News > 1st Preparatory Meeting: "Strengthening Euro-Mediterranean Relations."
1st Preparatory Meeting: "Strengthening Euro-Mediterranean Relations."
 The EuroMeSCo Secretariat, in collaboration with the Tunisian Association des Études Internationales (AEI), and with the support of the European Commission, organised the 1st Preparatory Meeting of the EuroMeSCo Annual Conference, which this year will be hosted in Amman on 16-17 October, and will consider: The EMP Between Continuity and Reinforced Cooperation. Quo Vadis Barcelona?

The Preparatory Meeting, held in Tunis on 21-22 April, explored Euro-Med relations, with a particular emphasis on the Maghreb region. Almost thirteen years after Barcelona, and two and a half years since the 2005 Summit, a number of key questions emerged during the discussions: what balance can be made of relations between the two shores of the Mediterranean and the institutional framework that from there resulted? What does the future hold? How may we stimulate a new momentum emerging within the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, in the face of its complex evolutions, and express it through the various initiatives that exist on a regional, sub-regional and national level?

To view the programme, please click here.

The mixed evaluation of the Barcelona Process, suggesting that it has not responded to desired expectations, was generally shared by all. Political dialogue failed to go beyond the initial declarations of intent. The promises of shared prosperity expressed in the Barcelona Declaration did not materialise. In fact, disparities between the two shores of the Mediterranean have increased, migration flows to the North have intensified, and even the Summit celebrating 10 years of the Barcelona Process was not capable of breathing new life into its stunted momentum, due to the absence of many southern Heads of State and to divergences within the European Union.

Faced with this realisation, the southern Mediterranean participants agreed that the asymmetry between the two shores is growing, notably following the establishment of the European Neighbourhood Policy, implemented without any prior consultation with the countries of the South, and which has absorbed the EU’s capacities to the detriment of the southern Mediterranean partners. The EMP, as was highlighted, does not offer any tangible dimension for the populations of the South, who instead see Europe as a closed and even competing stronghold. The North, for its part, views the South as a source of threat and intolerance, which should perhaps justify a revision of Barcelona’s defining objectives.

It was mentioned that political dialogue within the EMP was faced with difficulties of a structural and circumstantial nature. The Barcelona Process had been launched in a more auspicious environment, when the parties involved were convinced that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was within reach – a perspective abandoned following the assassination of Rabin. As such, declaratory politics did not end up achieving much in terms of measurable outcomes, beyond their merit in gathering the concerned actors in common entreaties. The idea of a Euro-Mediterranean security community was hindered by the absence of a sufficiently broad terrain of understanding to allow its progress.  The EMP thus remains more of a diplomatic, rather than political instrument.

It was, in addition, suggested that the EMP is characterised by a conceptual flaw. Effectively, neither the Barcelona Declaration nor the documents resulting from the ministerial meetings make reference to security matters. Moreover, partner States were encouraged, particularly after the Palermo meeting, to reinforce their relations of confidence and partnership, without nevertheless taking into account the weak bilateral or multilateral relations that characterise certain amongst them. Finally, the half-hearted engagement of the EU in questions of security, notably vis-à-vis the Middle East, was a factor that further contributed to the increasing securitisation of States in domains such as immigration, asylum and border control. Since the September 11th attacks and the terrorist attacks of Madrid and London, in 2004 and 2005 respectively, a consensus seems to have emerged among the elites in power on both sides of the Mediterranean, which considers terrorism as a new phenomenon, and one that cannot be fought but through measures that, for some, run counter to international law. The adoption of a Euro-Mediterranean code of conduct on terrorism, which has paradoxically revitalised the first basket of the Barcelona Process, testifies to this state of affairs. Furthermore, by virtue of a tacit understanding, the domains of migratory control have now become externalised. For these various reasons, the Euro-Mediterranean partners today privilege political stability over liberalisation and democratisation.

Against this backdrop, the Union for the Mediterranean project has the merit of bringing attention to the current state of the EMP and underlining the need to advance the European Union’s development dynamic. This project was received with mixed greetings. Its will to broaden Europe’s horizon towards the South stimulated a certain interest in the Maghreb and, to some extent, in the Mediterranean countries of the North, yet it also provoked the opposition of certain European countries, which had been somewhat excluded due to their geographical location. The compromise reached between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy (Hanover, 3 March 2008), and its ratification by European leaders during their last meeting in Brussels on 13 March, has now been translated into the Barcelona Process, associating all its partners.

The founding summit of the Union for the Mediterranean will be held on 13 July 2008. Some participants in the Tunis Preparatory Meeting argued that the EMP remained an all-encompassing political framework, in which it will prove difficult to increment any substantial element. In addition, it was reported that certain southern Mediterranean countries still remain prey to authoritarianism and unresolved conflicts. It is thus not likely that the EU, with its under-developed foreign policy instruments, will be capable of transforming the Union for the Mediterranean into a real union, based on the principles of integration, good governance, democracy and shared sovereignty.

Photos from the meeting: