FOR A EURO-MEDITERRANEAN COMMUNITY Europa Lorenzo Marsili There has been discussion recently about the possibility

of a “Mediterranean Union”. Following a meeting with Prodi and Zapatero in December, Nicholas Sarkozy has promised to make this a priority of the French presidency of the EU, and said Paris would hold a summit for potential members on July 13 to "lay the foundations of a political, economic and cultural union founded on the principles of strict equality". There is much scepticism surrounding the proposal, which some see as a way of refusing membership of the EU to Turkey and some as a barely veiled French attempt at regaining leadership in the Maghreb. Most importantly, to speak of the Mediterranean too often evokes idyllic clichés: the culture of olive oil, the gestures of the people, the lifestyle. But this Medi-terranean, this sea between lands, is today the very heart of an immense cultural, political, and economic fracture, and the prime seat of what has too hastily been referred to as the “clash of civilisations”. It is the seat of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, of Lebanon’s turmoil, the theatre of one of the most massive fluxes of migration in recent history. Prospects of a functional “Union” between such diverse and fragmented realities, and faced with the profound distrust of the many countries that lived on their skin the experience of European colonialism, seem chimerical to many. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly clear that Europe can no longer afford to ignore the tumultuous reality across this thin strip of sea. An innovative approach to the troubled Mediterranean region might represent an important laboratory for the development of a truly transnational and multilateral European global role. The Barcelona process The first attempt at drafting a multilateral European approach to the Mediterranean was initiated at the 1995 Barcelona Conference, with the participation of representatives of European countries and those on the Northern and Eastern shore of the Mediterranean. A “global” approach to the Mediterranean was here invoked, one that would unite political, economic, cultural and security issues. The attempt to organise, enact, and conduct such an approach took the name of Barcelona process, which included regular summits between diplomats, high functionaries, and ministers to draft concrete cooperation proposals. The process is structured in three principal “baskets”, or chapters: 1) A political partnership, with the aim of creating a common area of peace and stability through trans-national dialogue 2) An economic and financial partnership, with the aims of: a) setting up cooperation programs in areas of common interest; b) increasing the financial support from the European Union; c) creating a Mediterranean free-trade zone, ambitiously set at 2010 3) A cultural and social dialogue to foster mutual civil society relations and the development of human resources by increasing dialogue between cultural actors, media, trade unions, universities and research centres. After initial optimism, enhanced by the participation of ministers of Syria, Lebanon, and Israel at the same table, the post-September 11th climate and the worsening of the Israel-Palestine stalemate with the proclamation of the second Intifada have significantly reduced the political ambitions of the process. The attention in the first basket has shifted to issues of migration and security, something that

was very evident in the mostly failed 2005 conference marking the 10-year anniversary of the Barcelona Process prepared by Tony Blair. The agenda of the event had at its centre terrorism and security issues, mixed with problems of migration and criminality. But these are themes primarily of interest to European countries, and not necessarily a priority for countries of the South, where issues of agriculture, water, infrastructure, etc., are felt as more urgent. Failure of coming to agreements for most of the issues in the first basket implied a greater emphasis on the second, with its Washington Consensus-based, economic approach. But the proposals presented for discussion have tended to appear mainly to the benefit of European countries and crafted according to their needs. A particular problem has been caused by the EU’s strenuous defence of tariffs on agricultural produce and textiles while simultaneously calling for a cut in trade barriers. The presence of pervasive structural adjustment conditions served to increase the suspicions of many. The economic basket was progressively reduced to the creation of a “free-trade” area, with little discussion on issues of aid and partnerships, or the development of infrastructure and local economies. Originally planned to come into place in 2010, the prospect appears today extremely unrealistic. The “political” conduction of the cultural basket has mainly focussed on issues of “human rights” and “democracy-building”, without a particular innovation on the (rarely successful and much critiqued) previous international practices on these chapters. However, there have been several interesting civil-society initiatives, many of which not directly connected with the Barcelona process, and some overtly critical of it. The Mediterranean Civil Forum and the Mediterranean Social Forum are just two of a myriad of joint gatherings, conferences, and workshops that take place regularly across the shores of the Mediterranean. Towards a Euro-Mediterranean Community It is clear that any attempts to forge a renewed approach to the Mediterranean will have to seriously reflect on the failure of the Barcelona process. A unilateral approach principally aimed at the protection of Europe’s commercial interests and security prerogatives will be bound to meet with a similar destiny. The recent Portuguese presidency referred to a “Marshall Plan” for the Mediterranean. The term “Marshall Plan”, in itself, means very little. The political conditions, the economic potential, and the social capital of post-war Europe and present-day North Africa and Middle East are to say the least incomparable. But what this easily understood metaphor may serve to convey is the necessity of a considerable transferral of resources, including human, cultural, and scientific resources. The prospect of a Mediterranean Investment Bank can here be a potentially important innovation. But if the institute were to follow the development model of the IMF and the World Bank, it is clear that it would have nothing particularly interesting to offer. But options exist. We have the example of the more egalitarian principles being forged for the Banco del Sur, the new investment bank being founded by numerous Latin American countries. Or the experience of micro credit being advanced, amongst others, by 2006 Economics Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus. Nor should the membership of such a “Community” be taken for granted. One of the problems encountered with the Barcelona process was the multiplicity of geopolitical interests of the numerous states grouped under the signifier “Mediterranean”, leading former minister of Morocco Hassan Abouyoub to call the Mediterranean “a non-identified geopolitical objective”. The possibility of a voluntary Community, with only a reduced number of initial participants should not be discarded, something that might also alleviate problems linked to the congenital differences between the Arab countries of North Africa and those of the Eastern Mediterranean. The promotion of a novel sense of “proximity” between countries is an important task, as only the awareness of a precious commonality of hope and vicinity of interests between Europe and its Southern neighbours can provide the necessary impetus for a tangible and engaged political project.

The prospects of a novel Euro-Mediterranean Community will only work provided a profound discussion is started on its scope and meaning. This same public discussion, affecting the interests of the citizens of Europe as a whole, would also provide a good example of a first pan-European foreign policy debate. BOX Mediterranean Suggestions at the London Festival of Europe 2008 A reading focussed on the reality of the Mediterranean by Maltese author Adrian Grima and Italian author Valerio Cruciani, Portuguese poet Casimiro De Brito and Moroccan poet Hassan el Ouazzani, accompanied by live music. FREE Friday 14th of March, Italian Cultural Institute, 39 Belgrave Square London