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A Mediterranean Union: Why Not?

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On the 13th July 2008, the Union for the Mediterranean (Union pour la Méditerranée) was established (1, 2) by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, being a development of the previously known as the "Euromediterranean Partnership." The idea for the creation of a Mediterranean Union is not a new initiative; Monsieur Sarkozy had proposed the establishment of such a partnership of Mediterranean states long before his election to the presidency. Since then, that specific proposition has been opposed by many who see such a development as competitive to the existing operation of the European Union, or as a polite "no" to Turkey's European ambitions.

Despite the above concerns, we must also take into serious consideration that there are specific issues of fundamental importance which need to be faced effectively, as long as the so-called Barcelona Process has failed to meet its purposes. A supplementary union of states based on political, economic and diplomatic alliance would also function positively for the European Union itself, focusing on regional matters which, without doubt, need a closer cooperation within the terms of a "Mediterranean neighbourhood:"

1. The southern E.U. countries (e.g. France, Spain, Italy, Greece) face, more than their northern E.U. counterparts, the issue of illegal immigration from north Africa and the Middle East. An in-depth cooperation between these countries, within the institutional framework of a Mediterranean Union could possibly tackle that specific problem much more effectively than the present common E.U. immigration policy.

2. Possible participation of countries like Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria in a future Mediterranean Union would increase the possibility of better results in the confrontation against Islamic Terrorism in northern Africa and the Middle East. The governments of these states would combat terrorism more effectively if they are members of a common and close alliance, which will collectively work towards the stabilisation of security in the region.

3. Armed, decades-long disputes in the region (Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lebanon crisis etc) as well as controversies of diplomatic nature (e.g. the Cyprus Issue) constitute serious obstacles in the establishment of peace and security in the region of Eastern Mediterranean. It is a fact--uncomfortable but rather truthfull--that the European Union has, until now, failed to co-ordinate its diplomatic efforts in such a way to create a leading role in the peacemaking efforts in the region. The participation of Israel, Syria and Turkey in a common Union creates the context for a deeper and more concrete approach of conflict resolution in the region, invigorating the prospect of peaceful co-existence.
The above three arguments put a theoretical foothold on which thinking about the Mediterranean Union could be based. But, furthermore, two issues must be straightened out: Firstly, such an economic and political alliance will neither be an alternative to the European Union nor will it be an adversary of Brussels. On the contrary, it' ll work as a supplement to the existing cooperation of the 27 European states. Secondly, there must be a lucid explanation to Turkey that such an establishment is not an alternative to its European perspective, as long as Ankara fulfills all the criteria for membership in the E.U.. Therefore, its in the hands of the governments to ensure that they are willing to create the base for a far more effective cooperation between south Europe, north Africa and the Middle East. A future Mediterranean Union could - why not - be that base.


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Aris Claras is a writer based in Greece.

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