must be turned into an area of cooperation and solidarity.


Michel BARNIER, European Commissioner for Institutional Reform and Regional Policy
Mahmoud BEN ROMDHAN professor of economics at the School of Economics and Management in Tunis
Jacques LANXADE, President of the Fondation Méditerranéenne d’Etudes Stratégiques
Inigo MENDEZ DE VIGO, Member of the European Parliament
Miguel Angel MORATINOS, former EU Special Representative for the Middle East peace process
Charles PASQUA, President of the Union for a Europe of Nations group at the European parliament
Ahmet SEVER, European affairs adviser to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Loukas TSOUKALIS, President of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy

Paris 08-03-2004

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