EU – Mediterranean partnership
Should the EU offer a meaningful partnership to Mediterranean non-EU countries?
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A Union for the Mediterranean is an ideal foreign policy tool for the European Union. It works just...
A Union for the Mediterranean is an ideal foreign policy tool for the European Union. It works just as the EU has worked for over 50 years: by creating a permanent, institutionalized dialogue, the EU can draw strategic partners into real cooperation, not just the more formal procedures of diplomacy. The end goal is to enhance the interdependence of the EU and the other Mediterranean countries so much, that they would effectively become a single economic unit where sovereignty is pooled to solve shared problems.
The economic interdependence of the EU and other Mediterranean countries doesn’t need much enhancing. Already, the EU is the biggest trading partner of the other Mediterranean countries. A Union can’t do much more to increase that dependence. As to political cooperation and foreign policy: the EU itself was originally intended to be an economic union, not a political union. Giving the EU a foreign policy tool like a Union for the Mediterranean is a step closer towards a European super-state, and should therefore in and of itself be rejected.
A Union for the Mediterranean is a necessary foreign policy tool for the EU: it’s the best way of di...
A Union for the Mediterranean is a necessary foreign policy tool for the EU: it’s the best way of dispelling the notion of a ‘clash of civilizations’. By drawing the Islamic countries around the Mediterranean into a permanent dialogue on specific policy issues and increasing contacts and cooperation, policy makers and opinion leaders will get to know each other better, and learn how to see each other as partners, not enemies. A Union for the Mediterranean will eventually lead to a shared sense of community and respect, as has happened before between France and Germany after World War 2.
Even if there is such a thing as a ‘clash of civilizations’, a Union for the Mediterranean does nothing to dispel it. The mutual fear and distrust between peoples stems from cultural and ideological differences, and those can’t be changed by having the elite policy makers sit together regularly in a talking shop. Moreover, it is unclear why cultural differences should be changed: the Mediterranean Arab/Islamic culture and the European Judeo-Christian are perfectly capable of co-existing peacefully. Lastly: the Union for the Mediterranean does nothing for the hardest problem in the Mediterranean: the Israel-Palestine conflict.
A Union for the Mediterranean makes perfect sense for both the EU countries and the other Mediterran...
A Union for the Mediterranean makes perfect sense for both the EU countries and the other Mediterranean countries, because eventually it will lead to a full Euro-Mediterranean Single Market with free traffic of goods, services and people. This will benefit both the EU and the Mediterranean countries: the EU gains access to a labour market which can compensate for its own greying labour force, and the Mediterranean countries gain access to a job market that is in need of their skills and effort.
The current Union for the Mediterranean is a long way from a true economic union, and it’s highly doubtful if the participating countries would want that. For example, the people of the European Union wouldn’t want more labour migration from Mediterranean countries coming their way if the popularity of right-wing parties in all EU-countries is any indication. The Mediterranean countries are already happily exporting to the EU, but wouldn’t like the EU single market rules meddling in local customs and practices.
Since the EU already is a single economic policy area, it makes sense that it will be the EU, not an...
Since the EU already is a single economic policy area, it makes sense that it will be the EU, not an individual country like France that negotiates the partnership. Any Mediterranean partnership outside of the EU-institutions will always impact on all EU countries. For example, Germany is one of the biggest importers of Mediterranean non-EU countries’ products. If a partnership or Member State initiative has a clear impact all of the EU, then it’s only fair that all of the EU gets a vote in the matter.
Even if some countries would be interested in increasing coordination with Mediterranean countries, why should it necessarily be an EU initiative? For example, if France wants increased economic cooperation with Algeria, it should go ahead, but there is no reason to include Denmark or Turkey in these talks. Germany has created something similar with the Council of the Baltic Sea States – the original proposal made by Sarkozy was for an equivalent structure originating in France.
A Union for the Mediterranean is an ideal way of keeping out of the EU valuable partners who want to...
A Union for the Mediterranean is an ideal way of keeping out of the EU valuable partners who want to become member-states, without letting them down too much. It also provides a way of making the geographical and political boundaries of Europe clear, while still engaging with near non-European neighbours. Specifically, Turkey, an important economic and political partner, can enjoy being a leading partner within the Union for the Mediterranean, without actually becoming a full EU member. This frees Turkey from accepting all of the acquis communautaire and frees the EU countries from having to face popular opposition against Turkey’s accession.
Turkey has already made clear that it won’t accept anything less than the full EU membership it has been promised for decades. As for ‘other partners’ that can be ‘satisfied’ in this way: there aren’t any other candidate countries that are as controversial as Turkey. Either they are definitely not part of the European continent (like the Maghreb and Mashriq countries) and thus will never even want to sign up for the EU themselves, or they are so close to the other European countries in cultural terms, that there is no similar, EU-wide popular opposition against their entry into the EU (Croatia, Macedonia).
Just as the promise of EU membership was a strong incentive for post-communist countries to democrat...
Just as the promise of EU membership was a strong incentive for post-communist countries to democratise and restructure their economies in the 1990s, the offer of a deeper partnership could spur many Eastern and Southern Mediterranean states to embrace liberal reforms. Concepts such as the rule of law, human rights, political accountability, transparent decision-making and open markets are not only necessary for fair access to the EU’s enormous Single Market, they are desirable in their own right. Often they are already being campaigned for by citizens in many of the non-EU Mediterranean countries who do not enjoy their benefits at the moment, although many of their governments react repressively to such demands. As the most successful project ever to promote democracy, security and prosperity, the EU has a responsibility to find ways of extending these benefits to as many people as possible. But only if Maghreb and Mashriq countries think the EU is serious about offering them a real economic and political partnership will their governments make positive moves to reform.
The non-EU countries around the Mediterranean will react badly to any EU attempt to bully or bribe them into “westernising”. All are on different paths to reform (e.g. the economic opening of Libya and the very different political developments in countries such as Turkey, Morocco and Lebanon). Each should be allowed to develop at its own pace, appropriate to local levels of economic and cultural development. The EU should encourage and support such changes, but should not seek to impose them; after all, many non-EU Mediterranean countries have bad memories of European colonial rule. There is also a danger that promoting “democracy” and “economic openness” with a heavy-hand will damage existing bilateral relationships in important areas such as stopping people-trafficking across the Mediterranean, promoting security and stability in the Middle East, and combating the illegal drugs trade.
What do you think?